Bicycle Friendly Actions
In previous iterations of the Bicycle Friendly State program, the League of American Bicyclists reported 10 Signs of Success. For the 2017 ranking, we have narrowed these key indicators to 5 Bicycle Friendly Actions. The 5 Bicycle Friendly Actions were chosen because they are verifiable actions that each state can take to show its commitment to improving conditions for people who bike.
The 5 Bicycle Friendly Actions included on each state’s report card are:
Complete Streets Law/Policy
Safe Passing Law (3 feet +)
Statewide bike plan adopted in last 10 years
2% or more federal transportation funds spent on bike/ped
Bicycle Safety as an Emphasis Area in the state’s Strategic Highway Safety Plan
Our Guide to the Bicycle Friendly State Report Card contains detailed explanations of the data that we used to determine whether or not a state had taken a Bicycle Friendly Action.
There has been an increase in the number of states taking Bicycle Friendly Actions since our last ranking in 2015.
The general increase in the number of Bicycle Friendly Actions taken has not been evenly distributed. The greatest increase came in the form of more state including bicyclist safety as an Emphasis Area in their Strategic Highway Safety Plan. This may be a response to federal law, which was recently changed to require states to set a safety performance measure for non-motorized fatalities and serious injuries. Enacting that provision was a major federal advocacy goal of the League of American Bicyclists, beginning in 2012 and resulting in over 10,000 comments to the Federal Highway Administration in support of creating a non-motorized safety performance measure.
On the other hand, there was a small, one state, drop in the number of states that meet our Bike Plan Bicycle Friendly Action criteria. Our criteria looks at whether a state has adopted a bike plan within the last 10 years and so states must regularly update and adopt new bike plans in order to continue to be recognized for taking this Bicycle Friendly Action. Bicycle planning has changed dramatically in the last decade with the rise of technologies such as automated bicycle counters, design guidance such as the NACTO Urban Bikeway Design Guide, transit integration such as bike share systems, and other advances that make it necessary for statewide bike plans to be regularly updated in order to reflect current best practices.
Bicycle Friendly Action Maps
Each map available at the link below shows which states have met our Bicycle Friendly Action criteria, including which states have taken or updated their Action since 2015.
Bicycle Friendly Actions In-Depth
Complete Streets, according to the National Complete Streets Coalition, are “are streets for everyone. They are designed and operated to enable safe access for all users, including pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and transit riders of all ages and abilities…. By adopting a Complete Streets policy, communities direct their transportation planners and engineers to routinely design and operate the entire right of way to enable safe access for all users, regardless of age, ability, or mode of transportation.”
For our Bicycle Friendly State Report Cards, the League uses data from the National Complete Streets Coalition’s Inventory of all Complete Streets policies to determine whether a state receives the Complete Streets Law/Policy Bicycle Friendly Action. That Inventory identifies at least three ways in which states can adopt Complete Streets – through a resolution, policy, or law. In our scoring of the Complete Streets topic we differentiate between these methods, but for the Bicycle Friendly Action any method results in a checkmark.
Safe passing laws require vehicles to pass each other at a safe distance. In most states, legislatures have recognized that "safe distance" requires further definition, particularly for motor vehicles passing people on bicycles. The Safe Passing Law Bicycle Friendly Action recognizes states that have adopted a law that specifically defines a safe distance for a motor vehicle passing a person on a bicycle.
There are three common ways that states have chosen to define a “safe distance” in a way recognized by the League of American Bicyclists:
A safe distance is defined as a specific distance in terms of feet, as in “no less than three feet;”
A safe distance is defined as a variable distance in terms of feet, with a minimum safe distance that may increase based upon factors such as the speed or size of a passing vehicle; and
A safe distance is defined as “a distance sufficient to prevent contact with the person operating the bicycle if the person were to fall into the driver’s lane of traffic.”
Some states also provide exceptions to their law that requires a minimum safe passing distance for a motor vehicle passing a person on a bicycle. The League of American Bicyclists believes that these exceptions undermine the educational and enforcement aspects of a Safe Passing law. In our scoring of the Laws that Create Protections for People who Bike and Walk topic we differentiate between states that do not provide exceptions and those that do, but for the Bicycle Friendly Action any law that includes one of the definitions above results in a checkmark.
The League of American Bicyclists has a model safe passing law for states or communities within states that would like to adopt a strong safe passing law to protect people who bike. A list of all current safe passing laws is available as part of our Bike Law University series.
According to the Federal Highway Administration, “State DOTs provide leadership regarding walking and bicycling in many ways. For example, some State DOTs use their pedestrian and bicycle plans to describe policies for how they will improve conditions for walking and bicycling through their transportation investments.” While there is no one format for a statewide bicycle plan, all states can benefit from a plan that serves as a basis for collaboration between the state DOT and local authorities, as well as the development of state DOT built projects and institutional competencies that will improve bicycle planning and conditions for bicycling over time.
In our scoring of the State DOT Bicycle & Pedestrian Plantopic we differentiate between plans based upon a variety of aspects, but for the Bicycle Friendly Action any plan adopted within the last 10 years results in a checkmark.
According to the Federal Highway Administration, “pedestrian and bicycle projects are eligible for funding through the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement (CMAQ) Program, Surface Transportation Program (STP), Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP), National Highway Performance Program (NHPP), Federal Lands and Tribal Transportation Programs (FLTTP)) and [Transportation Alternatives Program] TAP.” While this guidance does not reflect the conversion of TAP to the STP Transportation Alternatives Set-Aside under the Fixing American’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, it still reflects the broad eligibility for biking and walking projects provided by federal transportation funding.
Our 2% threshold is based upon the historical funding level for the Transportation Alternatives Program, as set in the federal transportation bill that preceded the FAST Act. While the League of American Bicyclists would prefer more federal funding for biking and walking, this baseline is a useful shorthand for whether or not a state Department of Transportation is making an effort to at least spend transportation funding on bicycling and walking projects in proportion to the programmatic priorities set by Congress.
For the 2% or more Fed Funds on Bike/PedBicycle Friendly Action, we use data provided by FHWA’s Fiscal Management Information System (FMIS). Our determination of spending is based upon five fiscal years (FY2012-16) of data on obligations. An obligation is a legal commitment by the Federal government to pay a State for the Federal share of a project’s eligible cost. It is not “spending” as a normal person would understand it, but it is the legal commitment to transfer cash at a later date and those funds are considered “used” as soon as they are obligated.
In our scoring of the Use of Federal Transportation Fundingtopic we use a formula that looks at per capita bicycling and walking spending, bicycling and walking spending as a percentage of all federal transportation spending, and the number of programs used for bicycling and walking projects. For this Bicycle Friendly Action, states with 2% or more of its federal spending coded as bike/ped spending results in a checkmark.
According to the Federal Highway Administration, “A Strategic Highway Safety Plan (SHSP) is a major component and requirement of the Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP) (23 U.S.C. § 148). It is a statewide-coordinated safety plan that provides a comprehensive framework for reducing highway fatalities and serious injuries on all public roads.” In addition, “SHSP goals must be consistent with the safety performance measures. As such, FHWA expects SHSP goals to consider reductions in serious injuries and fatalities for all road users on all public roads. States could also adopt SHSP goals that correspond to each of the safety performance measures, [including the] number of non-motorized fatalities and non-motorized serious injuries.”
Each SHSP has Emphasis Areas, which identify safety topic within the state, and strategies, which identify actions meant to address the topic identified in an Emphasis Area. This Bicycle Friendly Action is based upon Emphasis Areas and not strategies. While each state is required to set a safety performance measure that includes non-motorized fatalities and non-motorized serious injuries, according to 23 U.S.C. 150, states are not required to identify bicyclist safety as an emphasis area.
The League of American Bicyclists is aware that some strategies include actions that we disagree with, such as adopting mandatory all rider bicycle helmet laws, but for the Bicycle Friendly State Report Card, our analysis is based on Emphasis Areas only. We believe this is appropriate because the Emphasis Areas provide insight into whether bicyclist safety is a priority for the state regardless of the actions that the state is considering as strategies to improve bicyclist safety. We disagree with actions such as mandatory all rider bicycle helmet laws because we believe that there is compelling evidence that those actions do not reduce the risk of bicyclist fatalities and serious injuries at the population level. We believe that a state that has chosen bicyclist safety as a priority is likely to make the same determination over time.
For the Bicycle Safety Emphasis Bicycle Friendly Action, we use State Strategic Highway Safety Plan data provided by the FHWA’s SHSP Community of Practice. The Community of Practice maintains a database that includes searchable Emphasis Area categories, including “Ped/Bike.” We include the results of that search as well as a more comprehensive keyword search of all Emphasis Areas in the database. Any state that has at least one Emphasis Area that includes the keyword “bicycle” or a derivative of “bicycle” receives a checkmark for this Bicycle Friendly Action.