Legislative Bike Triumphs: A 2023 Mid-Year Review
By: Ashley Seaward, director of state + local policy, and Kyler Blodgett, state + local policy analyst
In 2023, U.S. states have made big strides toward advancing safety, investing in infrastructure, combating climate change, and expanding access to outdoor recreation.
We’re just halfway through 2023 and there are already notable legislative achievements for bicycles from every corner of the country. States have made commendable strides in promoting safety for vulnerable road users, investing in sustainable infrastructure, combating climate change, and expanding access to outdoor recreation opportunities.
New Laws to Improve Safety for Bicyclists and Pedestrians
- Arizona: Advocates successfully opposed Senate Bill 1313,Senate Bill 1312, and Senate Bill 1314, which collectively threatened to remove bike-related requirements from city plans and hinder the tracking of Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) and climate reduction goals. These victories ensure that Arizona can continue promoting multi-modal transportation and climate-conscious urban planning, preserving essential tools for sustainable communities.
- Maryland: The passage of House Bill 70, known as the Safe Access for All (SAFE) Roads Act of 2023, will improve pedestrian and bicycle safety. The legislation requires the Maryland Department of Transportation to prioritize incremental safety improvements for pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure projects, ensuring timely implementation even if the projects themselves take more than 12 months to complete.
- Minnesota: Embracing the "Idaho Stop" concept, Minnesota is now the latest state to legalize a more practical approach for bicyclists at stop signs. This change allows bicyclists to proceed without a full stop if there are no vehicles nearby, provided they slow down and are prepared to stop if necessary.
- Illinois: House Bill 2131 will create a statewide task force to chart a pathway toward eliminating traffic deaths. Additionally, Senate Bill 2278 will address a shortcoming in Illinois law by allowing cities and towns to protect their residents by building safer intersections.
- Missouri: Senate Bill 398 includes the "Siddens Bening Hands Free Law" which will prohibit texting and the use of other electronic devices while driving.
New Infrastructure Planning for Active Transportation Laws
- New York: Assembly Bill 602 addresses the responsibility of the state for federally assisted projects. This legislation ensures effective planning and coordination between the state transportation commissioner and affected municipalities by estimating costs associated with various infrastructure projects, including highways, roads, streets, bicycle paths, and pedestrian paths.
- Washington: Senate Bill 5452 authorizes the use of impact fee revenue to fund improvements to bicycle and pedestrian facilities. This new law enables communities to utilize fees charged to developers for the enhancement of bike infrastructure to support multimodal commuting and create a more sustainable transportation system.
- Virginia: House Bill 1510 authorizes localities to grant tax incentives or provide regulatory flexibility to encourage the preservation, restoration, or development of urban green space including greenways.
New Climate Action and Emissions Reduction Laws
- Minnesota: The Transportation Greenhouse Gas Emissions Impact Assessment bill sets forth requirements for state agencies to track and minimize greenhouse gas emissions in accordance with statewide reduction goals. The legislation mandates the evaluation of emissions impact for transportation plans and roadway expansion projects, offering mitigation measures such as expanding transit services or constructing new bike lanes.
- Washington: The passage of House Bill 1181 mandates medium and large cities to consider climate change in their comprehensive plans. This legislation encourages the development of strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and vehicle miles traveled, prioritizing the creation of connected bike networks and implementing bike-friendly zoning codes for sustainable transportation alternatives.
New Recreation and Trail Connectivity Laws
- Colorado: Senate Bill 059 provides funding to local governments for improved access to state-owned outdoor recreational areas. This appropriation will help build infrastructure that grows recreational opportunities for residents and visitors alike.
- Florida: Governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill allocating $200 million to connect hiking and biking trails to a planned statewide wildlife corridor. This investment expands Florida's Greenways and Trails System and the SUN Trail Network, aiming to link 18 million acres of land from the Florida Keys to the Panhandle.
New Electric Bicycle Access and Regulations
PeopleForBikes' model electric bicycle legislation has gained widespread acceptance, with 41 states adopting the three-class system as a framework for regulation. In 2023, New Mexico, Nebraska, and West Virginia clarified their e-bike laws, defining the three classes of electric bicycles and aligning regulations with those for traditional bicycles. These legislative advancements simplify the rules for retailers, riders, and decision-makers while encouraging the use of e-bikes as a sustainable transportation option. Additionally, the West Virginia e-bike bill allows for Class 1 and 2 on non-motorized, natural surface trails where traditional bicycles are allowed.
Taken as a whole, these legislative achievements demonstrate an increasing nationwide emphasis on bicycles as a tool to advance safety, sustainable infrastructure, climate action, and accessible recreation. By enacting laws that protect vulnerable road users, support active transportation, reduce emissions, and expand access to the outdoors, states are paving the way for a more resilient, healthy, and enjoyable future.