Mandatory sidepath law in Federal highway bill

The current version of the 600 page highway spending bill from the offices of Senator Boxer and Senator Inhofe contains a “bicycle safety” provision that is anything but.

U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, 112th Congress


Majority Committee Members

Barbara Boxer (California)
Max Baucus (Montana)
Thomas R. Carper (Delaware)
Frank R. Lautenberg (New Jersey)
Benjamin L. Cardin (Maryland)
Bernard Sanders (Vermont)
Sheldon Whitehouse (Rhode Island)
Tom Udall (New Mexico)
Jeff Merkley (Oregon)
Kirsten Gillibrand (New York)


Minority Committee Members

James M. Inhofe (Oklahoma)
David Vitter (Louisiana)
John Barrasso (Wyoming)
Jeff Sessions (Alabama)
Mike Crapo (Idaho)
Lamar Alexander (Tennessee)
Mike Johanns (Nebraska)
John Boozman (Arkansas)

S.1813, “Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act” (MAP-21), is a highway spending authorization bill sponsored by Senator Barbara Boxer from California and co-sponsored by Senator Max Baucus (D-MT), Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), and Senator David Vitter (R-LA) . The bill was sent yesterday to the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. Page 226 of the current bill contains a mandatory bike path clause under the guise of “bicycle safety”:

(d) BICYCLE SAFETY.—The Secretary of the appropriate Federal land management agency shall prohibit the use of bicycles on each federally owned road that has a speed limit of 30 miles per hour or greater and an adjacent paved path for use by bicycles within 100 yards of the road.

This means that if any bike path is within 100 yards of a road under Federal agency management is available, that agency must prohibit bikes on the road. Roads under Federal management would be things like 11,000 miles of road maintained by the National Park Service; 380,000 miles of Forest Service roads; and 40,000 miles of Bureau of Land Management roads. Roads on military bases would also be included in this law. Roads under state or local control but built with Federal money would not have this Federal restriction.

Wash Cycle brings up Rock Creek Park as an example of a road where cyclists would be banned. Besides requiring possession of a license to travel on public roads, this law contains absolutely no exceptions due to unusable or unsafe trails. Some women I know, for example, do not bike on separated trails after dark due to personal safety concerns.

If your Senator serves on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, please contact him or her today.  Contact information for those committee members are listed to the right.


  1. The really annoying thing with that is that if they provided you with bike routes that really were ‘that good’, you probably wouldn’t use the highway by choice rather than compulsion.

  2. Do you know the history of this particular clause?  Was it a concession added to get another part of the bill that’s more favorable to cyclists passed?

    Oh, and yes, it’s ludicrous to legislate a blanket mandate.  There are many situations, such as the after dark issue, that make an off-highway path less safe, especially in rural areas like our parks and wilderness. For example, I wouldn’t like being forced to take a path that was cut along a river for summer recreation reasons, except that it’s now early spring and it’s early in the morning and the river is full of hungry grizzly bears fishing for breakfast.

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