Press Release

March 21, 2024
Cardin, Baldwin and Van Hollen Introduce Bill to Expand Existing Federal Partnership for Bike and Pedestrian Safety
In honor of local bicyclist and American diplomat Sarah Debbink Langenkamp, who was in a fatal crash, lawmakers are working to expand the use of federal funds for local safety projects

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), a senior member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), a member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, and Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), a member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies, have introduced legislation S.3964 – the Sarah Debbink Langenkamp Active Safety Transportation Act – that will make it easier for local governments to access federal funds to improve safety for vulnerable bicyclists and pedestrians.

Under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the federal government expanded the successful Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP), which had been created more than a decade earlier by Senator Cardin and Senator Thad Cochran (R-Miss.). The legislation introduced today would help clarify the option of using federal funds from the Highway Safety Improvement Program to cover the local cost share of safety projects under the program, allowing up to 100 percent of the project to be covered. It would provide states with additional flexibility to support locally identified and initiated projects to improve safety for bicyclists and pedestrians. 

“We can do better,” said Senator Cardin. “We have the federal funds to support proven bike-safety and pedestrian improvements, but we need to do a better job delivering those investments to communities nationwide where they can make a difference and save lives like Sarah’s. She was a public servant who was dedicated to serving this nation and to her family. I thank Sarah’s husband Dan and father Dirk Debbink for their advocacy and for sharing their story and helping prevent future tragedies like what they have endured.”

“Regardless of how you are traveling, everyone should be safe on our roads. Sadly, for too many Wisconsin families, that has not been the case and now they have an empty seat at the dinner table,” said Senator Baldwin. “I am proud to help honor Sarah’s legacy with this bill and give our local communities the tools they need to make our streets safer for bikers and pedestrians.”

“Too many Americans share the pain that the Langenkamp family is forced to live with – that of a loved one taken tragically by a cycling or pedestrian road accident. Many of our local roadways lack adequate safety measures for pedestrians and cyclists, and it’s long past time we fix that. In honor of Sarah, who was a committed public servant, this legislation will enable us to focus more federal investment on making our roads safer and more accessible for everyone – especially those on bikes and on foot,” said Senator Van Hollen.

S.3964, the Active Transportation Safety Act is named in honor of Sarah Debbink Langenkamp, a mother, wife and American diplomat who was killed while riding her bicycle in Bethesda barely two weeks after being evacuated from Ukraine in the summer of 2022 after the Russian invasion.

“Sarah’s death meant we lost a mother, a wife, a friend and an incredible diplomat, and she was just one of thousands caught up in a worsening trend of traffic death in America,” said Sarah’s husband Dan Langenkamp. “We have to do more to protect people, and this bill, by helping communities build the walking and biking infrastructure they need, will do just that.”

Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.-3), co-chair of the Congressional Bike Caucus, and Congressman Jamie Raskin (D-Md.-8) have introduced similar legislation in the House of Representatives.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), bicyclists and pedestrians account for 12% of transportation trips but 20% of fatalities. In 2021, overall traffic fatalities decreased slightly, while bicyclist and pedestrian fatalities increased by 10% and 2%, respectively.

The Transportation Alternatives Program includes a set aside for communities with a population under 5000. It is those rural communities, and low-income communities, that have the hardest time finding a local match, and have a harder time finding 20 percent for a local match.

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) advises that bicycle lanes can reduce total crashes up to 49 percent on urban four-lane undivided collector and local roads and reduce total crashes up to 30 percent on urban two-lane undivided collector and local roads. In addition, FHWA reports that sidewalks can reduce pedestrian crashes by 65-89 percent in neighborhoods and that adding a shoulder on a rural road can reduce pedestrian crashes by 71 percent.

Bill text can be downloaded here.