Lawmakers say funding needed for walking, biking infrastructure

Seniors on BikesSix members of the Assembly on Wednesday were joined by members of AARP and others to call on Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the Senate to set aside $20 million and create the state’s first-ever Complete Streets fund.

Speakers at a press conference in the Legislative Office Building say dedicating $20 million to the Complete Streets fund would help communities across the state build walking and cycling infrastructure such as sidewalks, bike lanes and multi-use trails.

The Assembly’s budget proposal includes an allocation for this project. Supporters hope the Senate and governor will agree to set aside money for the fund in the final budget.

Advocates say the $20 needed for additional walking and biking trails is just a small part of the state Transportation Department’s proposed $22.1 billion budget allocation for the 2016-2017 fiscal year.

Despite the passage of a Complete Streets law in 2011, no new funding for Complete Streets project has been appropriated and no state dollars have been dedicated for these purposes, hindering implementation of the law. At the same time, federal funding provided to the state Transportation Department has decreased.

The Assembly members also say the lack of funding for walking and cycling infrastructure jeopardizes the safety of New Yorkers, especially seniors. According to a recently released report by the Alliance for Biking and Walking, New York state ranked worst in the nation for pedestrian and bicycling safety: 27 percent of all traffic fatalities in New York are pedestrians and bicyclists.

“Senior New Yorkers 65 and over are more than three times more susceptible to pedestrian fatalities than younger people,” said Joe Stelling, AARP’s associate director of advocacy.

Legislators in favor of Complete Streets funding said economic development, downtown revitalization and reduced greenhouse gas would go hand in hand with more walking, biking and improved public transportation.

Assemblywoman Particia Fahy, an Albany Democrat, has been active in securing the funding in the Assembly budget proposal.  This continues her longstanding support for walking and biking, activities which she enjoys herself.

“It’s transformational when you see people out and about taking part in their city,” said Assemblyman Bill Magnarelli, a Syracuse Democrat.

Other groups supporting the Complete Streets fund include Parks & Trails New York, the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, The New York Bicycling Coalition and the American Heart Association and nearly 60 other organizations.