A view of the US Capitol Building along the Downtown Bike Lane Pennsylvania Avenue Corridor at 7th Street, NW, Washington DC. Photo by Elvert Barnes from pedbikeimages.org

A view of the US Capitol Building along the Pennsylvania Avenue Corridor at 7th Street, NW, Washington DC. (Photo by Elvert Barnes from pedbikeimages.org)

Even with the federal budget deadline looming, last Friday President Obama had time to sign his name to Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act, or FAST Act for short. This bill provides $305 billion in funding across a wide range of national transportation infrastructure. According to a summary of the bill from House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, here’s where it gets good for cyclists: “Incentivizes states to establish programs to enhance safety for bicyclists, pedestrians, and other non-motorized users,” reads the text.

As reported by Bikeleague.org, here are some of the areas which help cycling programs:

  • Funding will be increased from $820 million to $850 million a year by 2020, when the current funding ends, for biking and pedestrian infrastructure.
  • The bill creates a priority safety fund which will focus on the education of motorists, drivers, bicyclists, pedestrians and law enforcement alike. It will also help with implementation of enforcement campaigns.

Where this applies to Philly is that nonprofit organizations such as Neighborhood Bike Works and Us can now be awarded funds for trying to decrease cyclist and pedestrians fatalities from crashes with motor vehicles. This is a great success because the Bicycle Coalition’s Vision Zero Initiative seeks to do just that.

According to the language of the bill, in order to apply for the funding, a state a state must exceed a total of 15% of crash fatalities combined between pedestrians and cyclists. It’s a sad statistic to report but in 2014, but Pennsylvania pedestrians accounted for 13.9% and bicyclists accounted for 1.5% of traffic deaths.

The bill directs the U.S. Department of Transportation to encourage states and Metropolitan Planning Organizations to set design standards to help accommodate all roads users. In other words, this could be a great help to our Complete Streets and Safe Routes Philly campaigns, too.

SEPTA has also thrown its support behind the FAST Act.

“The predictable and sustained investment provided by the FAST Act will allow SEPTA to continue the authority’s Building for the Future Capital Improvement Program,” said SEPTA Board Chairman Pasquale Deon in a statement.

In other related areas to Pennsylvania, the bill also provides funds for much needed repair to state bridges and would allow the state to apply to collect toll revenue on its interstate highways, which it currently can’t do.

There are some areas where street safety loses out. According to the bill, federal funding for red light and speed enforcement camera, with exception of those in a school zone, has been cut.

-Zach Mentzer

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