The second half of the 2023/2024 legislative biennium is upon us, and we're excited to return to the Statehouse and advocate for better walking, biking, and rolling in Vermont. Here's what we're focused on this year.
Your support makes it possible for our staff to spend time on legislative action, so please donate to help us make progress on these and other state-level walk/bike/roll issues. Make sure you're also signed up for emails so that you receive advocacy alerts!
Funding for active transportation infrastructure
State grant programs make it possible for towns to construct active transportation infrastructure, and these programs are underfunded. This has created a bottleneck in project completion, and a disincentive for towns to undertake active transportation projects.
For example, the Bike and Pedestrian Grant Program has funded only 28% of large-scale requests and 67% of small-scale requests over the past six grant cycles. Several other grant sources also need additional or renewed funding.
For the Bike and Pedestrian Grant Program specifically, we recommend increasing the budget for annual new project awards to $20M for Large Scale grants and to $600k for Small Scale grants in order to meet municipal requests. This is particularly urgent with construction costs having increased significantly over the past several years.
Funding for e-bike incentives
As of January 3, about 70% of the funding for e-bike incentives has been used up, with 6 months remaining in the fiscal year. The budget for these incentives should be increased to $500,000 to ensure program consistency and reliability, both for local bike shops and customers. Incentive values could also be further increased for low-income participants.
The e-bike incentive eligibility currently has lower income limits compared to the electric car incentive. We believe that all income groups eligible for the State’s electric car incentive should also be eligible for the e-bike incentive.
Reform historic resource review requirements for active transportation projects
Historic and archaeological resource assessments are currently required as part of all active transportation projects receiving federal funding through the State, despite the fact that bike and pedestrian projects, by their nature, rarely impact historic structures.
These assessments add significant cost and long delays to projects, and reviews rarely if ever find that projects have adverse effects on historic structures. VTrans and the State Historic Preservation Office should seek to categorize active transportation projects such that they are either automatically exempt from or can be screened for historic resource impacts in a quicker, more cost-effective manner.
Update traffic regulations to support active transportation
Local Motion supports the following traffic regulation updates, which will increase safety and legal protections for vulnerable users and encourage active transportation.
Safe passing of vulnerable users needs to be a requirement, not a recommendation. Current statute recommends that drivers increase clearance to 4 feet when passing vulnerable users. Language in the statute should be strengthened to make this a requirement.
Make bicycling safer and more intuitive by allowing stop-as-yield. Many states have enacted laws that allow people on bikes to treat stop signs as yield signs. People biking are required to slow and prepare to stop at stop signs. If there is traffic present, people biking must stop as normal. If there is no other traffic present, people biking may slowly roll through the stop. Here’s a fact sheet emphasizing the effectiveness and safety of these laws from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
It shouldn’t be illegal to walk in the street—especially when so many of our sidewalks are narrow and/or crumbling. Current statute requires people to walk on sidewalks when present. Sidewalks in VT are often in very poor condition and unusable by those using assistive devices even during the summer. In the winter, ponding often results in sidewalks being unusable—and that’s when they have been plowed. People walk in the street for these and other legitimate reasons. This and other jaywalking laws put the burden of safety on our most vulnerable users, and across the country have disproportionately affected marginalized groups.
Allow people on bikes to cross intersections on pedestrian signals. It is very safe and intuitive for people on bikes to cross intersections on parallel walk signals after stopping and yielding to people walking. This practice allows people on bikes to get out ahead of cars, which reduces exposure and makes us more visible. This should be made legal in state law.
Correct the definition of “pedestrian” to include people in wheelchairs and assistive devices. The definition of “pedestrian” extends important legal protections, such as being granted the legal right-of-way in crosswalks. Electric wheelchair users are extended this protection, but the current definition of “pedestrian” in statute is not inclusive of users in non-powered wheelchairs and other devices.
Questions, comments? Email Jonathon Weber, Local Motion’s Complete Streets Program Manager at [email protected].