Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Senate Committee Unanimously Approves Safe Streets Amendment

Note that BikeWalkLee's efforts are mentioned in this national article!

National Complete Streets Coalition Article
By Stefanie Seskin, on December 14th, 2011

In a major step forward for Complete Streets, the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation passed a federal transportation authorization bill that includes a measure for the safe accommodation of all users in federally-funded street projects.

Alaska Senator Mark Begich offered the amendment that established this measure and accepted an amendment from Senator John Thune of South Dakota. The Committee voted unanimously in favor of the measure.

The amendments modified S. 1950, the Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Enhancement Act, which is one of the Commerce Committee’s contributions to the overall reauthorization package.

With this measure in place, the proposed bill now directs the U.S. Secretary of Transportation to create standards for the safe accommodation of all road users and allows the Secretary to waive the standards for states that have their own policies. The additional language offered by Senator Thune would allow states to determine what is safe and adequate accommodation for a specific street. For example, the state could determine the expected users of that street or decide on the type of crossing provided.

Appropriately, the Commerce Committee’s jurisdiction is safety – a core motivation for Complete Streets policies across the country and for the support a federal policy has received on Capitol Hill.

As we pointed out yesterday, thousands of Americans are killed or injured on our roadways. And while the overall numbers are declining, injuries and fatalities among those who are walking rose sharply (.pdf) in the last year: compared to 2009, 26,000 more pedestrians were injured and 419 more were killed. Many of them were children or older adults.

Fortunately, there are thousands upon thousands of people who are working toward safer, better streets for everyone. These people are members and supporters of the National Complete Streets Coalition and the Complete Streets movement. They came together yesterday to contact their Senators in support of the Begich amendment, and the entire staff of the Coalition want to take a moment to thank them for their efforts.

In the Senate, we applaud Senator Begich for introducing the amendment, Senator Thune for helping make it bi-partisan, and every Senator on the Committee for supporting it. The Coalition is sending them a formal thank you letter (.pdf). We’re also thankful for the support from Senator Harkin of Iowa, who introduced the Safe and Complete Streets Act earlier this year, and the 16 additional Senators who have signed on as co-sponsors.

Of course, these Senators working in response to the incredible support for Complete Streets from their constituents. Advocates and organizations, members of the National Complete Streets Coalition across the country quickly stepped up to mobilize.

Our Steering Committee and Partner organizations spread the word and set up easy tools for action. We’d like to especially thank the Safe Routes to School National Partnership, whose online tool enabled 830 letters to be sent to the Commerce committee members; the League of American Bicyclists, through which 1,249 letters were sent to the Committee members; the American Society of Landscape Architects, for activating their networks of professionals; the Alliance for Biking and Walking, YMCA, and America Walks, who encouraged their members to speak up for safe streets; and America Bikes, the Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals, and AARP, for their incredible work on the Hill over the past few days.

National groups weren’t the only ones who generated action. Dozens of local groups responded to the call by sending letters, making phone calls, and encouraging their members and friends to take action. To name just a few: Bike Walk Lee (Florida); the Minnesota Complete Streets Coalition; Trailnet (Missouri); the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia; Bike Texas; and Feet First (Washington).

Though yesterday’s vote was an important moment for the movement, there are still many opportunities to strengthen a Complete Streets policy in the bill as it moves ahead. Bills from several Senate committees will be combined, and the House will have its own versions making their way through the process.

We will continue to need your support in coming months – but for now, pat yourselves on the back for a job well done and enjoy some cake or pie.

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