How Does Federal Funding Impact Infrastucture for Biking and Walking?

Assessing the impact of federal funding for pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure on regional, state and local policies

    • October 22, 2010

Since the 1990s, Congress has dramatically increased the funding available to state and metropolitan areas for bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure. States and metropolitan areas are free to decide how to spend these funds.

From 2006 to 2009, researchers from the University of California, Davis, analyzed spending of federal funds for bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure across metropolitan regions nationwide and conducted case studies of policies and projects in six metropolitan areas. In two of those areas (Baltimore and Sacramento, Calif.), they also analyzed the impact of infrastructure investments on bicycling and walking behavior.

Key Findings

  • Making federal funding available for bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure has resulted in an increase in bicycle and pedestrian projects across the United States (from $3.6 million in 1992 to $363 million in 2006), although more so in some regions than in others.
  • Support from local governments and advocacy groups is a key driver of support for bicycle and pedestrian investments at the metropolitan region level.
  • State policy also plays a role in encouraging and supporting spending on bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure at the metropolitan region level, both directly and through its influence on local governments.
  • In Baltimore and Sacramento, spending on infrastructure resulted in a small, although statistically significant positive effect on bicycling and walking.

Key Recommendations

  • Design funding programs to achieve specific outcomes and develop outcome-oriented measures of success, or encourage states and regions to create their own programs that tie funding more tightly to local planning goals.
  • Pass more funding directly to metropolitan planning organizations rather than routing it through the states, thereby allowing more direct local influence over spending decisions.
  • Provide more tools to state and local governments to help bicycling and walking projects meet eligibility requirements such as demonstrated emissions reductions.