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Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety

Individuals bicycling on roadway shoulder, courtesy of Pedestrian and Bicycle Informaton Center

Photo caption: Individuals bicycling on roadway shoulder, courtesy of Pedestrian and Bicycle Informaton Center

Safety is the top priority of the U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S.DOT) and many of the U.S. DOT operating administrations play a role in improving safety for pedestrians and bicyclists. Below is a summary of U.S. DOT's roles and responsibilities related to pedestrian and bicycle safety, and a list of related helpful resources. 

USDOT Responsibility

U.S. DOT includes several agencies, or operating administrations, each with a specific focus and authority. These include the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Federal Transit Administration (FTA), Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA). Each of these agencies is helping to improve bicycling and pedestrian safety, and each has particular associated roles and responsibilities. U.S. DOT pedestrian and bicycle efforts are coordinated through the U.S. DOT Pedestrian and Bicycle Coordinating Committee, which monitors progress in bicycle and pedestrian safety and use; identifies new cross-modal opportunities and partnerships with outside entities to advance pedestrian and bicycle transportation; and communicates, coordinates, and shares information across Operating Administrations within U.S. DOT on pedestrian and bicycle transportation activities. 

Federal Highway Administration

FHWA provides stewardship over the construction, maintenance and preservation of the Nation’s highways, bridges and tunnels through financial and technical assistance, and guidance to State departments of transportation (DOTs) and Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs). FHWA coordinates with State DOTs to promote and facilitate the increased use of non-motorized transportation, including developing facilities for the use of pedestrians and bicyclists and public educational, promotional, and safety programs for using such facilities. FHWA has a responsibility to provide State and local agencies with guidance on safe roadway design standards. In August 2013, FHWA released a Bicycle and Pedestrian Facility Design Flexibility guidance memo that expresses the agency’s support for taking a flexible approach to bicycle and pedestrian facility design. FHWA grant funding, primarily in the form of formula grants to State DOTs and MPOs, can be used to build and improve bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure. FHWA and FTA maintain a table indicating potential eligibility for bicycle and pedestrian projects under current funding opportunities.

FHWA Bicycle and Pedestrian Program
FHWA Pedestrian & Bicycle Safety

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

NHTSA’s mission is to saves lives, prevent injuries and reduce economic costs due to road traffic crashes, through education, research, safety standards and enforcement activity. NHTSA’s website includes resources and more information about safe bicycling and walking. NHTSA also houses the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), which is a nationwide census providing yearly data regarding fatal injuries suffered in motor vehicle traffic crashes, including those involving pedestrians and bicyclists.  

NHTSA Bicycle Safety
NHTSA Pedestrian Safety
NHTSA Regional Offices
FARS Homepage

Federal Transit Administration

FTA provides financial and technical assistance to local public transit systems. The FTA oversees grants to state and local transit providers; multiple FTA grant programs are available to help cities and towns invest in pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure, which improves mobility and helps people access public transportation. FTA maintains a list of grant programs with funding eligibility for bicycle projects.

FTA Bicycles and Transit

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration

FMCSA prevents commercial motor vehicle-related fatalities and injuries by enforcing safety regulations, supporting research on safety information systems and safer vehicle technology, and providing States with financial assistance for roadside inspections and other commercial motor vehicle safety programs. These programs are designed to reduce commercial motor vehicle collisions, including those that involve bicyclists and pedestrians.

FMCSA Our Roads Our Safety

Federal Railroad Administration

FRA ensures the safe movement of people and goods by rail, through regulatory and inspection work, investments to develop and improve the rail network, and through research and technology development. FRA has worked to identify safety risks and to improve the safety of pedestrians and bicyclists at grade crossings, gathering information on signals, signs, and other devices used to prevent non-motorized fatalities.

FRA Railroad Crossing Safety & Trespass Prevention

Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center

The Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center (PBIC) is supported by FHWA and NHTSA, and housed within the UNC Highway Safety Research Center. Its mission is to improve the quality of life in communities through the increase of safe walking and bicycling as viable means of transportation and physical activity. PBIC develops, synthesizes, promotes and distributes accurate and current bicycling and walking information; provides expert technical assistance to various audiences to ensure that citizens and professionals have access to the best available information; and generates a network of informed individuals and organizations who can increase the exposure of ped/bike issues to the general public. To do so, it manages several websites, produces a variety of reports, guides and case studies, and offers training and technical assistance. 

PBIC Homepage

U.S. DOT also manages the TIGER (now BUILD) Discretionary Grant Program, which has funded important planning and capital investments for bicycle and pedestrian safety. Over nine rounds of TIGER grants, hundreds of millions of dollars have been awarded for bicycle and pedestrian improvements, in addition to many more roadway and transit projects that included pedestrian and bicyclist amenities as one element. 

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Additional Helpful Resources

Responsibility of States and Local Transportation and Enforcement Agencies

There are many agencies and individuals at the State and local jurisdictional level who have a significant role in determining how safe the transportation network will be. The decision to create and maintain a safe space in the transportation infrastructure to accommodate pedestrians and bicyclists is the responsibility of State and local transportation agencies and MPOs, who plan, design, build, and maintain the roads, sidewalks, and stations. State and local safety enforcement agencies also have a responsibility to ensure that the public is aware of safety laws and regulations, and that these laws are enforced. Finally, the elected officials for these jurisdictions can choose to sponsor and pass laws that further enhance the behavioral, infrastructural, and vehicular safety.

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Updated: Wednesday, October 3, 2018
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