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Use of Federal Funds for Bicycle and Pedestrian Efforts

Indicator Description

This indicator measures the percentage of federal transportation dollars that go to bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure projects. Data come from the Alliance for Biking and Walking’s 2014 Benchmarking Report, which presents Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) data on the federal funding that states set aside for bicycle and pedestrian projects from 2009 to 2012. The reliability of these data is limited by differences in how states report spending on bicycle and pedestrian projects. Some states only count funding that goes toward standalone projects, such as dedicated trails, while others also count funding for facilities that are part of larger projects, such as a new bicycle lane that is included as part of a roadway widening project. This indicator should not be used to draw comparisons between states that report differently. This indicator does not count state and local funding for bicycle and pedestrian projects.

Related Strategies

Transportation and Health Connection

Funding for bicycle and pedestrian facilities and programs supports the notion that all users should be considered in the development of a transportation system. Creating safe and convenient places for active transportation ties the health components of physical activity and safety to transportation, and this indicator is one measure of how states use federal funding to support these strategies.

The built environment influences physical activity levels by contributing to safety and convenience of walking and bicycling. Poor accessibility contributes to sedentary behaviors that are associated with poor health outcomes such as obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease (CDC, 2013). Federal funds are available for states to invest in bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, leading states to spend a total of $7.2 billion on dedicated bicycle and pedestrian projects between 1992 and 2012 (Alliance for Biking & Walking). In reality, this figure likely understates federal funding used for bicycle and pedestrian projects because these projects can be included as part of larger infrastructure projects, and the portion of the funds used for the bicycle and pedestrian component may not be separately tracked.

About the Data

The Financial Management Information System (FMIS) is the Federal Highway Administration’s financial information system to track data related to all highway projects financed with Federal-aid Highway Funds. State departments of transportation submit key information into the system (U.S. DOT, 2012). FMIS is the most comprehensive data source for the expenditure of federal funds on bicycling and walking. However, this data source describes only the amount of money that is spent, and not how it is spent within a project. In addition, there is no standard for states to code “improvement types” related to bicycle and pedestrian projects, and the data might, therefore, be somewhat unreliable for comparison across states (Advocacy Advance).

Moving Forward

Disparities in implementation of bicycle and pedestrian projects have been identified. A review of 3,140 counties demonstrated that those with higher levels of poverty or low educational status were less likely to implement projects (Cradock et al., 2009). Understanding the characteristics and needs of a community is the first step for implementing bicycle and pedestrian efforts. Improvements to the built environment, such as safety measures, street connectivity, and bicycle lanes, may lead to increased physical activity and enhanced health outcomes in a community (Humpel, Owen, Leslie, 2002).

Under the most recent federal surface transportation law, entitled MAP-21, dedicated funding for bicycle and pedestrian efforts was consolidated into the Transportation Alternatives Program (U.S. DOT, 2013). Half of the funds are distributed to metropolitan planning organizations. The remaining funds are available to states to distribute through a competitive grant process. Federal funding for bicycle and pedestrian projects is also available under the Congestion Mitigation Air Quality (CMAQ) Program (U.S. DOT, 2013). These funds are available to both states and metropolitan planning organizations that have been identified as having air quality problems. Beyond these two funding programs, the Federal Highway Administration states that “[v]irtually all the major transportation funding programs can be used for bicycle and pedestrian-related projects.” Decision makers can evaluate the FMIS data to further understand how federal dollars are spent and what areas can most benefit from infrastructure upgrades.


Advocacy Advance. Key Data Sources: Federal Investments in Bicycling and Walking in Your Community. *

Alliance for Biking & Walking, Advocacy Advance. A primer on federal funding for bicycle and pedestrian projects. *

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Physical Activity Facts; 2013.

Cradock AL, Troped PJ, Fields B, Melly SJ, Simms SV, Gimmler F, Fowler M. Factors Associated with Federal Transportation Funding for Local Pedestrian and Bicycle Programming and Facilities. Journal of Public Health Policy; 2009:30:S38-72.

Humpel N, Owen N, Leslie E. Environmental factors associated with adults’ participation in physical activity. American Journal of Preventive Medicine; 2002:22:188-99.

U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration. Air Quality: Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement (CMAQ) Program; 2013.

U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration. Bicycle and Pedestrian Program.

U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration. Fiscal Management Information (FMIS): Function – EDS from States Addendum to Functional Requirements Document; 2012.

U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration. Transportation Alternatives (TAP) Guidance; 2013.

* Indicates research that supports policies analyzed

† Indicates research that supports equity or vulnerable populations studied

Last updated: Monday, August 24, 2015