Federal Bike Legislation

Federal Legislation Pertaining to Biking and Sources of Federal Bike Funding
Since the passage of the first multi-modal transportation act, ISTEA, in 1991, Federal agencies have increasingly becoming a major source of funding for bike infrastructure projects.  To get funding, local governments must play by Federal rules, so the ways bicycling and bike infrastructure are constituted/defined at the national level actually have a lot to do with how they are constructed at the local level and on the ground. 


ISTEA (Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act), 1991 (http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c102:H.R.2950.ENR:): ISTEA was the first legislation to consider bicycling and walking to be legitimate forms of transportation, and to allocate funding for transportation projects that facilitate them.  Funding came from several national sources: the Surface Transportation Program (including Transportation Enhancements and Highway Safety funds), the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Program, National Highway System funds, Federal Lands, Scenic Byways, and Recreational Trails funds. (NBWS 10-year update, below.)  Use of the funds was devolved to local governments.  ISTEA also allocated funding for city bicycle coordinators, which allowed Austin to hire its first.  Although ISTEA was a huge step in recognizing biking as legit transportation, no major cycling studies had been done yet, and the funding was available, but improvements were not required.


NBWS (National Bicycling and Walking Study): Funded in 1991 immediately prior to the ISTEA legislation, the first NBWS (completed in 1994) was the first federally funded study to try and determine how many people biked or walked for transportation, why more people don’t bike or walk, and how rates of bicycling and walking as well as safety of cyclists and pedestrians could be improved.  The NBWS also makes policy recommendations and thereby can significantly impact federal funding.  The first study benchmarked the US against 24 case studies in different countries around the world.  It set two goals: to double the percentage of total trips made in the US by bicycling and walking from 7.9 to 15.8% of all trips, and to reduce by 10% the number of cyclists and pedestrians killed in traffic crashes. (NBWS 5-year update.)  The Study is updated every 5 years and although the US has not reached the mode-split targets, it has definitely met the safety target.

1994 Study: http://katana.hsrc.unc.edu/cms/downloads/NatlBicycleWalk94.pdf

1999 5-year Update: http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/environment/bikeped/study.htm

2004 10-year Update: http://katana.hsrc.unc.edu/cms/downloads/NBWS_10yr_Progress_Report.pdf

2010 15-year Update: http://katana.hsrc.unc.edu/cms/downloads/15-year_report.pdf



TEA-21 (Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century), 1999: TEA-21 updated ISTEA and made more funding available for bicycle and pedestrian projects.  Where ISTEA had allocated funding for bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, TEA-21 now strongly suggested that local governments consider bikes and pedestrians in all new “construction and reconstruction” of transportation facilities, except where they are not allowed (presumably, then, all surface roads, but not highways.)  Transportation projects also must take bicyclist and pedestrian safety into account, and non-motorized transportation routes could not be severed unless an alternate route was provided.  TEA-21 also stated that the FHWA (Federal Highway Administration) would provide guidelines for the appropriate incorporation of bikes and pedestrians into transportation infrastructure and planning by updating AASHTO design standards (below.)

                Full bill: http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/tea21/

                Bicycling Fact Sheet: http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/tea21/factsheets/b-ped.htm


SAFETEA-LU (Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users), 2005: SAFETEA-LU built on (translation: elaborated on) TEA-21, ISTEA, and the NBWS updates to require all transportation projects to consider bicyclist and pedestrian needs, and states that maintaining non-motorized access to the transportation network is not optional.  The Act requires that each state hire a Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator.  In addition to strengthening the code, the Act also details funding opportunities (which include education, maps, and police protection, as well as physical improvements) and adds additional sources of funding.  AND, the act funds several additional special programs, including Safe Routes to School, a program that encourages biking and walking to school, and the Non-Motorized Transportation Pilot Program, a 5-year study wherein 5 communities each receive $5 million dollars to increase bicycling and walking.  The study results are due out this year.

                Description of SAFETEA-LU updates as they pertain to bikes and pedestrians: http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/environment/bikeped/bp-guid.htm

                Additional (non-code related) programs: http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/environment/bikeped/legtealu.htm#sec1807


Surface Transportation Reauthorization Bill, 2010 (http://transportation.house.gov/): This bill is still being worked out, but in addition to funding for mass transit it appears to have additional incentives for bicyclists and pedestrians as well.


Livable Communities, 2009 (http://www.hud.gov/news/release.cfm?content=pr2009-06-16.cfm): an interagency partnership between the US Department of Transportation, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the Environmental Protection Agency was formed in June of 2009.  One of its goals is to increase transportation options for low-income communities, and it includes funding for bicycle facilities.