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Senate passes bi-partisan transportation bill; changes to sidepath rule and protection of Rec Trails

This just in — Senate passes bi-partisan transportation bill

The big four leaders – Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Ranking Member Jim Inhofe (R-OK) and Senators Max Baucus (D-MT) and David Vitter (R-LA) – on the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee included a 2nd ‘manager’s amendment’ that modifies their surface transportation bill, known as MAP-21. As we reported last week, the first manager’s amendment included the Cardin-Cochran Amendment, which ensured bicycling and walking projects had a fair shot to compete for funding. This second one includes two changes on issues of concern to cyclists: the amendment will modify the mandatory side path clause and reserve funds for Recreational Trails activities unless a state opts out.

Mandatory Side Path Clause

When the Senate initially released MAP-21 in November, we immediately noticed a clause (p. 226) that would force cyclists off of roads on federal lands with a speed limit over 30 miles per hour onto “an adjacent paved path,” if one was within 100 yards. Recognizing the terrible precedent that this would set, over 14,000 bicyclists and supporters signed a petition to have the clause removed.  That was followed by an advocacy alert in February.

With the help of this grassroots outcry, the League of American Bicyclists and the Adventure Cycling Association have been working closely Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Al Franken (D-MN) to improve or remove the federal lands mandatory sidepath language. Both Senators introduced an amendment, which was not accepted, and Senator Merkley has continued to work with the EPW committee to improve the language.

The result is a compromise. The language in the Senate bill now says:

(d) BICYCLE SAFETY.—The Secretary of the appropriate Federal land management agency shall prohibit the use of bicycles on each federally owned road that has a speed limit of 30 miles per hour or greater and an adjacent paved path for use by bicycles within 100 yards of the road unless the Secretary determines that the bicycle level of service on that roadway is rated B or higher.

While we are disappointed that the so-called ‘bicycle safety’ clause is still in the bill, this compromise means that states now have some ‘out’ to enforcing the law and a process by which bicyclists can demonstrate the restriction does not apply to their roads. (Here’s a little background on Bicycle Level of Service.)


This battle is not yet over. We will continue to work with both the House and Senate on this issue. Since this clause does not appear in the House bill, whatever that may look like, this issue will have to be resolved in conference. We hope to remove or further improve it at that time.


Recreational Trails Program

The International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA) and the Coalition for Recreational Trails have been pushing aggressively to protect Recreational Trails funding in the Senate bill. While this protection was not included in the first manager’s amendment, it was addressed in this one.


The Recreational Trails program is written into Additional Activities – but state DOTs have an option to opt out.

  • If the state does not opt out, $85 million comes out of Additional Activities for the Rec Trails program nationally.
  • 1% of that is used to cover administrative costs
  • The state must comply with the program’s existing regulations


Thank you again to everyone who has followed this with us and sent action alerts. Time and time again we hear from Congress that they hear from you more than almost any other transportation-related constituents. That makes a huge difference.

There is still plenty to do before the House and Senate agree on a transportation bill. We hope you will join us next week at the National Bike Summit to show Congress how important this bill is to bicyclists.


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