BikeWalk NC is currently looking for new members to join our board. To be considered, you must first be a member in good standing. The best path is to contact us and first get involved in a subcommittee. We are looking for board members to help with Fundraising, Membership, Events (Bike/Walk Summit planning and Safety Awareness Ride), Information Technology (website), accounting (treasurer), communications (writers, editors, social media), etc. We typically have a 1.5 hour conference call each month in the evening, a one-day strategic planning session in the Triangle each year, and then a few hours a month to review information via email and comment, and participate in a subcommittee meeting. We need geographical representation from across the state and look for diversity. We hope you’ll consider serving! If interested, please contact us at email@example.com
ACTION ALERT from League of American Bicyclists:
The Senate tax reform plan, released on Thursday, eliminates the bike commuter benefit while keeping commuter benefits for driving and riding transit!
The Senate Finance committee plans to vote starting on Monday and an amendment is needed to reinstate the bike benefit. Senator BURR is one of the Senators on the Finance Committee who can take action and reinstate the bike benefit and we need your help to reach out to them this weekend. We need to move fast- and your help is critical!
Please act this weekend – Ask Senator BURR to reinstate the bike commuter benefit.
Send a quick message to your senator now! http://www.bikeleague.org/content/save-bike-commuter-benefit
The Senate should keep the bicycle commuter benefit because:
* If Congress is going to offer commuter benefits to some commuters, they should offer them to all commuters!
* Commuter benefits cost over $8.6 billion each year
* If every bike commuter in the United States used the bike commuter benefit it would cost less than 2.5% of that amount
* Eliminating the bike benefit alone does not significantly address revenue lost to commuter benefits
* The bike commuter benefit is a low cost way to promote healthier, livable communities.
* The average consumer spends over $4,500 each year on gas and other vehicle expenses
* The average cost of bike commuting is $350 per year. The bicycle commuter benefit covers up to $240 each year to defray costs of purchase, maintenance, and improvements for commuter bicycles.
Dear RDU Airport Authority (RDU AA),
CC: Michael Landguth, President
As employers and representative of businesses in the Triangle, we recognize that quality of life is a key factor in attracting and retaining skilled workers. The Triangle’s connected network of greenways, sidewalks, trails and bike lanes not only provide the obvious health benefits, but also provide recreational and transportation opportunities. However, the easy access to forested trails at what has become known as RDU Forest, is a key quality of life asset that sets this region apart and allows us to compete with comparable locations across the United States.
The unique topography and its proximity to Umstead State Park make RDU Forest a valuable natural resource t
hat cannot be replicated or replaced. The RDU Forest, consisting Lake Crabtree County Park (LCCP) and the lands adjacent to Umstead State Park, are currently owned by RDU Airport, and based on the Airport’s Vision 2040, are not needed for aviation purposes. While some lands in Vision 2040 will be developed to generate income, we urge the RDU Airport Authority to consider “The Solution” to protect those lands that have been identified as a priority for recreation by State Parks and to meet needs identified by the local and county governments. Investment in The Solution will supply a critical and growing demand for outdoor recreation in our growing region and thereby support the businesses here now and in the future.
The Conference Committee’s released budget (here) has replaced the original Senate budget provision with an annual progress reporting requirement. The original provision would have decimated the NCDOT’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Planning Grant program by requiring a pay-back of grant funds if projects weren’t implemented in a timeframe over which they had limited control. See here for a previous discussion of the potential impact of the provision, especially on small, rural towns.
We identified the concern – that funding plans that just sit on a shelf without project implement is a waste of tax payer money. We agree and want to see bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure built, not just planned. After speaking with NCDOT staff and with transportation planners across the state, the problem is not the planning grant program. The grant application process is very competitive and the winnowing process ensures that the most motivated and committed localities are accepted into the program. These communities very much want to get projects built and avail of the many benefits of active transportation.
However, the timeframes for all transportation projects is very long and not in the control of the local entity, therefore imposing a six-year implementation window for bicycle and pedestrian projects (and no other mode) is unrealistic and unfair. After developing the plan (typically 2 years for bicycle and pedestrian plans to be developed and adopted by the community), the state prioritization programming process alone can take in typical situations 8 to 15 years, or longer, from the time of project submittal. If the project scores well enough to be funded, the state provides the 20% local funds to match the 80% federal funds for all other transportation modes except bike and pedestrian projects – leaving the local government the added burden (time and financial) to obtain the local match funds.
Therefore, the original provision would have presented a deterrent to communities (a looming financial risk of repaying the grant), especially for small rural communities that most need these planning grant funds. Here is our response to the concern in more detail.
We would like to thank the legislative leadership for listening to us and others to fix this provision. By requiring NCDOT to report annually on project implementation in plans funded by their grant program, we hope to see more focus on bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure. These projects are typically part of an economic development or safety improvement strategy. The benefit of requiring NCDOT and towns to reflect on their plans at least annually will likely be to better identify barriers to implementation that we can all work together with the legislature to remove.
One obvious barrier is funding for the required local match that is provided by the state pursuant to the state’s Strategic Transportation Investment law for all other modes except bicycle and pedestrian projects. This year’s budget contains an increase in funding for most modes of transportation, much from the General Fund, but does not include an increase for bicycle and pedestrian modes. We are hopeful that this reporting requirement means that the legislature is interested in seeing more bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure built and we want to work with them next session to make this happen.
Legislative leadership is busy hashing out our state’s budget as we speak. The bike and pedestrian planning grant provision is up for debate. Here is full text of the provision. The House took it out and the Senate put it in. Contact the chairs if you know them and are able to speak against this provision. Here is the list: 2017 Budget Conference Committee Members
We contacted Senator Jim Davis’ office to get an explanation for the provision. Here is our response to why they put the provision in the budget.
This issue will now be part of the Conference Committee discussions between the House and the Senate budget. Stay tuned to see the Conference Committee appointments and we will need your help in talking with these legislators to shore up support to protect the planning grant program.
As a reminder, the Senate Budget Bill, SB 257, has a pedestrian provision that concerns the planning grant program. It appears to require municipalities to return planning funding if any project, identified in the application for planning grant funds, is not built within 6 years. Here is a link to the full text of the provision.
It is important to note that in order for municipalities to get a project in the STIP/TIP for Prioritization, the project must be identified in an approved Plan. The NCDOT Bicycle and Pedestrian Planning Grant program has helped small towns across the state be better prepared for the STI process. A small town may not have the financial capability to immediately start construction of all of the projects identified. Thus, small towns and rural areas would be affected disproportionately by this provision. Larger municipalities however also take advantage of this program, so it could effect all our towns. We want all our towns to benefit from walkable, bicycle-friendly community development.
The RPO Association has passed a resolution against this Senate provision. The RPOs have worked with many of our small towns across the state to help them apply and then develop plans for bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure and programming for their communities using planning grant funds from the Bicycle and Pedestrian Division of NCDOT. Most of those towns have had success in implementing pieces of those plans, though none has been able to implement all of their projects, especially within a timeframe of six years. The threat of having to return the grant funds would discourage towns from participating.
The Bike and Pedestrian planning documents are a 20-year vision and help leverage public and private dollars. Expecting these projects to be constructed in six years is unrealistic. We hope the Senate provision with not be included in the final budget so that this important grant program is not
Tour de Fat Charlotte is coming next week! Here is a link to your complete Tour de Fat Guide. It has a ticket discount coupon link. We are doing a PROMOTIONAL BIKE RIDE at 6:45 on Wednesday May 24 from Spoke Easy – Women on Wednesdays (Bethanie’s ride) is joining forces with Dread’s biweekly ride and Sustain Charlotte. Plan on being at Duckworths Uptown for New Belgium Beer and ticket giveaway to Tour de Fat among other fun festivities.
Launched in 2000, Tour de Fat is New Belgium Brewing’s philanthropic festival of bikes, beer and fun. Proceeds from the Tour benefit cycling and environmental nonprofits across the country. Tour de Fat has raised close to $5 million for nonprofit partners since its beginning. Please consider attending this years event and support BikeWalk NC!
The traveling Tour de Fat ensemble from past years will still be present to entertain, and attendees are still very much encouraged to wear crazy costumes. This year’s event time is later, beginning at 4 p.m. and running into the evening. There is a relatively low admission fee of $25, and of course New Belgium beers will be sold.
A Thousand Horses (check out their hit song “Smoke” here) will be headlining in Charlotte, along with a local favorite opening act Jack the Radio. Third Eye Blind is headlining in Asheville.
There will be lots of promotional events leading up to the event, so visit the Facebook event for more details or here for pre-event plans. One is a BWNC bike ride with Spoke Easy, Women on Wednesday and other partners, scheduled for Wednesday, May 24th .
Tour de Fat is expected to generate more than $600,000 for NPO partners in 2017 and will eclipse the $5-million mark for funds raised since 2000.
BWNC needs about 50 volunteers to support the Tour de Fat event in Charlotte. You’ll be able to get into the venue for free and still participate in the festivities. We’re looking for volunteers to assist at the costume booth, hospitality/VIP area, information booth and New Belgium merchandise area. If you’re interested, sign up to volunteer here!
BikeWalk NC is contacting legislators regarding the Bike and Pedestrian Planning Grant provision in Senate Bill 257. Here are additional comments to support the letter:
ADDITIONAL COMMENTS/CONCERNS WITH SB257
- 136-41.5. Return of Bicycle and Pedestrian Planning Grant funds.
Project Implementation Timeline:
The 6 year project window is a best case scenario in that it takes two years for the SPOT process, two years for design and two years for construction if the project is selected and immediately funded. It will likely take a community/firm around two years to complete/adopt their bike and/or pedestrian plan. Since the language currently states from six years of receiving the grant funds, then a community will be left with four years to complete a project. The planning horizon / timelines in the plan typically extend out ten years or more as these are dependent on the final product of the adopted plan. Given that Bike/Pedestrian projects are competing with other modes of transportation at the Division level, the likelihood of a project getting funded immediately, progressing without any delays, and therefore meeting the six-year deadline, is very small. For example, there were over 460 projects submitted to the SPOT 3.0 process and only 70 were programmed in the 2016-2025 STIP.
For rural communities, the timeline for implementing projects could be even longer as discussed below. For many small communities, the STI/Prioritization is their primary opportunity to get projects constructed. To compete in STI/Prioritization, bike and pedestrian projects need be identified in an adopted plan. Further, if, for example, during the Prioritization process, an RPO submits a project(s) for a local community and the project(s) does not score well enough to be programmed, then this may result in the community being at risk of returning its grant funds, which would likely be around $36,000 (plans in communities under 5,000 population cost around $40,000 with 10% local match). This provision would require a return of the grant funds even though the local community is making efforts to implement its plan but is limited by the current project funding framework established by the state.
Project construction depends on many factors, a number of which are not directly or not at all within a locality’s control. Economic conditions, public-private partnerships, the availability of federal and state funding, STIP prioritization, and divisional project competitiveness in SPOT all affect whether and how soon projects can be built. The proposed legislation puts the municipality on the hook for the actions of others. It is both punitive of the wrong entity, and not well targeted at the more common barriers to project implementation — which arise not from local reluctance to get projects built, but other factors.
Confusing Provision Language:
The words “a project” can be read either way. Legal-drafting-wise, it either needs to read “all” or “at least one of,” so that at least everyone knows whether you have to do everything in your plan, or one of the things in your plan, to avoid the big return of funds.
(b) Use of Funds. – Funds returned pursuant to subsection (a) of this section shall be credited to the fund from which they were appropriated and shall remain unexpended and unencumbered until appropriated by the General Assembly. Nothing in this subsection shall be construed as authorizing the expenditure of funds in violation of any applicable federal law.
(c) Notice. – The Division of Bicycle and Pedestrian Transportation shall include a clause in any Bicycle and Pedestrian Planning Grant agreement or contract setting forth the requirement imposed under subsection (a) of this section.
With such limited numbers of projects being funded, municipal or regional authorities will be very hesitant in signing the agreements and moving forward with the award as they will not want to put themselves at a financial risk for paying the funding back. Furthermore, if the planning grant initiative presents itself as difficult to participate in or financially risky, awardees will less likely participate and less likely to apply for the program. The risk of loss will merely deter towns from participating as their financial managers and attorneys review the contract language and see that project outcomes that are not entirely within the community’s control. In terms of community motivation to implement projects, the local match and the competitive grant process already ensure that communities that participate in the program are thoroughly vetted for their commitment to implementation. The communities that would be most affected by the financial risks presented in the proposed language are smaller (generally more rural) communities.
Small and rural communities have access to far fewer funding resources than larger cities and more populous counties; as a result, NCDOT has found that the reliance on the planning program is even more urgent and vital for the smaller and rural communities. In a number of cases, the importance of the planning grant has been such that some small towns have applied as often as three times before successfully competing for a planning grant award. The competitive process is such that only highly motivated towns and counties are likely to receive a grant. After completion of these plans, NCDOT frequently receives requests for technical assistance from the communities in following through on plan recommendations. Most communities are able to move forward with projects, as well as programs, recommended in their local plans.
If the Legislature has concerns about the pace of implementation, there are better strategies that could get at the issues communities face in moving their projects forward – be it through improved funding mechanisms (e.g., modify STI to allow state funding for bike and pedestrian projects), potential future adjustments to SPOT criteria and process, or a focus on other factors that in some cases have presented difficulties for communities.
NCDOT grant applicants and recipients very much want to get projects built and avail of the many benefits of active transportation. To improve implementation beyond the successes these communities have posted, the need would be for improved resources, rather than disincentives or looming financial risks.
Over the fourteen-year track record of the planning grant program, it is clear that North Carolina communities have a need and desire to plan and build for active transportation, are strongly motivated and work hard to overcome limitations in the process to complete the projects they want very much.
Tour de Fat Charlotte May 27th – Groupon has discount tickets to this fun concert HERE.
What is it? New Belgium is throwing a party with country rock band A Thousand Horses and the Tour de Fat ensemble cast of performers. Ready your eyes and ears for a mix of musicians, circus performers, vaudeville acts, magicians, comedians, and mind-blowing provocateurs. Costumes are highly encouraged (and a mindset to party is mandatory). Tour de Fat Charlotte benefits Bike Walk NC, so be sure to grab your tix today.
The Senate Budget passed last night, SB 257, contains a provision that would negatively impact the Bicycle and Pedestrian Planning Grant program. Read the text of the provision here.
The provision appears to require municipalities to return planning funding if any project identified in the application for planning grant funds are not built within 6 years. As you know the transportation program implementation timeframe is long, so even if a community had the funding, implementing within 6 years can be a stretch. These plans can be long range, and it could take more than six years to get projects funded – what if it gets funded through Prioritization but the funding year is beyond the six-year window? Do they have to pay it back then?
It is important to note that in order for municipalities to get projects in the STIP/TIP for Prioritization, they need it to be in a plan somewhere. This could create a chilling effect for future planning applicants because they will be under the gun to get a project or projects implemented in an arbitrary timeframe. The point of the grant program was to get small towns to start thinking about bicycle and pedestrian planning and give them some direction; we all know that small towns lack the resources to do this type of work. Thus, small towns and rural areas would be affected disproportionately
This provision would damage the Bike and Pedestrian Planning Grant program because the specter of rescission would hang over the heads of these small communities (most of them that get the grant are small) and no one would want to apply any more.
If you participate in this grant program, have or may in the future, we will need your help in contacting House Representatives to remove this provision when the Senate Budget Bill comes to them for approval. Let us know your thoughts about this provision.