Even though bicycling and walking make up 12% of trips in Pennsylvania, and bicyclists and pedestrians make up 11% of the fatalities statewide, Pennsylvania only spends 1.5% of its transportation budget on biking and walking projects and that 1.5% is derived fully from federal funds. PennDOT does not devote any state funds specifically to bicycling and walking projects.
More and more communities in Pennsylvania want to include bicycle and pedestrian facilities on their roads, but the Commonwealth lacks the funding to support planning, installation and maintenance of bike lanes, wider shoulders, road markings, bicycle route signage and sidewalks. Biking and walking are important modes of transportation that deserve support and accommodation as part of Pennsylvania’s comprehensive transportation system.
There are three important opportunities for Pennsylvania to support communities that want to make bicycling and walking safer. First, create a bicycling and walking office or section within PennDOT. Second, make biking and walking a substantive component of the multi-modal fund. Third, eliminate policies that are an obstacle to the placement of bicycle facilities on state roads.
- Create a Bicycle Pedestrian Office within PennDOT. Within PennDOT, there is no section, office or division devoted to biking and walking. PennDOT does not devote a full time bicycle-pedestrian coordinator (in one person) to overseeing the state’s biking and walking programs and policies. Without an expert on bicycle pedestrian issues on PennDOT’s executive team, these modes are easily neglected. While some District PennDOT offices have employees designated as bicycle/pedestrian coordinators, their job is to review project proposals to determine if they meet the minimum requirements for accommodating biking and walking. They offer little coordination and do not substantively interact with municipalities or counties to help them improve or plan for bicycling and walking in their communities.
- Ensure that the new multi-modal fund allocates sufficient funds to bicycle and walking projects. Providing an opportunity for municipalities and counties to apply for planning, design and construction funds for biking and walking projects would provide concentrated resources towards transportation modes that have long suffered from underfunding.
- Eliminate the Bicycle Occupancy Permit. Currently, state law requires local authorities to obtain approval from PennDOT in order for a bicycle marking or sign to be installed on a state road. Consequently, PennDOT requires local authorities to assume all maintenance and liability responsibility for bicycle markings and signs and obtain a Bicycle Occupancy Permit (BOP) if a bicycle facility is added to a state road within the municipality. The BOP is not required in Philadelphia or Pittsburgh, and between them, they have over 400 miles of bike lanes. In the rest of the state, where the BOP is required, less than 50 exist. Bicycle markings and signs should not trigger PennDOT approval and local authorities should not be required to obtain a BOP from PennDOT in order to have bicycle markings or signs installed on state roads within their jurisdictions.