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Capitol Hill Update: Next Steps on Bike/Ped Safety

Last week, the Congressional Bike Caucus hosted a briefing for Congressional staffers to discuss what’s next for bicycling and walking safety — and the event was standing room only. Many Congressional staffers were supportive of HR 3494, The Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Act, and are interested in learning what’s coming next.

As we shared last month, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced a groundbreaking agenda to address the safety of people who bike and walk in all 50 states. At the briefing, Rebecca Higgins and Barbara McCann of US DOT started the presentation discussing the initiative — and previewed the release of the updated BIKESAFE website, which includes an interactive tool where you can input an address and a description of the traffic problem and the tool will give you appropriate countermeasures to improve safety. It’s a great resource for planners and engineers.

McCann also announced that the Federal Highway Administration will soon release a guide to road diets. A road diet, or roadway reconfiguration, involves reallocating car lanes to new uses, such as bike lanes, pedestrian islands, sidewalk and parking. On average, road diets have been shown to reduce crashes by 29 percent.

Continuing the discussion on safety, Noah Budnick, of Transportation Alternatives from New York City spoke about the City’s Vision Zero initiative. Vision Zero is based on the idea that there are no accidents. All traffic fatalities are preventable — so let’s prevent them.

In NYC, the administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio (pictured right) has embraced the idea and recently the Mayor signed several new traffic bills into laws including ones that crack down on careless drivers, and another that gives pedestrians and bicyclists new legal protections. “We have promised the people of this city that we will use every tool we have to make streets safer,” de Blasio recently said in a statement.

The result of NYC’s work so far? The city just won a federal TIGER grant to help fund a number of street redesign projects. And NYC isn’t alone: TA is one of six bike advocacy organizations focusing on Vision Zero as a priority campaign, along with Active Transportation Alliance in Chicago, Bicycle Transportation Alliance in Portland, Ore., Bike Pittsburgh, Philadelphia Bicycle Coalition and the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition.

As evidenced by the large crowd attending the briefing, interest in bicycling and walking in congress is growing. Moving forward, the League and members of the Congressional Bike Caucus are looking for steps we can take to help advance bicycling safety both through partnering with US DOT and promoting Vision Zero.