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News / Blog Advocacy News
Advocacy News

Texas Falls in Bicycle Friendly State Ranking

After two successive years of amazing gains in the Bicycle Friendly State Rankings, Texas is back where we were three years ago. We've fallen from #22 in 2013 to #33 in 2014.

While we're disappointed by this, we aren't entirely surprised. After all, we knew we had a tough year last year with a struggle in the legislature followed by the toll road bike ban. Texas has fallen in ranking because it is relatively worse at the state level in comparison to other states than it was last year. Our worst scores seem to be in infrastructure, funding, policies and legislation.

Significant bike/ped progress in Texas has taken place at the local level as cities have passed ordinances and bonds to improve policies and infrastructure (sometimes while fighting with TxDOT to do so) or to fill a safety legislation gap from the legislature/governor. This local progress is not reflected in the state ranking.

Policies:

Cycletrack-1391The current engineering design manual does not include the best practices for protected bike/ped facilities as identified in the NACTO manual. The safest facilities CANNOT be included "on system" because TxDOT has not updated its design manual to include them, even if the affected cities request them.

TxDOT has resisted including bicycle and pedestrian facilities "on system." Other states routinely include bike/ped facilities. TxDOT banned bikes from its rural toll road shoulders and pressured the Tyler RMA to follow suit.

Texas has not been as effective as other states in utilizing abandoned rail right of way by rail banking with Rails to Trails.

The state Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP) scoring is weighted to favor items like railroad grade separations instead of bike/ped improvements, even though 16% of annual fatalities are bike/ped.

Of all the state DOTs that have a Complete Streets policy, Texas's is the weakest.

TxDOT leaves it up to contractors or Area Engineers to choose the aggregate size in seal coats with no consideration of safety for bicycle riders because of a very weak seal coat policy, despite their reassurances to people who ride bikes.

TxDOT has never produced a state bike map or responded to the 2005 Texas Bicycle Tourism Trails legislation.


Legislation:

Robin House TransportationThe Texas legislature has not passed Complete Streets legislation, and the combined Safe Passing and Vulnerable Road User legislation was vetoed after the legislature passed it in 2009.


Funding:

TxDOT has never used any state transportation funds for stand alone bike/ped facilities, as far as we know. Texas Parks and Wildlife have a very effective small trail program that could be expanded.

TxDOT has effectively canceled the statewide Safe Routes to School and the Trail grant funding program (previously named Transportation Enhancements) by recently transferring the federal TAP funds elsewhere instead of developing rules for using those funds and putting out a call for projects. If this is not reversed, Texas is likely to fall even more in state ranking next year. In making this decision, TxDOT has not followed the spirit of the 2001 Matthew Brown Act, the first Safe Routes to School legislation in the country. Where Texas was once a leader, we are now being left behind.

In the last decade, TxDOT either spent the Transportation Enhancements (trail) program funds on highway rest stops or wiped out most of the funding in response to federal rescissions instead of spreading the cuts out more evenly among all programs as other states did.

Other states utilize CMAQ funding to build bicycle facilities. TxDOT recently prevented the City of El Paso, UT El Paso, and Fort Bliss from using CMAQ funds for an El Paso Bike Share program even though FHWA approved the funds and local leaders voted to use the CMAQ funds on no less than four occasions.

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Texas did OK in education and enforcement.

Girls walking to schoolTexas initially was ahead of the nation on Safe Routes to School non-infrastructure (based on funding by the US Department of Education and Traffic Safety 402 administered by TxDOT). In partnership with TxDOT, BkeTexas has reached over two million children with five hours of bike/ped traffic safety education since 1998. In spite of the success, TxDOT has never increased the amount of funds to grow the program to reach more Texas children.

Unfortunately, Texas began to fall behind when TxDOT held back two years of funding for a statewide SRTS grants in 2007. The rules were then changed in 2008 by TxDOT staff (with no stakeholder input) so a statewide SRTS outreach program could no longer be implemented.

Most recently, TxDOT canceled the SRTS program and transferred the MAP 21 TAP money elsewhere. With these cuts, Texas is likely to fall in education and encouragement in future years.

Enforcement scored OK. Local law enforcement agencies have worked to learn from each other and BikeTexas about enforcing existing local safe passing ordinances and other laws.


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Helpful information about the state ranking report by the League of American Bicyclists:


· In addition to the state ranking (1-50), the League of American Bicyclists published the total number of points a state earned out of 100 both this year and in 2013. This allows us to see if our state made progress compared to itself as well as to the other states. Because of overall improvement, it turns out a state needed to earn about 3 more points than last year just to maintain its 2013 rank. See the full list of state rankings here. 

· What makes a state a Bicycle Friendly State? Read more here.

· Like last year, we can see Texas's report card.  New this year are descriptions of the “top signs” of success. 

· And, again, we can also see on handy color-coded maps how Texas did in each of the five categories (Legislation & Enforcement, Policies & Programs, Infrastructure and Funding, Education & Enforcement, Evaluation & Planning). 

Here is the general link to the program and the 2014 Bicycle Friendly State report.

 

National Bike Summit 2014

NBS Texas DelegationEvery year in March, bike advocates from across the nation converge on Washington to swap stories, get inspired, and above all, to meet with their members of Congress. These three days of bike-loving madness are called the National Women's Bicycling Forum and the National Bike Summit.

BikeTexas is delighted to lead the Texas delegation every year as we hear from amazing speakers and network with our colleagues from different parts of the U.S. This year, 16 delegates from Texas went to Washington, DC, for the Forum and Summit. The 2014 theme was "United Spokes: Moving Beyond Gridlock."

The highlight of the Summit every year is Lobby Day, when each delegation heads to Capitol Hill to meet with their senators and representatives. This year's focus was to ask our members of Congress to co-sponsor legislation requiring the Department of Transportation to set performance measures for bicycle and pedestrian safety, similar to the ones already in place for auto traffic fatalities.
The Texas delegation split up into four teams and met with all 38 Texas Congressional offices. A major victory of the day was Representative Beto O'Rourke signing on as a cosponsor to the bill to establish the performance measures after the delegation visited his office.

We'd love to see you there next year! Start making plans now to join the Texas delegation to the 2015 National Bike Summit.

Photo L to R: Michael Payne, Carol Reifsnyder, Mike Kase, Vanessa Bissey-Beard, Preston Tyree, Robin Stallings, Jack Sanford, Erick Benz, Fred Zapalac, Ryan Hanson, Leslie Luciano, Talia McCray, Emma Cravey, Eileen Schaubert.

 

   

Bike Month Proclamation: Sample Text for You to Use

bike monthFor those of us who love to ride bikes, every month is bike month, and we're not about to argue with that! However, ever since May was first declared Bike Month in 1956, it's been a month of extra celebrations of all things two wheels-- and we're not going to argue with that, either.

Check out the BikeTexas events calendar to see what Bike Month events are happening near you! 

Would your community like to take part in Bike Month, but your local officials aren't sure where to begin? Below is a sample proclamation you can customize to declare that May is Bike Month in your city and across Texas. Let’s make Texas a great place to bike and walk!

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The City/County of ____

Proclamation

Whereas, the bicycle is an economical, healthy, convenient, and environmentally sound form of transportation and an excellent tool for recreation and enjoyment of [insert city/county]’s scenic beauty; and

Whereas, throughout the month of May, the residents of [insert city/county] and its visitors will experience the joys of bicycling through educational programs, races, commuting events, charity events, or by simply getting out and going for a ride; and

Whereas, [insert city/county]’s road and trail system attracts bicyclists each year, providing economic health, transportation, tourism, and scenic benefits; and

Whereas, creating a bicycling-friendly community has been shown to improve citizens’ health, well-being, and quality of life, growing the economy of [insert city/county], attracting tourism dollars, improving traffic safety, supporting student learning outcomes, and reducing pollution, congestion, and wear and tear on our streets and roads; and

Whereas, BikeTexas, [insert local bicycle club/ organization/chamber/tourism bureau/regional planning organization], the League of American Bicyclists, schools, parks and recreation departments, police departments, public health districts, hospitals, companies and civic groups will be promoting bicycling during the month of May 2014; and

Whereas, these groups are also promoting bicycle tourism year round to attract more visitors to enjoy our local restaurants, hotels, retail establishments, and cultural and scenic attractions; and

Whereas, these groups are also promoting greater public awareness of bicycle operation and safety education in an effort to reduce collisions, injuries, and fatalities and improve health and safety for everyone on the road; and

Now therefore, I, _____, Mayor/Executive of [insert city/county], do hereby proclaim May 2014 as

Bike Month

in [insert city/county], and I urge all residents to join me in this special observance

Signed this ___ day of May, 2014

Mayor/Executive _______________

   

APBP / NACTO Urban Street Design Guide Webinar Now Available Online

By Karen Dredge, APBP

Cycletrack-1391The Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals (APBP) and The National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) provided a free webinar on the Urban Street Design Guide on November 6th. Over 1000 interested viewers registered and watched it live. APBP now has made the archival recording available to any interested viewer. Go to the APBP home page http://www.apbp.org and click into the NACTO Screen to begin viewing.

During the webinar the leading experts in street design who contributed to the guide's development addressed how this resource will change the face of our nation's streets, the ways you can use it in your community, and how specific topics and elements in the document differ from conventional practice.

The NACTO Urban Street Design Guide charts the principles and practices of the nation’s foremost engineers, planners and designers working in cities today. The Guide offers a blueprint for designing 21st-century streets, and unveils the toolbox and the tactics cities use to make streets safer, more livable, and more economically vibrant.

In this archived webinar, viewers can achieve a better understanding of how and why city streets demand a unique set of design tools specific to their distinct needs and characteristics; how to implement different "interim" design strategies, including parklets, public plazas and temporary safety improvements for bicyclists and pedestrians; how to utilize the guide as a tool for local and state advocacy, including basic information on NACTO's endorsement campaign for the guide.

The webinar presenters are all experts in street design and contributors to The Guide: Michael Flynn, Director of Capital Planning, NYC DOT; Michael King, Principal, Nelson\Nygaard Associates; Peter Koonce, Division Manager, Signals, Street Lighting & ITS, Portland Bureau of Transportation; David Vega-Barachowitz, Director, Designing Cities initiative, NACTO.

The National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) represents large cities on transportation issues of local, regional and national significance. NACTO views the transportation departments of major cities as effective and necessary partners in regional and national transportation efforts, promoting their interests in federal decision-making. As a coalition of city transportation departments, NACTO is committed to raising the state of the practice for street design and transportation by building a common vision, sharing data, peer-to-peer exchange in workshops and conferences, and regular communication among member cities. For more information about the organization, visit www.nacto.org.

The Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals (APBP) provides expertise for sustainable transportation and is the only professional membership organization for the discipline of pedestrian and bicycle transportation. APBP members are employees of all levels of government, consulting firms and non-profits who work in the engineering, planning, landscape architecture, police, safety, health and promotion fields and specialize in improving conditions for bicycling and walking. For more information about the organization, visit www.apbp.org.

   

UPDATE: San Antonio's Loop 1604

Screen Shot 2013-09-23 at 1.11.19 PMOn August 21, 2013, in what was the culmination of a months-long process of advocating for bicycle accommodation on Loop 1604 access roads, the Alamo RMA Board unanimously approved the construction bid for re-striping the road to accommodate a wide outside lane and include signage to alert motorists to the presence of bicyclists.

Prior to construction of the interchange at Loop 1604 and US 281, the access road had an 8' wide shoulder used by many people riding bikes for transportation and recreation. During construction, TxDOT's requirement of three travel lanes instead of two was accommodated by removing the shoulder. After local cyclists alerted BikeTexas to this issue, BikeTexas helped rally dozens of cyclists to attend Alamo RMA Board meetings in February and April 2013.

At first response, engineering staff at the RMA discussed the possibility of a bike lane and bicycle accommodation on the sidewalk where road widths did not allow for a minimum-width bike lane. However, those staff left the RMA during the transition to Bexar County providing staffing for the RMA. BikeTexas subsequently worked with staff at Bexar County, now in charge of RMA operations, to come to agreement over how to accommodate cyclists.

"I’m disappointed...but am not surprised," said Justin Moore, local cycling advocate and LCI, via email when informed of the final design presented by the RMA. Mr. Moore was the first to contact BikeTexas about this issue.

Many in San Antonio have expressed regret over recent road “improvements” that have made things more dangerous for cyclists, such as this access road losing its shoulder. The City of San Antonio and TxDOT both have policies in place that people on bikes should be accommodated in all road projects. The road was safer for people on bikes with an 8' shoulder than a 14' outside lane shared with cars.

A future project along the 1604 corridor could improve the situation. Early projections of what will be included in the build proposal of a project to widen 1604 from I-35 to Bandera Rd include multi-use paths on each side of the corridor to safely accommodate both bicycle and foot traffic.

BikeTexas is remaining vigilant to review any plans for this corridor and will alert our networks of any chance to comment.

In the meantime, if you are unhappy with the reduction in safety of bicycling along the access road of 1604 between 281 and Blanco, BikeTexas encourages you to contact TxDOT and file a complaint or email the Alamo RMA at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

   

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