Will Cuomo Spend Bike-Ped Funds on Bike-Ped Projects?

With MAP-21 taking effect today, city and state transportation advocates are calling on Governor Cuomo and the New York State Department of Transportation to devote all of its federal bike-ped funds to walking and cycling infrastructure. The coalition of just over 100 groups is also asking that the state make available millions of dollars, allocated as part of the prior federal transportation bill, to such projects before the funds must be returned to Washington.

MAP-21 decreases overall bike-ped funding by 30 percent, explains the Tri-State Transportation Campaign in a media release, and gives governors the authority to take up to half of the bike-ped pool for highways and bridges. Representing transportation, environmental and health interests, the groups want the state to use 100 percent of federal “Transportation Alternatives” funds for bike and pedestrian projects. A letter to Cuomo and the DOT also asks that localities be granted the opportunity to apply for $30 million in bike and pedestrian funds from the last transportation law, funds that must otherwise be returned.

TSTC reports that, in New York State, total injuries to cyclists from collisions with motorists jumped 12 percent between 2009 and 2010, from 5,405 to 6,058, according to the latest data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Cyclist fatalities increased from 29 to 36, a 24 percent spike. Pedestrian injuries increased from 15,321 in 2009 to 16,090 in 2010, a 5 percent rise.

“High rates of pedestrian and bicycle injuries and fatalities indicate that all available funds must be used by state and local officials to reduce these numbers,” said TSTC Executive Director Veronica Vanterpool. “Our ‘Most Dangerous Roads’ report found that more than 1,200 pedestrians were killed in the downstate region from 2008 to 2010 — that’s 1,200 reasons to use every available dollar to make our roads safer for all users.”

The Cuomo administration hasn’t shown much interest in traffic safety. Last week, the Department of Motor Vehicles announced a new policy to permanently revoke licenses of motorists with five or more DWI convictions — or three or more DWI convictions in 25 years, as long the motorist has also committed a serious driving offense, such as killing one or more people. Two days later, Cuomo unveiled his “Drivers First” program, which will “prioritize the convenience of motorists and ensure that disruptions are as minimal as possible to drivers at highway and bridge projects across the state.” These initiatives are fairly representative of an administration whose signature transportation project is a multi-billion dollar mega-bridge with no provisions for transit.

“With the stroke of a pen, Governor Cuomo can save lives and improve the health and quality of life of all New Yorkers,” said Brian Kehoe, executive director of the New York Bicycling Coalition. “This is money that gets spent locally, improves the safety of our roads and sidewalks, and creates trails, making our communities better places to live. Leadership is needed to adapt our community infrastructure to 21st century needs.”