California WALKS is a statewide organization of affiliated nonprofit and volunteer groups dedicated to creating healthy, safe, and walkable communities. Our mission is to provide a statewide voice for pedestrian safety and walkable communities through policy advocacy, community empowerment, and a growing unified statewide network of local community organizations and affiliates—with particular focus on healthy equity and communities disparately impacted by pedestrian injuries and fatalities.
Though we have our reservations about the Governor’s proposed Active Transportation Program (ATP), the ATP does have great potential to increase funding for walking, bicycling, and Safe Routes to Schools programs over time. On March 13 and 14, the Assembly and Senate Budget Subcommittees held hearings on the ATP proposal, and based on the legislators’ responses, we believe there is strong support and will in the Legislature to ensure that the ATP can be a truly transformational program for Californians who walk and bike. Walk, bike, health, environmental, and equity advocates from across the State showed up in full force for the hearungs, and testified passionately to the subcommittees about the importance and benefits of active transportation and Safe Routes to School.
Many subcommittee members responded with strong support, and both committees directed the Adminsitration to work closely with our coalition of advocates to address our concerns. Assembly Subcommittee Chair Richard Bloom of Santa Monica was concerned that the ATP does not address the needs of pedestrians with disabilities, and also expressed interest in the ATP receiving future revenue from his AB 1002 proposal (increased vehicle registration fee).On the Senate side, Subcommittee Chair Jim Beall of San Jose spoke passionately about his own experience as a child witnessing a classmate struck and killed by a motor vehicle, and strongly supported focusing ATP funds on projects that improve the safety of Californians walking and biking.
California WALKS continues its work with the California Bicycle Coalition, the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, Safe Routes to School National Partnership, TransForm, and a coalition of advocates to negotiate a final ATP proposal with the Administration, and we expect to be meeting with the Administration in the coming weeks. And after the budget hearings, we are reinvigorated to seize this opportunity to strengthen the ATP for the millions of Californians who walk and bike.
Since we submitted our petition to the Governor on the Administration’s bold proposal to enact a statewide Active Transportation Program, additional details have emerged from the February 1 trailer bill that have California WALKS and a coalition of active transportation, public health, and equity advocacy groups concerned. The budget trailer bill effectively reduces funding available for active transportation from $147 million/year in FY2012 to only $134 million/year at a time when Californians who walk and bike are fatally injured at more than twice the national average. And for Californians who walk–and make up nearly a quarter (22%) of all traffic fatalities in the state–such funding cuts could literally spell death. Cal WALKS Executive Director Wendy Alfsen says, “With over 7,000 people and 150 organizations in support of a transformational Active Transportation Program (ATP), we are committed to working with the Administration and the Legislature to ensure that the ATP lives up to its promise: to serve the current needs of Californians who walk and bike and for the health, safety, and equity of future generations to come.”
On top of this funding cut, the trailer bill repeals existing state programs (state Safe Routes to School (SR2S), Bicycle Transprotation Account, and Environmental Enhancement and Mitigation Program) before the new Active Transportation Program is even established! Because program guidelines and project selection criteria have yet to be developed for the new Active Transportation Program, this measure leaves cities and counties without any money for walking, biking, and Safe Routes to School projects for several years. Furthermore, the trailer bill subjects funding for the Active Transportation Program to the annual state budget appropriations process rather than the former mandated amounts–meaning in years to come when budget constraints are tighter, active transportation could simply be left out in the cold. Read our full analysis of the trailer bill’s shortcomings here.
California WALKS is working with the California Bicycle Coalition, the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, Safe Routes to School National Partnership, TransForm, and a coalition of advocates to secure an amendment at upcoming budget hearings in Sacramento to correct the flaws in the trailer bill language. State Assembly and Senate Budget Committee Hearings on the Active Transportation Program will take place on Wednesday, March 13 at 9AM and Thursday, March 14 at 10AM.