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Health and Transportation Policy Forum

Factors Associated with Bicycle and Pedestrian Investments

Encouraging Physically Active Transportation

Regular physical activity promotes health and reduces risk factors for chronic disease, including heart disease and type 2 diabetes (1). To prevent disease and promote well-being, adults should participate in 2.5 hours of moderate physical activity per week and children should participate in 1 hour of physical activity per day (1). One way to meet these goals is to walk and bicycle as part of one's daily routine. Even public transportation use can incorporate substantial physical activity (2). Sidewalks, bicycling infrastructure, and accessible trails and parks are just some of the features communities are seeking to encourage active living. While local and state funding is crucial, federal transportation funding is often a catalyst for improvements to the built environment.

Federal Funding of Bicycle and Pedestrian Programming and Facilities

Between 1992 and 2009, states and local governments obligated $6.16 billion in federal transportation funding to implement more than 19,000 projects in the 50 U.S. States. These projects included improvements to bicycle and pedestrian facilities and the creation of bicycle and pedestrian safety and education programs.

Updating our prior analysis of data through 2004(3), we searched the Fiscal Management Information System (FMIS) of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to identify bicycle and pedestrian projects according to type (i.e., bicycle and pedestrian facilities, safety and education projects, and preservation of abandoned rail corridors), year of initiation, county and state, funding programs and legislative source.

By 2009, 75% of all US counties had obligated funding for at least one bicycle or pedestrian project. However, counties characterized by low educational attainment or persistent poverty of residents, or areas with higher proportions of households with two or more vehicles were significantly less likely to have obligated projects(3)

Figure 1 shows federal funding for bicycle and pedestrian facilities by state. These data were drawn from FMIS and track only projects with a federal funding contribution.



For additional details see:

Cradock AL, Troped, PJ, Fields B. et al. Factors associated with Federal transportation funding for local pedestrian and bicycle programming and facilities. Journal of Public Health Policy, 2009; 30 S38-S72.


Key Study Findings

Federal funding for bicycle and pedestrian projects, 1992-2009 :
• Almost 75% of US counties obligated funding for one or more bicycle- or pedestrian-related project.
• Most projects (93%) focused on facilities or infrastructure, as opposed to programming and education.
• Federally funded bicycle and pedestrian projects were less likely to be obligated in areas of persistent poverty or with lower educational attainment among residents.

Policy Recommendations

The findings from this research can help inform future transportation policies and actions that aim to improve public health outcomes. Three key policy recommendations based on this research are:

Improve data tracking and monitoring systems for bicycle and pedestrian improvements:
Greater public access to data and improved data quality will promote transparency in assessments of how federal transportation dollars support motorized and non-motorized forms of transportation. Strategies are needed for creating and standardizing reporting criteria for bicycle and pedestrian projects. Data access and quality improvements may also facilitate needed research.

Create formal linkages between public health goals and transportation funding guidelines:
Strategies emphasizing links between transportation policy and public health will support projects that encourage walking and bicycling for transportation. For example, project selection and scoring criteria can reward applications that recognize public health impacts.

Target transportation funding to underserved communities:
Low-income or underserved areas may require specifically targeted strategies to encourage bicycle and pedestrian planning and project implementation at the local, community or regional level. Lowering local matching fund requirements and streamlining application processes for projects may help facilitate implementation.