State DOTs in the Era of Safe Streets
BFS 2019 National Report
Nationally, 22% of roadways are state-owned. Yet, 45% of bicyclist fatalities occur on state-owned roadways.
States are crucial actors for the safety of people biking and walking. Governors can provide leadership to state agencies, promote tourism or economic development around bicycling, or champion legislation that addresses safety funding and other needs. Legislatures can create laws that protect people on our roadways, provide clear rules of the road, authorize enforcement, and ensure that state agencies have a mandate to pursue safe and complete bicycling networks. Making roadways safer for people on bikes isn’t a platitude, it requires action.
In our 2019 national report for the Bicycle Friendly State program - State Departments of Transportation in the Era of Safe Streets - we look at how states are reacting to the reality of state-owned roadways being disproportionately dangerous for people who bike.
We found that while more states than ever are taking at least one of our 5 Bicycle Friendly Actions there are many ways in which states, with the support of the federal government can do more:
- Vision Zero remains an ideal for most states, rather than a policy that reliably informs decision-making and goals - states are not setting safety targets based on stated commitments to Vision Zero or Towards Zero Death goals. This includes often not spending funding from the Highway Safety Improvement Program on the safety of people who bike and walk even where data show that the state has a high rate of bicyclist and pedestrian fatalities.
- Public Health is often a tangential consideration for states, despite the more than 30,000 deaths each year from traffic violence and widespread chronic diseases related to physical inactivity and emissions.
- While the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has funded pilot programs for bicycle counting and bicycle infrastructure inventories, only about half of the 50 states have any programming to improve this type of data.
- While the FHWA's Bikeway Selection Guide recommends Protected Bike Lanes for roadways with more than 6,000 vehicles a day and speeds of more than 30 miles per hour, less than half of the 50 states report having a protected bike lane on a state-owned road.
There are many states making progress to improve the safety of people who bike. Our report cards and ranking highlight many of the successes that can be found in every state and suggest improvements for each state. The League of American Bicyclists believes that EVERY state should take all 5 of our Bicycle Friendly Actions to improve the safety of people who bike. But, even more than that, to build a Bicycle Friendly America for Everyone we will need leadership from the states, in concert with the federal government and local governments, to prioritize people over cars and safety over speed.