A Policy Win for Active Transportation

The Center for Active Design applauds the State of California’s adoption of the bill that created the Active Transportation Program (ATP). The ATP invests $129.5 million in walking and biking infrastructure and commits to spending at least 25 percent of program funds on projects in disadvantaged communities. The program greatly increases public spending on active transportation projects, representing a 35 percent boost in dedicated state funding. Also notable is the ATP’s stated goal of improving public health. With hopes of specifically impacting childhood obesity, the bill aims to increase the proportion and safety of trips made through more active modes of transportation. This recognition of the link between active transportation and positive health outcomes is crucial for all jurisdictions involved in transportation policy making, and the Center for Active Design is pleased to see the State of California among those leading the charge.

The bill requires that guidelines be developed to set forth the criteria by which projects are selected to receive funding. The types of projects eligible for funding include:

  • Development of new or improvements made to existing bikeways and walkways that increase the mobility, access, or safety of non-motorized users;
  • Bike parking at specified locations such as employment centers;
  • Installation of traffic control devices that improve safety;
  • Maintenance and elimination of hazards on existing bikeways and walkways;
  • Recreational trails and park projects that facilitate connections for non-motorized corridors;
  • Safe Routes to School projects that improve safety of children walking and biking to school;
  • Educational programs to increase biking and walking.

It is particularly exciting that the bill provides increased funding for programs such as Safe Routes to School, given the evidence around the effectiveness of the program in California. A 2012 study in the American Journal of Public Health showed that 27 percent of students walked or biked to school in California communities participating in Safe Routes to School programs. According to the National Center for Safe Routes to School, this figure is more than twice the 2009 national average of 13% of K-8th children walking or biking. Furthermore, traffic fatalities and serious injuries to children walking and biking have declined steadily over the past twelve years of the program. Given the proven success of Safe Routes to School and the new slated funding, there is renewed hope in an expansion of the program across California.

Deborah Lou, an analyst of transportation policies at Active Living Research, was pleased by the passage of the California bill. She emphasized its impact on health, noting that “Walking and biking are great sources of physical activity— and being active improves health, prevents chronic disease, and helps people maintain a healthy weight.” The success of the California policy is that it seeks to build physical activity into daily commutes, making it “easier, safer, and more attractive for more people to walk and bike to work, school, and other destinations.”

The Center for Active Design looks forward to seeing the new projects that are born from the Active Transportation Program, and hopes that other states will follow California’s lead.

Click here to read the full text of California’s Active Transportation Program bill.

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    The new Active Transportation Program in California greatly increases funding for walking and biking amenities; Photo credit NYC DOT/Nicholas Whitaker Photography.
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    Safe Routes to School Programs in California have been successful in increasing walking among children; Photo credit AP/Lynne Sladky.