It’s been three years since the Bicycle Coalition attended the National Bike Summit in person to participate in workshops, bike rides around the city and Lobby Day. The 23rd Annual National Bike Summit took place earlier this week from March 27 to the 30 and convened around the theme of Choosing Our Future.

As 2021 has presented individuals and institutions with a host of transformational opportunities, there are many choices ahead about how the bike movement can shape the future for the next generation, from climate change to racial equity. With anticipated big wins for investments in biking infrastructure, now is the time to do the work of engaging with new partners, uplifting historically disinvested-from communities, and ensuring we build networks on the ground and among movements.

Constituents from Pennsylvania and New Jersey met with their representatives in Congress to advocate for funding sources that were created or enhanced in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), also known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL). The programs that were discussed with the Representatives and Senators included the Healthy Streets Program and the Active Transportation Infrastructure Investment Program (ATIIP).

Advocates were given the opportunity to discuss these programs with their Representatives and requested their support in fully funding these two programs through the appropriations funding process. We held 14 meetings which covered the Greater Philadelphia Region and districts in western Pennsylvania. Here’s what we covered:

Fully funding the Active Transportation Infrastructure Investment Program

The ATIIP would provide one billion in direct competitive grant funding over five years to help eligible entities build connected active transportation systems that ensure people can get where they want to go safely by biking, walking or rolling while reducing carbon emissions and creating new jobs. This program provides direct competitive grants amounting to $200 million annually to local and state governments or organizations to construct projects that provide safe and connected active transportation facilities as part of an active transportation network (such as a Citywide bike/pedestrian network) or active transportation spine (such as a Circuit Trails regional network). This connects people to destinations within or between communities, including schools, workplaces and other community areas. Active transportation spines can connect communities, metropolitan regions and states. To begin to build out active transportation networks, the ask will require the ATIIP to be fully funded in the appropriations process to build these connections.

Fully funding the Healthy Streets Program

The Healthy Streets program, authorized in the IIJA, works to reduce flooding, improve air quality, and mitigate the urban heat island effect within BIPOC communities and low income communities by providing grants to state and local governments, as well as non-profits, to both plant trees and deploy Smart Surfaces, such as reflective pavement in urban heat islands and porous pavement in flood-prone areas. The program requires engagement with and support by community leaders.

The program would expand tree coverage by purchasing and planting trees, preparing sites, maintaining and monitoring trees, and repairing storm damage to trees. Additionally, the program would deploy Smart Surfaces—surfaces that more effectively manage the sun and rain such as green, porous, and reflective surfaces, trees, solar PV and combined solutions—to improve air quality and reduce summer heat in historically disinvested from communities.

This is an important program as surface decisions in cities are traditionally made using lowest first or initial cost, which most of the time means dark impervious surfaces. These dark impervious surfaces absorb roughly 90% of incoming heat and contribute to increased water runoff, which means cities are becoming increasingly hot, less equitable and more prone to flooding. Historically disinvested from neighborhoods are typically 8-10 degrees warmer than surrounding areas, a trend caused by historical redlining, underinvestment in green space and a lack of tree planting. Similarly to the ATIIP ask, the Healthy Streets Program ask was for support to fully fund the program through the appropriations process.

We look forward to continuing the conversation, as the overall impressions from representatives and legislative staffers who joined us were enthusiastic about these programs. Representatives and staffers offered their support and interest in future opportunities that aim to better the multi-modal accessibility for all, and qualify of life improvements for our communities in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

A big thanks to The League of American Bicyclists for hosting the event and giving us the space to discuss these issues. Be sure to check out the Bike League’s website to learn more about the National Bike Summit and to learn about ways you can get involved with us next year!

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