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‘Eligible’ Not Always a Synonym for ‘Desirable’

by Stacey Moses

Just in case you have not been getting an ample supply of economic news from other major media outlets, the League of American Bicyclists and America Bikes have released a report explaining why shifting funding within the transportation bill from “dedicated” to “eligible” for bike and pedestrian projects would be disastrous, not only for cyclists but also for the rest of the population. 

Safe Routes to School

Photo: Safe Routes to School

As we collectively watched Congress push the debt deal to the last possible moments, and then witnessed the stock market plummet and the U.S. credit rating drop in the following days, it may seem a bit untimely to be fighting for money for bike/ped projects. However, holding on to funding for bicycle and pedestrian transportation initiatives such as Transportation Enhancements and Safe Routes to School has never been more important, as these are government projects that will allow us to grow in a healthy, sustainable and economically responsible way. These projects are underfunded right now, and to allow states to pull funding will make an already unpleasant situation worse. The report explains:

Since 1991, states have spent just over 1% of their transportation funds on bicycling and walking – even though these two modes now account for 12% of all trips and 14% of all fatalities in traffic crashes. These critical transportation modes connect people to jobs, friends and family, goods and services; they provide healthy, clean, efficient, and sustainable ways for kids to get to and from school; and they are increasingly popular and economically vital forms of recreation. Recent studies show that in addition to providing these benefits, investing in bicycling and walking infrastructure is very cost‐ effective and creates more jobs than traditional highway‐only projects.

Safe Routes to School

Photo: Safe Routes to School

Since John Mica (R-FL) introduced his bicycle-unfriendly transportation bill proposal, the League has been urging the cycling community to get involved. To understand why dedicated funding for bike/pedestrian projects within the federal transportation budget is beneficial and important, read “Why ‘Eligibility’ Isn’t Enough” in its entirety.

 
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5 Responses to “‘Eligible’ Not Always a Synonym for ‘Desirable’”

  1. Gene @ BU says:

    Much of what John Mica is saying appears to be correct. The main funding source for the transportation bill is the 18.4-cent federal tax on a gallon of gasoline is no longer able to cover existing needs for transportation projects. But leaders of both parties have rejected the idea of raising the federal gas tax, which was politically unpopular even before the recent rise in pump prices.

    As Chair of the Committee on Transportation Mica has to balance; 1. don’t add to the deficit, 2. don’t raise taxes, 3. maintain the existing highway/avaition/rail infrastructure with is falling apart, 4. create jobs, 5. save Amtrack (I’m not sure why), 6. replace the air traffic control system (this is 12 behind schedule), 7. cut federal red tape, 8. and play all the political games it takes to get a bill through a disfunctional Congress and a White House with no direction.

    If I were in this guys place and wanting to get re-elected, I would ignore a weak cycling lobby and all those walking and bike projects too.

    I did a century ride today and the thought that came to mind was over the next few years these rides may fade away here in central NY. Not that there isn’t a high level of interest but the roads / shoulders are in such poor condition to make the rides too difficult and dangerous for the average rider. The basic road infrastructure is falling apart.

    Cyclists may well have to live with the fact that the prospects for this economy are so bad and politics so disfunctional that the bike infrastructure will be set back 10 years.

    So what’s plan B?

  2. hokan says:

    Plan b? If roads are to be built without bike-specific amenities, at least they should be built to well-accommodate bikes. Things like lane widths and rumble strip design can make a huge difference to bikers.

  3. Gene @ BU says:

    I agree. Then perhaps the League of American Bicyclists and America Bikes should narrow down their wish list and focus their lobbing efforts on the single objective of accommodating bikes on existing roads and learning to live with the motor vehicle infrastructure. The bottom line – there’s no money for grand bike projects but that message sure doesn’t help League membership.

  4. Dano says:

    An increase in tax might do a few things though.

    1.) Decrease the amount of unnecessary trips. I drove to Lowes yesterday to pick up just paint samples. Today I am driving past Lowes to another store. If I was going to pay 3.89 a gallon as opposed to 3.59 a gallon I would have thought twice before I went out.
    a.) If in my pea sized brain I thought this, its stands to reason that others will think this and traffic volumes should be cut down. This could then preserve roads and the increase in taxes would be more then be enough to fix our crumbling infrastructure.

    2.) Decrease the amount of necessary trips. I can’t tell you how many times I see an 18 wheeler pull into our cargo bay with 1 or 2 pallets of stuff! Sure that stuff needed to get here. We have been shot in the foot by an untrue cost of shipping things. The semi/trailer combo is very efficient. They can go anywhere at anytime, there is no hassle. And because of this we send trucks to do just that. The problem is that a semi/trailer causes 50X and much wear and tear on roads as a passenger car does. What if from higher taxes things became more efficient. The trucks that appear at our loading docks came half as often and with 4 pallets worth of stuff? Unfortunately money is the only real motivator in the world.

    3.) The increase in taxes inflates the cost of business and the whole global economic system fails. We would then loose rule of law and we would have to relearn how to use stone tools and bow and arrows.

  5. Dano says:

    By moderation I hope that someone reads these before they are posted. I posted the above before proof reading it, I am not a fan of what I wrote, its not a clear reflection of what I meant to say. If it ends up being posted… so be it, but just know that the final edit probably wouldn’t have offended anybody and certainly would have been legible.

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