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2021 Federal Policy Strategy and Priorities

2021 is proving to be a busy year in Washington, DC, especially for transportation! Between the reauthorization bill, talk of a stimulus and a new administration and Department of transportation, there’s a lot of opportunity for improving bicycling and walking.

Here’s the League’s priority list for promoting Bicycle Friendly federal policy this year: 

1. Transportation Reauthorization

This is still our priority.  The Transportation reauthorization bill comes up once every 5-6 years and makes long term policy changes, and affects over $50 billion dollars a year.  The League’s focus on reauthorization is to:

    • Transportation Alternatives: Protect and improve this program which provides 50 percent of all federal funds for bicycling and walking. It is critical in states slow to take up complete street policies and implementation. 
    • Core Programs: Promote changes in core programs so that a higher percentage of funding from core programs (safety, congestion, climate, etc.) goes to bicycling and walking, and bicycle friendly design.
    • Policy and Procedure Changes: Change policies and practices to prioritize the safety and access of bicyclists, pedestrians and other vulnerable users. This includes complete streets, the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices, fix it first policies, etc. 

2. Administration

The Biden Department of Transportation, led by Secretary Buttigieg is discussing shifting the goals of our transportation system to be less autocentric and more people centric.  The US DOT is a big ship, and turning it will take some time, but the League is advocating for four focus areas:

    • Leadership:  We encourage Secretary Pete to use discretionary grant programs to prioritize bicycling and walking projects to meet safety, climate change and equity through improving access for everyone. We will advocate for this leadership to also ensure existing programs, regulations and initiatives take an equity approach (ie- addressing how federally funded 402 Highway Safety Grants have resulted in inequitable enforcement.)
    • Integrate bike/ped within FHWA: The Federal Highway Administration should do more to promote and incentivize safe bicycling and walking infrastructure to state DOTs through better complete streets guidance, design flexibility, and Proven Safety Countermeasures, as well as initiatives like Every Day Counts.
    • Promote a Safe Systems Approach: Promoting a safe systems approach throughout the US DOT means improving guidance on settings speed limits, invest in infrastructure design that reduces speeding, and testing new car technologies to reduce crashes  and injuries with bicyclists and pedestrians,
    • Reduce the Burden: Another way the DOT can promote better infrastructure is to shorten the permitting process on small projects built on paved surfaces and the disturbed right of way. This doesn’t mean reducing environmental  protections, but rather allowing small projects to be treated differently than larger projects. 

3. Stimulus funding

This year there may be a unique opportunity to promote bicycling and walking through infrastructure investment through a COVID recovery bill.  The League is working with partners, and allies in the Administration and on the Hill to ensure that if transportation infrastructure is part of a stimulus, bicycling and walking are in the mix.  However, stimulus will likely not include much policy or change the transportation system to plan for all users, which is our primary goal. 

4. Being opportunistic

Finally, the League will continue to take advantage of opportunities to affect legislation or administrative initiatives to promote the interests of bicyclists. For instance, should Congress or NHTSA move forward with regulation on automated vehicles or to update the New Car Assessment Program (NCAP) the League is prepared to advocate for a vision test to ensure these vehicles can detect, identify and respond to vulnerable road users of all races and ethnicities.