Active transportation is finally getting some love in Sacramento. A bill was introduced late last week to double the funding available for projects and programs that encourage people to walk or ride bikes by making streets and paths safe and comfortable for them.
Assemblymembers Eduardo Garcia, (D-Coachella), Autumn Burke (D-Los Angeles), and David Chiu (D-San Francisco) introduced A.B. X1-23 this afternoon. The last-minute bill, part of the special session on transportation called by Governor Brown to discuss transportation funding in California, is the first one to directly address making streets and roads safe for people who don’t drive cars. It’s so new it’s not even up on the state’s legislative information website yet.
“We believe that, in the ongoing conversations about generating dollars for transportation, we cannot forget the nonmotorized portion of our stakeholders,” said Garcia. “As we discuss future funding for transportation, we want to make sure we recognize that nonmotorized transportation plays a key role. It’s important for climate change policy, it’s important for public health–including obesity–and it’s important for folks with disabilities.”
The bill would double the amount of money in the Highway Transportation Account that is allocated to the Active Transportation Program, which funds projects that encourage and promote walking and riding bikes. The bill also incorporates assurances that the funding would be available to disadvantaged communities.
“This bill has a direct correlation with other state policies,” said Garcia, including climate change policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and Caltrans goals to double the portion of trips made by bicycling and walking.
The bill seeks to do a number of things:
- Increase funding available to the Active Transportation Program, which currently receives around $120 million per year. That’s roughly one percent of the total transportation budget, although bike and walk trips together account for nearly 19 percent of all trips made in the state.
- Ensure local agencies can compete for the funds, giving priority to walkability and bike projects that contribute to better health and economic outcomes in all communities, but especially in disadvantaged ones.
- Include planning and technical assistance as eligible uses for funding, especially for disadvantaged communities that have no means to create active transportation plans.
- Prioritize connections and corridors where people want to travel, as well as areas that lack bike and pedestrian facilities altogether.
- Create a pot of funding for improving safety for children walking and biking to school.
- Prioritize projects that “recruit, hire, and train low-income, formerly incarcerated, and/or disconnected youth and adults, and other individuals with barriers to employment.”
- Prioritize maintenance funds for active transportation projects, so they are not just built and then left to fall apart, particularly in disadvantaged communities.
“This is an area where we have underinvested in the past,” said Garcia, “and it’s time to change that.”
Immediately upon the bill’s introduction, the California Bicycle Coalition (CalBike) began urging members and interested parties to contact their legislators to get the bill heard and passed. The legislative session is set to expire on Friday night, so AB X1-23 needs to move, and move quickly. At the start of the session, CalBike had listed increasing state funding for bicycle projects, especially bicycle safety projects, at the top of its legislative agenda.
“We’ll never meet our goals one bike lane at a time,” writes Dave Snyder, the executive director of CalBike.
“We need to start building networks to connect people to all the destinations in our community. This bill will provide the incentive and the funding to do that, appropriately focused on the communities who need it the most.”
CalBike is urging interested parties to sign an online Action Alert that will be sent directly to their local representatives. The Action Alert urges support for the active transportation principles outlined in Senator Jim Beall’s funding legislation and ABX1-23. Beall’s legislation would ensure that “maintenance and rehabilitation” funded by state dollars includes projects that advance “bicycle and pedestrian safety, access, and mobility improvements.”
You can find CalBike’s Action Alert here.