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Half full: from Summit to Stimulus
Across America, the coronavirus pandemic has disrupted life in myriad ways with millions facing massive health and financial uncertainty. Just as everyday Americans are taking action by social distancing, Congress is working on economic stimulus efforts to ensure our neighbors and communities have the resources to stay healthy, help the sick recover, and fulfill households’ needs. Already, one stimulus package has been signed into law while congressional leaders hash out details on subsequent relief efforts.
In 2009, when Congress last passed an economic stimulus package, the League worked with other bicycling advocacy organizations to ensure that of the stimulus funds earmarked for transportation, 3% of the funding was directed toward the Transportation Enhancements Program (the precursor to Transportation Alternatives). We argued then that biking and walking projects were great ways to get people back to work because these projects are more labor intensive and easier to roll out rapidly than other transportation projects.
Today, in this midst of this pandemic, cities and communities are seeing a surge in biking for transportation and for physical and mental health. Car trips are down, air quality is improving. To ensure these are not momentary gains for safe streets and a healthier nation, the League is working with congressional offices to ensure that any transportation funding included in the stimulus package funds improved biking and walking access in every community. Because so many dedicated bike advocates took part in our call-in National Bike Summit lobbying visits, as Congress works on these important relief efforts, staff know there is a demand for safe and accessible bicycling–and for reasonable safety provisions for automated vehicles.
In the current crisis, we know bicycling is a less expensive, and more reliable option to get where you need to go while social distancing, and we’ve seen cities like Bogotá and Mexico City this week invest in safe biking as a social distancing strategy through rapidly expanding bike lanes. After the 2009 stimulus directed funding towards healthy transportation projects, mayors in Bicycle Friendly Communities saw a return on investment with growth in ridership–an over 50% increase in Dallas and Atlanta for example–and we know more people riding bikes leads to increased business on Main Street and a healthier population overall. The League will advocate for stimulus funds that give local governments and decision-makers the resources to immediately invest in these types of safe, healthy transportation options and immediately improve the lives of the people in their community during these undeniably trying times.
Finally, we have heard that Congress is considering attaching Automated Vehicle legislation to the COVID-19 stimulus package. The League is wary of major legislation like this hitching a ride to crisis legislation–especially when there has been so much resistance to common sense safety requirements that the current draft doesn’t even require safety standards at all for 10 years!
While the League works directly with our allies in Congress on including transportation funding for healthy options like biking and walking in a forthcoming stimulus package, we are asking you to help us by sending an action alert to your Senators and Representative demanding that any Automated Vehicle legislation, whether attached to the stimulus or passed at a later date, include a Vision Test ensuring these vehicles prove they can detect, identify and respond to bicyclists, pedestrians and other vulnerable users and making it clear that a decade long safety vacuum on safety standards is not acceptable.
We thank you for your help and will keep you updated as healthy transportation in the stimulus moves forward.