Blumenauer introduces a ‘bike-partisan’ bill aimed at creating safer streets for people to walk and ride bikes

Sixty percent of people in Seattle want to bicycle more, but are not riding because they don’t feel safe. US Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) is determined to change this statistic.

Known for his bow ties, bike pins and ‘bike-partisanship’, Blumenauer (D-OR) introduced an important piece of bipartisan bike/ped safety legislation on November 15.

His concise bill, known as the Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Act (HR 3494) would require the US Department of Transportation (USDOT) to use separate measures for motorized and non-motorized safety. The bill would also “(enable) states to set their own safety targets, and have the flexibility to choose the best methods to meet them,” according to a press release on the Blumenauer website. There is no emphasis or distinction made for biking and walking in current legislation, so this new amendment has real potential to help prioritize active transportation at both the state and national level.

Blumenauer introduced the bill one day after the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released data revealing an increase in bicycle and pedestrian traffic fatalities in 2012. While driver and passenger deaths have been declining, bicycle and pedestrian fatalities have been on the rise. Less than 1% of funding goes toward pedestrian and bicycle safety, but 16% of deaths result from people walking and riding bikes.

The proposed legislation’s distinction between motorized and nonmotorized transportation means more specific and higher quality safety standards for all types of road users, including bicyclists and pedestrians. This distinction should also encourage states, like Washington, to improve their data collection around bicycle and pedestrian accidents. According to the League of American Bicyclists, even Washington (the #1 bicycling state), must “improve data collection for bicycle travel and safety.”

Blumenauer's new bill holds the promise of change. As the pro-walk/pro-bike Congressman stated, “Everyone is a pedestrian at some point in their trip...and the number of individuals commuting by bike has increased by more than 60% over the last decade. As transportation systems adjust to handle different type of road users, the federal government must encourage appropriate standards to ensure road user safety.”

With such a high percentage of ‘interested but concerned’ cyclists in Seattle, there is no telling how significant an impact safer road standards will have on the number of people we see riding through the city in the years ahead.

McKayla J Dunfey's picture
McKayla J Dunfey