Governor’s May Budget Revise Provides New Funds but Still Shortchanges Active Transportation
Governor Gavin Newsom’s revised proposal for the state’s July 2022-June 2023 budget includes $1.1 billion in new money for active transportation. This would be a historic increase, more than four times the typical annual allocation to biking and walking safety.
CalBike applauds the governor for allocating increased funding for active transportation. Thanks to pressure from bike advocates like you, we are more than halfway to our goal of $2 Billion for Bikes in California’s 2022-23 budget. That extra money can fund projects that make biking and walking safe and convenient for Californians, and it is a welcome investment in building healthier communities.
However, $1.1 billion isn’t enough to transform California’s communities into places where the average person will consider biking a safe and convenient transportation option for their short trips. In fact, the total allocation for biking and walking safety combined represents only about 5% of California’s transportation budget. As a state ravaged by climate change, we must do better.
CalBike’s priorities for the California budget
Now the budget will move through the legislature to be approved by June 15. The time is now to tell your legislators to make this budget even better for people biking and walking. Here’s what we’re pushing for. We’ll need your voice to make this happen
- More bike/walk funding. Increase the total budget allocation for active transportation to $2 billion. The level of funding currently stands at $1 billion for new active transportation projects and $100 million for bike and ped safety through the Highway Safety Improvement Program. (Newsom also counts $150 million in support for freeway removal as active transportation, an allocation we support but do not count toward our goal of $2 billion for targeted safety improvements.)
- Connected bikeway networks. Ensure that active transportation funding goes to projects that build complete bikeway networks—no more bike lanes to nowhere or bikeways made unsafe by impassable intersections. This should include funding for a program that rewards cities whose leaders build protected networks that create true active transportation grids. It’s particularly crucial that these bike networks connect bike infrastructure to local destinations including offices, schools, and shopping areas.
- Prioritize disadvantaged communities in all transportation spending. In our racialized economy, Black and brown Californians are disproportionately affected by inflation and need better, more affordable active transportation options. In addition, many communities of color suffer from decades of disinvestment and should be the first to get new active transportation investments.
Our climate can’t wait
The governor’s May budget is a missed opportunity to allocate the funding California needs to build an equitable transportation system and achieve our state’s climate goals. We must make it convenient and comfortable for many more Californians to take short trips by walking and biking, not driving. To do that, California needs to move quickly to make biking easier—and Newsom’s proposed budget just isn’t enough to build more bike infrastructure fast.
The proposed budget for active transportation is small compared to the investment in automobiles in many ways. For example, it includes a $10 billion investment in electric cars over 6 years, which is a valuable contribution to climate change mitigation. But EVs still have significant carbon footprints and mining for the lithium needed to build electric car batteries brings its own environmental havoc. Walkable, bikeable communities are a better solution to the climate crisis.
California’s priorities, as shown in the governor’s proposed budget, must change.
The U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics found that more than half of all trips (by all modes) in 2021 were 3 miles or less, an easily bikeable distance. Most trips (79%) were 10 miles or less, a distance that many people could easily bike with electric assist. And e-bikes are more popular than EVs: Americans bought almost 45% more e-bikes than electric cars in 2021. Yet most Californians still drive for most trips because we have built infrastructure that’s hostile to and often dangerous for people outside cars.
We can’t drive ourselves out of the climate crisis. California’s budget must prioritize the infrastructure we need to avert climate catastrophe. Think about what you need in your community to close the gaps and create safe bike networks and even bicycle highways to get you where you need to go. Neighborhoods where all the services residents need are within a 15-minute bike ride would improve safety, air quality, and quality of life. Those are the types of projects that this budget should pay for, in every community throughout California. With our historic surplus and in the face of a looming climate crisis, now is the time to transform our state.
Active transportation funding increases equity
As inflation hits Californians hard, safe biking is a lifeline to millions of Californians who can’t afford to fill their gas tanks without sacrificing other priorities, like healthy food and secure housing. With a budget surplus that has now swelled to more than $97 billion, $2 billion for bikes is a minimal investment in equitable infrastructure. With enough funding and quick-build installation, Californians could benefit from safer roadways and less polluted neighborhoods in under a year.
Newsom’s proposal in the budget to give $400 per registered car owner to offset high gas prices is an insane subsidy for automobility at a time when all Californians are struggling with higher prices on a wide range of products. And providing a subsidy only to car owners represents a perverse incentive that penalizes Californians who don’t own a vehicle, whether by choice or because they can’t afford one.
Rather than giving residents money to buy gas for a week, give them safe streets and frequent transit so they can get around by biking, walking, and taking the bus every day.
There’s still time to influence the final budget
The legislature will now revise the governor’s proposal and negotiate with him on a final budget for approval by June 15. There are many fantastic bills in the legislature this year that will make our streets safer. The budget needs to include enough active transportation funding to pay for the many excellent pilot projects and new programs.
In the next few weeks, CalBike will work with the legislature and the governor’s office to improve this budget and increase the total amount for bicycling to at least $2 billion. Once the budget passes, we will work on ensuring that the active transportation funding goes to worthy projects that will truly make our neighborhoods safer and healthier.
We will fight for every dollar for biking and walking. And we need your help.