Despite the drama surrounding the FY 2015 Omnibus, or “CRomnibus,” biking and walking just got a big win thanks to Washington state’s own Senator Patty Murray.
The win addresses the growing and persistent problem for the safety of everyone that walks and bikes. As most transportation fatalities and serious injuries in Washington state have been on the decline, our most vulnerable road users – those that walk and bike – have not seen a similar decline. From 2009-2011 15.5% of all transportation-related deaths and 16.7% of all transportation-related serious injuries in Washington state come from those that walk and bike.
During the development of the 2015 budget, Washington Bikes and the League of American Bicyclists worked with Senator Murray’s office to include a directive for the US Department of Transportation (USDOT) to develop a safety performance measure. This push for inclusion in the appropriations bill represents a continuation of an earlier push to pass legislation in both the US House of Representatives and Senate to require USDOT to establish a non-motorized performance measure.
The now final budget, specifically under the Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development (THUD) appropriations, passed by Congress on Saturday includes a directive (see page 17) to the US Department of Transportation from Congress to “…to establish separate, non-motorized safety performance measures for the highway safety improvement program, define performance measures for fatalities and serious injuries from pedestrian and bicycle crashes, and publish its final rule on safety performance measures no later than September 30, 2015.”
What can we expect from this important advance for non-motorized safety? For one, this directive will require states to set a goal of reducing biking and walking fatalities in their state, and report back on their progress.
Additionally, the directive speaks directly to the federal Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP). While some HSIP projects in Washington state have included walking and biking improvements, they have also included other traditional street design considerations that make it challenging to comfortably walk and bike. Furthermore, HSIP in Washington state hasn’t had an explicit tie to walking and biking as its primary purpose is to address top-tier priority safety areas in the state’s Strategic Highway Safety Plan, Target Zero, and not overtly on walking and biking. This new directive’s rulemaking and reporting requirements will precipitate more accountability as to determine whether HSIP investments actually improve safety for those that walk and bike.
In the current Congress Senator Murray holds a leadership position in the Senate on transportation funding issues and advocated for the inclusion of this directive to make our streets safer for everyone. We at Washington Bikes can’t thank her enough for her leadership.