Bicycle Friendly State FAQ and Resources
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT THE BICYCLE FRIENDLY STATE PROGRAM
The Bicycle Friendly State program was launched in 2008 in order to better understand state efforts related to bicycling and provide a comparative framework that allows states to easily identify areas of improvement. Through our ranking, we hope that states and the public can easily understand the relative strengths and weaknesses of each state’s efforts related to bicycling.
The primary focus of the Bicycle Friendly State program is on the behavior of state Departments of Transportation and state legislators. These two groups are powerful policymakers and implementers who have significant impacts on conditions for bicyclists in each state. The League recognizes that there are often other departments that play a key role in state biking policies and programming, including Departments of Health, Natural Resources, Highway Patrol, Motor Vehicle Licensing, and others. While we encourage engagement with those departments, our survey does not explicitly ask for information from them.
The League of American Bicyclists believes that a ranking provides unique comparative value for states. States, unlike communities, businesses, and universities are a defined and limited number of entities. For this reason, the ranking provides an easy to understand basis for comparison that is appropriate for states, but is less appropriate for our other Bicycle Friendly America programs. We realize that rankings can often mean that small differences in survey, federal, and public data lead can lead to seemingly large differences in rankings, for that reason we urge citizens, states, and advocates to look closely at all available data for their state and use the rankings and other features of the report card as guidance for comparisons rather than final judgements on state actions.
The Bicycle Friendly State program is structured around a ranking of all 50 states based upon publicly available data and a survey completed by state Departments of Transportation and/or state bicycle advocacy organizations. Publicly available data used by the Bicycle Friendly State program includes:
- Bike commuting data from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey,
- Bicyclist fatality data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System,
- Bicycle and Pedestrian spending data from the Federal Highway Administration’s Fiscal Management Information System, and
- Data on advocacy and bicycle-related laws maintained by the League of American Bicyclists.
Through the survey and publicly available data reviewed, the ranking is based on 106 data points. Most data points are scored based on a binary (yes/no) basis, but formulas and discretion are used for certain data points. For instance, all federal data is scored by a formula created for that particular data. The League has traditionally not made our scoring rubric public. If you would like to ask a question about how a particular data point is scored, from the survey or publicly available data, please contact Ken McLeod at email@example.com.
The survey is available at this link.
Past versions of the survey have been published biennially in the Alliance for Biking and Walking’s Benchmarking Report starting in 2012. Past versions of the Benchmarking Report are available at bikeleague.org/benchmarking-report. The most current data collected for the Benchmarking Project are available at data.bikeleague.org.
The League of American Bicyclists has traditionally not made all survey responses public. Most survey responses are eventually published in the biennial Benchmarking Report on Bicycling and Walking in the United States. The most recent version of that report is available at https://data.bikeleague.org/.
The Bicycle Friendly State Report Card is intended to provide highlighted information about each state to provide a useful comparison between states and serve as a reference for state efforts related to bicycling.
The Guide to the Bicycle Friendly State Report Card provides background information on each of the data points on the Report Card. It is our hope that this background will answer questions about where this data comes from and how it should be interpreted.
It is important to note that the data on the Report Card do not necessarily reflect the totality of a state’s efforts related to bicycling. The Report Card also does not explicitly consider factors such as natural beauty, weather, or culture that may affect riding in a state. While the majority of data relate to actions by a state Department of Transportation, the data is not limited to things within the control or influence of a state Department of Transportation. Many states have efforts that do not fit within the survey and public data used to create the Report Card.
Resources are available below. In addition, we encourage you to connect with state and local advocates for bicycling in your state. You can find these organizations through our Connect Locally utility available on the left side of the screen or at this link.
Bicycle Friendly Actions In-Depth
Complete Streets, according to the National Complete Streets Coalition, are “are streets for everyone. They are designed and operated to enable safe access for all users, including pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and transit riders of all ages and abilities…. By adopting a Complete Streets policy, communities direct their transportation planners and engineers to routinely design and operate the entire right of way to enable safe access for all users, regardless of age, ability, or mode of transportation.”
For our Bicycle Friendly State Report Cards, the League uses data from the National Complete Streets Coalition’s Inventory of all Complete Streets policies to determine whether a state receives the Complete Streets Law/Policy Bicycle Friendly Action. That Inventory identifies at least three ways in which states can adopt Complete Streets – through a resolution, policy, or law. In our scoring of the Complete Streets topic we differentiate between these methods, but for the Bicycle Friendly Action any method results in a checkmark.
Learn more about Complete Streets actions in our white paper.
Safe passing laws require vehicles to pass each other at a safe distance. In most states, legislatures have recognized that "safe distance" requires further definition, particularly for motor vehicles passing people on bicycles. The Safe Passing Law Bicycle Friendly Action recognizes states that have adopted a law that specifically defines a safe distance for a motor vehicle passing a person on a bicycle.
There are three common ways that states have chosen to define a “safe distance” in a way recognized by the League of American Bicyclists:
· A safe distance is defined as a specific distance in terms of feet, as in “no less than three feet;”
· A safe distance is defined as a variable distance in terms of feet, with a minimum safe distance that may increase based upon factors such as the speed or size of a passing vehicle; and
· A safe distance is defined as “a distance sufficient to prevent contact with the person operating the bicycle if the person were to fall into the driver’s lane of traffic.”
Some states also provide exceptions to their law that requires a minimum safe passing distance for a motor vehicle passing a person on a bicycle. The League of American Bicyclists believes that these exceptions undermine the educational and enforcement aspects of a Safe Passing law. In our scoring of the Laws that Create Protections for People who Bike and Walk topic we differentiate between states that do not provide exceptions and those that do, but for the Bicycle Friendly Action any law that includes one of the definitions above results in a checkmark.
See our white paper on how states can adopt and implement a safe passing law.
The League of American Bicyclists has a model safe passing law for states or communities within states that would like to adopt a strong safe passing law to protect people who bike. A list of all current safe passing laws is available as part of our Bike Law University series.
According to the Federal Highway Administration, “State DOTs provide leadership regarding walking and bicycling in many ways. For example, some State DOTs use their pedestrian and bicycle plans to describe policies for how they will improve conditions for walking and bicycling through their transportation investments.” While there is no one format for a statewide bicycle plan, all states can benefit from a plan that serves as a basis for collaboration between the state DOT and local authorities, as well as the development of state DOT built projects and institutional competencies that will improve bicycle planning and conditions for bicycling over time.
In our scoring of the State DOT Bicycle & Pedestrian Plantopic we differentiate between plans based upon a variety of aspects, but for the Bicycle Friendly Action any plan adopted within the last 10 years results in a checkmark.
According to the Federal Highway Administration, “pedestrian and bicycle projects are eligible for funding through the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement (CMAQ) Program, Surface Transportation Program (STP), Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP), National Highway Performance Program (NHPP), Federal Lands and Tribal Transportation Programs (FLTTP)) and [Transportation Alternatives Program] TAP.” While this guidance does not reflect the conversion of TAP to the STP Transportation Alternatives Set-Aside under the Fixing American’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, it still reflects the broad eligibility for biking and walking projects provided by federal transportation funding.
Our 2% threshold is based upon the historical funding level for the Transportation Alternatives Program, as set in the federal transportation bill that preceded the FAST Act. While the League of American Bicyclists would prefer more federal funding for biking and walking, this baseline is a useful shorthand for whether or not a state Department of Transportation is making an effort to at least spend transportation funding on bicycling and walking projects in proportion to the programmatic priorities set by Congress.
For the 2% or more Fed Funds on Bike/PedBicycle Friendly Action, we use data provided by FHWA’s Fiscal Management Information System (FMIS). Our determination of spending is based upon five fiscal years (FY2012-16) of data on obligations. An obligation is a legal commitment by the Federal government to pay a State for the Federal share of a project’s eligible cost. It is not “spending” as a normal person would understand it, but it is the legal commitment to transfer cash at a later date and those funds are considered “used” as soon as they are obligated.
In our scoring of the Use of Federal Transportation Funding topic we use a formula that looks at per capita bicycling and walking spending, bicycling and walking spending as a percentage of all federal transportation spending, and the number of programs used for bicycling and walking projects. For this Bicycle Friendly Action, states with 2% or more of its federal spending coded as bike/ped spending results in a checkmark.
According to the Federal Highway Administration, “A Strategic Highway Safety Plan (SHSP) is a major component and requirement of the Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP) (23 U.S.C. § 148). It is a statewide-coordinated safety plan that provides a comprehensive framework for reducing highway fatalities and serious injuries on all public roads.” In addition, “SHSP goals must be consistent with the safety performance measures. As such, FHWA expects SHSP goals to consider reductions in serious injuries and fatalities for all road users on all public roads. States could also adopt SHSP goals that correspond to each of the safety performance measures, [including the] number of non-motorized fatalities and non-motorized serious injuries.”
Each SHSP has Emphasis Areas, which identify safety topic within the state, and strategies, which identify actions meant to address the topic identified in an Emphasis Area. This Bicycle Friendly Action is based upon Emphasis Areas and not strategies. While each state is required to set a safety performance measure that includes non-motorized fatalities and non-motorized serious injuries, according to 23 U.S.C. 150, states are not required to identify bicyclist safety as an emphasis area.
The League of American Bicyclists is aware that some strategies include actions that we disagree with, such as adopting mandatory all rider bicycle helmet laws, but for the Bicycle Friendly State Report Card, our analysis is based on Emphasis Areas only. We believe this is appropriate because the Emphasis Areas provide insight into whether bicyclist safety is a priority for the state regardless of the actions that the state is considering as strategies to improve bicyclist safety. We disagree with actions such as mandatory all rider bicycle helmet laws because we believe that there is compelling evidence that those actions do not reduce the risk of bicyclist fatalities and serious injuries at the population level. We believe that a state that has chosen bicyclist safety as a priority is likely to make the same determination over time.
For the Bicycle Safety Emphasis Bicycle Friendly Action, we use State Strategic Highway Safety Plan data provided by the FHWA’s SHSP Community of Practice. The Community of Practice maintains a database that includes searchable Emphasis Area categories, including “Ped/Bike.” We include the results of that search as well as a more comprehensive keyword search of all Emphasis Areas in the database. Any state that has at least one Emphasis Area that includes the keyword “bicycle” or a derivative of “bicycle” receives a checkmark for this Bicycle Friendly Action.
Learn more about the bicycle safety emphasis area in our white paper.
Resources for Building a Bicycle Friendly State
- Review the National Conference of State Legislatures guide Encouraging Bicycling and Walking: The State Legislative Role
- Find more information on 13 types of common laws and regulations pertaining to bicycles for each state
- The League of American Bicyclists opposes mandatory side path laws and any legislation that would restrict bicyclist access to roads as operators of vehicles. Review the League’s position on this and other topics.
- Check out the League's Bike Law University with explanations and best practice examples for a number of bike laws.
- Review information regarding helmet laws for your state, as well as the League’s position on helmet use.
- Find states that require a safe passing distance
- Review information on photo enforcement
- Check out more information on state laws restricting cell phone use
- See an example of officer bicycle and pedestrian law trainings
- Review Chapters 1, 11, and 12 of the Uniform Vehicle Code
- Check out The Innovative DOT - A Handbook of Policy and Practice
- League of American Bicyclists supports Complete Streets that are designed and operated to enable safe access for all users. Pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and bus riders of all ages and abilities are able to safely move along and across a complete street. Visit Smart Growth America to learn more, and see this example of a statewide policy.
- For an example of a carbon emission reduction plan, review Maryland's Comprehensive Greenouse Gas and Carbon Footprint Reduction Strategy
- Cyclists often travel across city, county and even state boundaries. See FHWA's Small Towns and Rural Multimodal Networks Guide and the Lake Champlain Bikeways for an example of bike facility coordination with neighboring states.
- Establishing an Effective Commute Trip Reduction Policy in Massachusetts
- FTA Program & Bicycle Related Funding Opportunities
- Review the Adventure Cycling Association's Resources for Rumble Strips as well as Colorado’s bicycle-friendly rumble strip design
- For context sensitive design guidance see Oregon’s Main Street…When a Highway Runs Through It and Maryland’s When Main Street is a State Highway
- See information about the Bicycle Level of Service (BLOS)
- Learn about the FAST ACT - the most recent federal transportation bill
- For an example of a plan for a statewide bicycle route network, click here
- For information on national US numbered bike routes, click here
- For more information on the liability issues of bikeways see the National Cooperative Highway Legal Digest
- For information on League of American Bicyclists Bike Ed classes being offered in your state, as well as a listing of current League Certified Instructors (LCI’s) click here
- An example of a statewide “Share the Road” campaign
- See how other states are supporting Safe Routes to School efforts here
- For an example of a state Bicycle Driver’s Manual click here
- Information about state and large city advocacy organizations
- An example of a bicycle tourism promotion
- For an example of bicycle usage rates listed within a State Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan (SCORP), click here and here
- Check out examples of good statewide bicycle plans
- Video produced by Arkansas State University explaining the statewide bike planning process
- Uniform guidelines on bicycle safety for your state Highway Safety Plan
- Overview of Bicycle and Pedestrian Plans and Policies throughout the US
- NHTSA cyclist fatality rates
- Explore California's community bike safety assessment and strategy
- US Community Survey rates of active commuting by state
- Read the League's Guide to Statewide Bicycle Summits
For more information on the data reported by each state please see state data at data.bikeleague.org. The Benchmarking Report shares data with our Bicycle Friendly State survey and comprehensively reports the data collected.