US diplomats Dan Langenkamp and his wife Oconomowoc native Sarah Debbink Langenkamp left Ukraine, where they had been living for a year and a half, to be reunited with their two young sons who had been sent to live with their grandparents following the Russian invasion. They were settling into their new home in Bethesda, Maryland when Sarah was killed by a flatbed truck while riding her bike home from her son’s elementary school in August 2022.
“Sarah fled a war zone only to die on the streets near our nation’s capital,” said Dan Langenkamp. “There is simply no reason in the world why deciding to ride a bike in the United States should be a life or death decision. We have to do better.”
Oregon Congressman Earl Blumenauer has sponsored The Sarah Debbink Langenkamp Active Transportation Safety Act. This legislation honors Sarah’s memory by encouraging state and local governments to build safer, more complete, networks for bicycling and walking, and makes it easier to build connections between safe biking and walking infrastructure.
Much like the Wisconsin Bike Fed’s call for state matching funds to help local communities access Federal transportation dollars, The Sarah Debbink Langenkamp Active Transportation Safety Act will:
- help reduce the disconnect between state-identified and locally-identified priorities by giving the state the flexibility to spend safety dollars on local priorities.
- give states flexibility to fund bicycle and walking safety projects with 100% federal funds, including for locally identified safety priorities.
- make it easier for states and local governments to fund the safety projects identified in IIJA (Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act – also called Bipartisan Infrastructure Law) funded safety plans. 437 local governments received IIJA funding to write safety plans in one year alone!
- highlight the need to fill gaps in biking and walking networks, and makes such projects eligible for funding under Highway Safety Improvement Program.
This week, Wisconsin Bike Fed staff and local advocates met virtually with our Federal elected officials as part of the League of American Bicyclists National Bike Summit. In addition for asking Wisconsin’s representatives in Congress and the Senate to support the The Sarah Debbink Langenkamp Active Transportation Safety Act, we also advocated for:
- The installation of Lateral Protective Devices (LPDs) or Side Guards on large trucks. While large trucks make up only 4% of the vehicles on the road, crashes with large trucks account for 11% of fatalities among bicyclists and pedestrians. The 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act requires that US DOT study side guards, but it is essential that these studies include research involving vulnerable road users – like pedestrians and cyclists.
- The Electric Bicycle Incentive Kickstart for the Environment (E-BIKE) Act creates a tax rebate of up to $1,500 for people buying electric bikes – similar to the tax incentive for buying an electric car. This proposed bill would have a significant impact on air congestion by enabling more people to replace short car trips with ebikes.
Interested in getting more involved in improving our bicycle and pedestrian networks and improving safety for vulnerable users in Wisconsin? There are lots of opportunities! This spring use our handy tool to send an email to your legislator or attend a budget listening session and ask members of the joint finance committee to prioritize cycling in the next State budget.
RIDE FOR YOUR LIFE – OCTOBER 1 , 2023
Modeled after the original event organized in Washington D.C. at the end of 2022, a “Ride for Your Life” event was held in Madison on Sunday, October 1st to honor Sarah’s life, as well as Wisconsin cyclists who have lost their lives to car crashes, while bringing awareness to the need for investments in safety infrastructure for people who bike and walk.
Cyclists rode 5 miles and pedestrians walked 1 mile through Madison to the steps of the state capitol for a rally to raise awareness of the need for pedestrian and cyclist safety legislation.
The 2023 event was organized by the Wisconsin Bike Fed, Trek Bicycles, and Madison Bikes, and sponsored by the Debbink Family Foundation, Madison Water Utility, and David Nevala Photography.