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House Lawmakers Push For Bicyclist, Pedestrian Safety Goals

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Tourists bicycle down Pennsylvania Ave. towards the Capitol, where lawmakers are now addressing safety concerns.
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Tourists bicycle down Pennsylvania Ave. towards the Capitol, where lawmakers are now addressing safety concerns.

The recent lobbying by bicycling advocates on Capitol Hill to address the safety of bicyclists and pedestrians seems to have paid off.

A bipartisan group of 68 members of the U.S. House, responding to the advocates' safety concerns, has signed a letter to Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood asking him to order the Department of Transportation to follow through on two aspects of the MAP-21 legislation signed into law last year.

The representatives, including D.C. Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, are asking Sec. LaHood to establish a national goal to reduce bicyclist and pedestrian fatalities and to push individual states to set "performance measures" to accomplish the same.

"If we don't set performance goals for states and cities, there will be no incentive for them to look at what many don't even recognize," Norton said. "More people are walking and more people are taking their bikes. Thus, there will be no incentive to try to make the roads easier to navigate."

As overall roadway fatalities have dropped significantly, the number of pedestrians and bicyclists killed has increased, according to federal data. Total fatalities have dropped from 37,423 in 2008 to 32,367 in 2011. But roughly 5,000 pedestrians and bicyclists are killed annually, from 12 percent of all roadway deaths in 2008 to almost 16 percent in 2011, according to the federal government's fatality analysis reporting system.

Safety advocates see the establishment of performance measures as an opening for additional federal funding directed to bicycling and walking infrastructure. Currently less than 0.5% of federal highway safety funds are spent improving bicyclist and pedestrian safety.

"We urge USDOT to set separate performance measures for non-motorized and motorized transportation," says the letter signed by the 68 House members. "This will create an incentive for states to reduce bicyclist and pedestrian fatalities, while giving them flexibility to choose the best methods to do so."

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