New Year, New Congress: Our Resolutions for Federal Policy for Walking, Bicycling, and Safe Routes to School

It’s a new year, and it ushers in a host of new beginnings: the 117th Congress, the Biden Administration, and hopefully an end in sight to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. As people all around the world make New Year’s resolutions to improve themselves, we would like to share what we have resolved to work toward on the federal policy front this year. We were pleased with the bills introduced to support safe, more equitable walking, biking, and Safe Routes to School in the 116th Congress (INVEST in the House and ATIA in the Senate) and plan to use these as a starting point for our advocacy efforts this year.

Our priorities for the 117th Congress:

1. Reauthorize the Transportation Alternatives Program

The FAST Act expired at the end of September 2020 and was extended by Congress for one year. This extension maintains 2020 funding levels and is set to expire at the end of September 2021. As such, a key goal is to work with this Congress to pass a more sustainable solution to transportation funding that supports safe, equitable walking, bicycling, and Safe Routes to School. Specifically, we will be advocating to:

  • Increase funding for the Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP)
  • Shift more funding to local governments to determine locally meaningful projects
  • Make TAP funding more equitable and accessible to smaller and lower-income communities
  • Remove barriers to project delivery and increase transparency

2. Retain and Grow Safe Routes to School

As a national non-profit working to advance safe walking and rolling to and from schools and in everyday life, we will continue to advocate for safe, equitable, active travel options for kids to get to and from school in communities across the country. We aim to do so by advocating to: 

  • Retain eligibility for funding Safe Routes to School out of the Transportation Alternatives Program
  • Enable use of Highway Safety Improvement Program funds for both Safe Routes to School infrastructure and non-infrastructure
  • Expand Safe Routes to School to include high schools
  • Expressly permit funding of non-law enforcement community-based approaches to improve personal safety
  • Reinstate full-time Safe Routes to School coordinators at state departments of transportation

3. Fund Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Out of Existing Highway Safety Dollars

Fatalities and serious injuries for people walking and bicycling are increasing significantly (at 18.7% for a three-year average of 2016-2018), and states simply are not spending their Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP) money on bicycle and pedestrian safety.  Looking at 2017-2019, states spent less than 1% of their HSIP funding on bike/ped safety – with many states not spending a dime on keeping people walking and biking safe. Given this dangerous mismatch, we are advocating that states be required to spend money on bicycle and pedestrian safety. 

Guiding these principles are our organization’s core values: equity and fairness, collaboration, and protecting kids and the environment. We will advocate for and support legislation that makes walking and bicycling more equitable and takes steps to remedy historical injustices; we will consider the impact on young people and our planet; and we will continue to work in close partnership with national, state, and local organizations to achieve these goals and bring legislation across the proverbial finish line. We thank our core long-term partner, the League of American Bicyclists, for continued collaboration toward our shared goals. To stay apprised of what’s happening on Capitol Hill, please subscribe to the Safe Routes Partnership e-news and follow our federal policy blog posts.