The only thing more complicated than taxes is reading federal laws. We get the summaries -- "transportation bill bad for bicycling" -- but actually sitting down with the 600+ pages and trying to decipher the "whereas" and "wherefores" quickly gets overwhelming.
Don't worry - we've done that on your behalf. Now, over the next two months, we'll tell you, in regular words, what the new transportation bill means for bicyclists, for your hometown, for your state. More importantly, we'll explain how you can get involved and make sure this new bill continues to build a Bicycle Friendly America.
First of all, the new law -- Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21) -- is actually much better than it could have been. Thanks to you, and many people like you, cyclists were NOT totally excluded from the bill. Many of our most important programs have been moved around, lumped together, and trimmed. But, we are still included.
The bottom line: We have to be more engaged, especially at the state and local levels, to ensure the money gets spent on bicycling.
MAP-21 swings into action on October 1. In the nine weeks between now and then, the League and our partners at America Bikes will be sending you a weekly newsletter illuminating a different part of the bill. We've been asked: What happened to Safe Routes to School? Where are state bike/ped coordinators funded from? What happens to my funding for my trail/road/bridge? These emails will give you those answers.
In addition, there will be a wealth of new resources uploaded to the Web site (www.advocacyadvance.org), important dates of the new bill highlighted, and much more. We'll be focusing much of the follow-up through our state and local advocacy group partners; we'll be highlighting ways in which you can support their efforts most effectively.
Delving Into the Bill
The most important change with MAP-21 is that it gives far more power to your state Departments of Transportation and regional Metropolitan Planning Organizations to determine how money goes to bicycling and walking in your community. This means bicyclists need to start building and enhancing strong relationships with these groups; making sure they know why bicycling matters in your community.
For example, states are still required to have a bicycle and pedestrian coordinator but there is no specific funding source to pay for them; the requirement to have Safe Routes to School Coordinator is gone, but it's still an eligible position to fund. Those choices are up to the state DOT.
The Transportation Enhancements program that funded most bike projects for past 20 years is gone. But many of the activities - including bike projects and programs - are eligible under a new Transportation Alternatives program. The bad news is states can choose to transfer half of their new TA funds to other highway programs right off the top. No questions asked. Plus, within the new TA program itself, biking and walking have to compete with other big-ticket items -- like vegetation management and environmental mitigation.
So our job, quite simply, is to make sure biking programs are fully staffed, fully funded and fully implemented. And we'll be giving you the tools to make sure that happens.
This is just the start of a conversation we'll have over the next two months. Each newsletter will delve into a different aspect of the bill, and we've also scheduled four webinars to explain things in person (so to speak).
The first will be August 13 at 2 p.m. Eastern. Join us for "The ABCs of MAP-21" to learn the basics of the new law, what it means for bicyclists and how we can harness the opportunities to fund biking and walking projects and programs. Register now!
Thank you for participating in this conversation with us --- with your help, we'll put cycling all over MAP-21.
Until next Wednesday ...