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Baldwin Introduces Bill to Improve Safety for Bicyclists and Pedestrians and Honor Wisconsinite Killed in Bike Accident

Legislation is named after Wisconsin’s Sarah Debbink Langenkamp who was killed in a bicycle accident in 2022; In 2021, one bicyclist was injured or killed every 14.4 hours in Wisconsin

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) introduced the Sarah Debbink Langenkamp Active Safety Transportation Act, legislation to make it easier for local governments to access federal funds to improve safety for vulnerable bicyclists and pedestrians. The bill honors Sarah Debbink Langenkamp, a mother, wife, and American diplomat raised in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, who was killed while riding her bike in the summer of 2022.

“Regardless of how you are traveling, everyone should feel safe on the roads. Sadly, for too many Wisconsin families, that has not been the case and now they have an empty seat at the dinner table,” said Senator Baldwin. “I am proud to help honor Sarah’s legacy with this bill and give our local communities the tools they need to make our streets safer for bikers and pedestrians.”

“Sarah’s death meant we lost a mother, a wife, a friend and an incredible diplomat, and she was just one of the thousands caught up in a worsening trend of traffic death in America,” said Sarah’s husband Dan Langenkamp. “We have to do more to protect people, and this bill, by helping communities build the walking and biking infrastructure they need, will do just that.”

The Sarah Debbink Langenkamp Active Safety Transportation Act:

  • Gives states flexibility to fund bicycle and walking safety projects with 100% federal funds, including for locally identified safety priorities.
  • Makes it easier for states and local governments to fund the safety projects identified in Bipartisan Infrastructure Law-funded Safe Streets for All planning grants.
  • Allows biking and walking network projects eligible for funding under the Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP).

The Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) was created in 2012 to give local governments access to a percentage of federal transportation funds for local priorities. Under the Baldwin-backed Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the federal government expanded the successful TAP to give state Department of Transportations the opportunity to use safety funds as local matches for TAP projects that address local safety concerns. However, that language has had the effect of requiring the state to identify every specific project that would be eligible, rather than allowing for local governments to identify projects. Baldwin’s legislation would clarify the language, making it easier for state and local governments to use HSIP dollars to cover the local cost share of safety projects under the program, allowing up to 100 percent of the project to be covered. In turn, it would provide states with additional flexibility to support locally identified and initiated projects to improve safety for bicyclists and pedestrians. 

The TAP program includes a set aside for communities with a population under 5000. It is those rural communities, and low-income communities, that have the hardest time finding a local match.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), bicyclists and pedestrians account for 12% of transportation trips but 20% of fatalities. In 2021, overall traffic fatalities decreased slightly, while bicyclist and pedestrian fatalities increased by 10% and 2%, respectively. In 2021, one bicyclist was injured or killed every 14.4 hours in Wisconsin. 

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) reports that bicycle lanes can reduce total crashes by up to 49 percent on urban four-lane undivided collector and local roads and reduce total crashes by up to 30 percent on urban two-lane undivided collector and local roads. In addition, FHWA reports that sidewalks can reduce pedestrian crashes by 65-89 percent in neighborhoods and that adding a shoulder on a rural road can reduce pedestrian crashes by 71 percent.

Bill text is available here.