We know by now that bicycling and walking for transportation purposes are great ways to reduce climate change pollution, address the obesity epidemic and numerous other critical health problems, and create a sense of community. Additionally, there are huge economic benefits to bicycling and walking.
Nonetheless, bicycling and walking are drastically underfunded in the US. “Ten percent of trips are by bicycle or foot, yet bicyclists and pedestrians… receive just 1.2% of federal transportation dollars,” the Alliance for Biking and Walking reports.
New legislation, the Active Community Transportation (ACT) Act of 2010, is looking to help change all of that.
The ACT Act, introduced by Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore), Chair of the Livable Communities Task Force, would help communities increase active forms of transportation such as walking and bicycling through a $2 billion competitive grant program.
Through this program, communities would be able to apply for funding for modes of transport that “improve community vitality, reduce global warming pollution, boost public health, and create jobs in the process.”
“Too often we take for granted the value of being able to bike and walk to work,” says Blumenauer. “It’s unfortunate that many communities don’t have the infrastructure in place to make active and healthy forms of transportation more accessible. The ACT transportation grants will make it easier for people to get out of their vehicles and onto sidewalks or bikes, boosting heart rates and community vitality.”
The competitive grant program would be housed within the Department of Transportation (DOT).
Grant awardees of the ACT Act would receive $5 million to $15 million for three to five years — five years for communities awarded funding in the first round (180 days after passage of the bill) and three years for communities awarded grants in the second round (two years after passage of the bill).
Bicycle Activists Are Excited & Optimistic
Of course, this is an exciting proposal for bicycling and walking advocates who have been longing for Congress to send more then a paltry 1.2% of federal transportation funds to clean, healthy, community-oriented transportation options. And it was introduced right before bicycle activists swarmed Washington, D.C. for the National Bike Summit (March 9-11), adding to the excitement of the week.
“Bicycling and walking have real potential to replace short car trips in communities across the country – and increasing active transportation has got to be good for individuals, communities and the nation,” says Andy Clarke, President of the League of American Bicyclists (host of the National Bike Summit). “This visionary bill will help us realize that potential, economically, efficiently and effectively, and we thank Congressman Blumenauer and his colleagues for their leadership in bringing it forward.”
Research has already shown that high-quality bicycle facilities are associated with more bicycling. With a large percentage of trips being within bicycling or walking distance, there is much potential to increase bicycling and walking in the US.
“Forty percent of all trips in the US are two miles or less,” says Randy Neufeld, President of America Bikes. “Giving people the option to bike and walk can alleviate traffic, encourage healthy lifestyles, and create safe and inexpensive travel options. The even better news is cities across the country are showing us that if you give people that option, they really do walk and bike more.”
This is exciting news! It seems that this is a great time to get into the bicycling or walking spirit!