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Take Action for Bike Equity

Last year, the League released a report — “The New Majority: Pedaling Toward Equity” — that highlighted the prevailing disparities in safe biking and walking in low-income and communities of color nationwide.

Now, an innovative, bi-partisan bill in Congress, introduced by Representative Albio Sires (D-NJ) (pictured), would take steps to advance equity for bicyclists and pedestrians, and boost funding for bike/ped projects low-income communities.

The New Opportunities for Bicycle and Pedestrian Infrastructure Financing Act of 2014 (NOBPIFA) will allow communities to take advantage of low-cost financing for projects that make streets and sidewalks safer for all users through a new federal credit assistance program that would direct millions specifically for low-income communities.

Take action now: Click here to tell your lawmaker to support this important bill!

The bill, H.R. 3978, is co-sponsored by:

  • Andre Carson (D-IN)
  • Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL)
  • Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL)

“President Obama called on Congress to help rebuild our middle class, and this bill would do just that,” said Congressman Sires. “When we make our roads and sidewalks safer, we help connect workers to new jobs.  We create communities where families want to live and businesses want to invest. And we give mothers and fathers peace of mind, knowing they aren’t sending their children to school on the unsafe sidewalks and roadways that exist in so many of our rural and urban communities.”

“This bill checks all the boxes in helping to create a bicycle-friendly America for everyone,” said League President, Andy Clarke. “Without adding any new spending, this bi-partisan bill creates an incentive for local governments to target smart transportation investment in areas that need it most, where transportation costs are typically 30% or more of household budgets, and where good transportation options are limited. Bicycling and walking are healthy, practical, and efficient modes of travel that we should be encouraging — and that means making them safer and more realistic choices.”

“Rep. Sires’ initiative does just that; enables communities to turn back the clock on decades of under-investment in the most basic of transportation solutions,” Clarke added. “At the same time, the bill promotes the kind of quality-of-life improvements that will attract world-class investment and world-class jobs to American cities.”

So what does the bill do?

  • It creates a low-interest long-term loan program for communities to build biking and walking networks. 
  • 25% of the funding must be spent in low income communities
  • The funding, $11 million, is a set aside from the $1 billion dollar TIFIA loan program funded in MAP-21.

Provides common sense transportation solutions

  • The bill offers a new tool for Mayors and local governments to finance needed transportation infrastructure. According to Sires: “This novel approach will add another tool in the toolbox for mayors, governors, and private investors to reinvigorate their communities and develop a strong, vibrant middle class.”
  • The bill doesn’t add any new costs to the transportation bill, or to the federal budget.

Builds better integrated bicycling and multimodal networks that reduce transportation costs and close gaps in job access for low-income families and individuals.

  • Nationally the average family with an income less than $50,000 spends 30% on transportation
  • Residents earning less than $30,000 per year account for 28% of bike trips in 2009- more than 1.1 billion bike trips overall.

Helps commuters

  • Americans are driving less, and want to bike and walk more. Creating safe infrastructure gives commuters cheap and safe options.
  • Between 2000-2012, bike commuting rose 61% nationwide, and rose by 80% in bicycle friendly communities. Where infrastructure is safe and accessible, people bike more.

Meets the need for safety and infrastructure

  • There are still disparities in access to safe infrastructure for low-income communities and people of color across the country.
  • Bicycling and walking make up 12% of all trips, but over 16% of all fatalities
  • The fatality rate for Hispanic bicyclists is 23% higher than for white bicyclists and 30% higher for African American bicyclists than for white bicyclists.
  • 71% of people of color agree that safer bicycling would make their community better.

“Equity is something that needs to be addressed at multiple scales – on the ground in local bike movements and in decision making that will impact our future landscapes,” said Adonia Lugo, League Equity Initiative Manager. “This bill makes it clear that bicycle improvements belong to all American communities, and that’s something we need to emphasize more than ever.”

The nuts and bolts:

This legislation is modeled after the existing Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA), which encourages innovative public-private partnerships by providing low-cost credit assistance to large transportation infrastructure projects. TIFIA’s proven record has shown that each dollar of Federal funds can provide up to $10 in credit assistance – and leverage $30 in transportation infrastructure investment. NOBPIFA would authorize a two-year, $11 million pilot program, funded as a set aside using existing TIFIA funds, and requires a report to Congress on implementation after two years.

Currently, TIFIA’s significant $50 million minimum project cost requirement puts the program out of reach for smaller, stand-alone bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure projects. The set aside created under this program would lower the minimum project cost to $2 million, and provides greater flexibility for eligible projects. Projects eligible for NOBPIFA assistance include:

  1. The construction, planning, and design of on-road and off-road pathways for pedestrians, bicyclists, and other non-motorized forms of transportation to create a comprehensive and connected transportation system, including sidewalks, bicycling infrastructure and parking, pedestrian and bicycle signals, traffic calming techniques, lighting and other safety-related infrastructure, and transportation projects to achieve compliance with the American with Disabilities Act of 1990;
  2. Innovative infrastructure for bicycling and walking, such as designs included in the National Association of City Transportation Officials guide for urban street design to enhance the ability of communities to develop solutions to increase non-motorized travel;
  3. A project for the conversion and use of railroad corridors for trails for pedestrians, bicyclists, or other nonmotorized transportation users that connects to or expands an existing network of bicycle and pedestrian facilities;
  4. A bike share program as a standalone project, or in conjunction with other infrastructure projects.

The Department of Transportation will select NOBPIFA loan recipients on a rolling basis in the same manner that current TIFIA projects are selected. A minimum of 25% of each project must be dedicated to low income or underserved communities.

Stay tuned for more information and join us at the National Bike Summit to make your voice heard for bike equity!