Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) and co-sponsor Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawai’i) on Feb. 7 teamed up to introduce the Safe Streets Act of 2014, which Begich’s office says will “create safer roads for Alaska families, children, and seniors by modernizing the way federally funded roads are planned, designed and built.”
If passed, the bill will ensure new federally funded roads follow Complete Streets policies, safely accommodating travelers of all ages and abilities, including drivers, transit passengers, bicyclists, and pedestrians. Complete Streets policies make sure that sidewalks, crosswalks, and safe transit access are taken into consideration as roadway plans are developed. The Safe Streets legislation will increase safe travel options, like walking and biking, and help save lives.
“I’ve been a proud supporter of Safe Streets policies since I was the mayor of Anchorage and I continue to support them here in the Senate,” Sen. Begich said in a press release. “These policies lead to safer roads, less traffic congestion, higher property values, and healthier families. That’s why I’m pleased to introduce this common sense bill to strengthen our transportation infrastructure and enhance the quality of life in our local communities.”
“Too many people are killed or injured each year because our streets are simply not designed and built with the safety of everyone — including pedestrians and bicyclists — in mind. Our communities deserve safer streets,” Sen. Schatz said in a press release. “Many of our roads in Hawai’i and across America make travel difficult for seniors, families, youth, and others who are unable or choose not to drive. Our legislation provides commonsense solutions to consider the needs of our seniors and children, encourage alternative forms of transportation, and make our roads and communities safer for everyone.”
According to Begich’s office, over the last decade 47,000 pedestrians have died on U.S. highways. Two thirds of pedestrian deaths have occurred on federally funded roads. These roadways often lack Complete Streets features like sidewalks, crosswalks, and bicycle lanes, which limit access and create a dangerous environment for travelers.
The Safe Streets Act will require all states and metropolitan planning organizations (MPO) to adopt Complete Streets policies for federally funded projects within two years, and consider the safety of all users when designing new roads or improving existing roads, according to Sen. Schatz’s office. In addition, the Secretary of Transportation will provide resources to transportation agencies across the country with best practices for implementing complete streets principles for those states and MPOs. The Safe Streets Act of 2014 will ensure that effective practice and proven safety measures become federal guidelines, improving safety on our community streets. Access to safe sidewalks, bike lanes, and other street features would reduce injuries and deaths, improve the quality of communities, ease traffic congestion, and allow for more healthy and active lifestyles.
“America’s streets should be safe and convenient for everyone, whether you are driving, riding a bike, walking or using transit,” said Roger Millar, director of the National Complete Streets Coalition, a program of Smart Growth America. “The Safe Streets Act is another sign that Congress is dedicated to making our nation’s streets safer and more open to everyone, regardless of age, ability, income, ethnicity or transportation choice.”
The Safe Streets Act is supported by the following organizations: AARP; National Association of Realtors; Smart Growth America; National Complete Streets Coalition; American Planning Association; American Public Transportation Association; Transportation for America; Easter Seals; Safe Routes to School National Partnership; American Society of Landscape Architects; America Walks; and the League of American Bicyclists.
The bill is S. 2004, “a bill to ensure the safety of all users of the transportation system, including pedestrians, bicyclists, transit users, children, older individuals, and individuals with disabilities, as they travel on and across federally funded streets and highways.” There is a companion bill in the House of Representatives, the Safe Streets Act of 2013 (H.R. 2468), which was introduced by Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Calif.) and co-sponsored by Rep. David Joyce (R-Ill.) and 17 others.