DRIVE Act Motors Through the Senate

If you bet against the Senate to pass the DRIVE Act before the federal transportation program ran out of funding on July 31st, it’s time to get your wallet out. Right at the deadline, and right before breaking for its annual August recess, the Senate approved the comprehensive transportation bill that includes at least three years of funding. Now, the bill is in the hands of the House; with Congress passing a three-month extension of MAP-21, the House now has until the end of October to prepare and pass its version of the transportation bill.(DRIVE, by the way, stands for “Developing a Reliable and Innovative Vision for the Economy;” I will let you make your own sarcastic remarks at home regarding the acronymic title of this ‘innovative,’ multi-modal transportation bill.)

"Pennsylvania Avenue Bike Lanes" by Fletcher6 - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons -
Photo Credit: Fletcher6
How does the DRIVE Act affect cyclists?

  1. Increased funding for the Transportation Alternatives Program: this program provides funding, through state-run grant programs and community-based programs, for “on- and off-road pedestrian and bicycle facilities, infrastructure projects for improving non-driver access to public transportation and enhanced mobility, community improvement activities, and environmental mitigation; recreational trail projects; safe routes to school projects; and projects for planning, designing, or constructing boulevards and other roadways largely in the right-of-way of former divided highways.” The Senate bill increases funding for TAP from $819 million to $850 million per year.
  2. Complete Streets provision: language in the new bill, while somewhat vague, does specifically include the consideration of non-motorized roadway users in the planning and execution of new projects. According to the League of American Bicyclists, the amendment “…ensures that the design of federal surface transportation projects provide for the safe and adequate accommodation (as determined by the State or other direct recipient of funds) in all phases of project planning, development and operation, of all users of the transportation network, including motorized and non motorized [sic] users.”
  3. Active Safety Technology: while this provision is directed at automobiles, it has obvious benefits for cyclists, pedestrians, and other motorized vehicles sharing the road. If passed, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will include information regarding active safety technologies in its new car safety ratings. “These technologies including forward collision warning, automatic braking, lane departure warning, blind spot monitoring, and pedestrian detection, will raise visibility of bicyclists and help to maintain peak driver vigilance. Recent analysis by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety estimates that active safety technologies addressing the five most common motorist-bicyclists crash types could mitigate or prevent 47% of all crashes and 38% of fatal crashes,” reports the League.

In summary, the DRIVE Act still has to make it through the House and gain the approval of the President before the bill becomes law, and while it has some improvements for cyclists and pedestrians, its hardly a revolution in transportation planning and infrastructure.If youre interested in learning more about the bill or are curious what the professional wonks over at the League think of the DRIVE Act, read their summary and suggestions for the bill moving forward.

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