Last week was not a great week for bike advocacy here in the United States.
The House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure released a bill that was far worse for biking and walking than anyone had expected.
Representatives Petri (R-WI) and Johnson (R-IL) proposed an amendment that would have restored funding for biking and walking projects. The amendment was opposed by Committee Chairman John Mica (R-FL), Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), and lost by just two votes.
In The House of Representatives Cycling’s biggest advocate (unarguably) is Oregon’s Earl Blumenauer (D-OR). Cycling’s biggest foe (arguably) is John Mica of Florida. Both Congressmen were interviewed last week by Bruce Gellerman for the public radio program, Living on Earth.
[I]t is arguably the worst piece of transportation legislation I’ve seen that has been proposed. Not just in the 15 years I’ve been in Congress, but for many years before that. It would take away the transportation enhancement program option, which is the most popular program in the entire federal transportation arena where we had requirements to be spent on bike and ped – that’s stripped away.
It eliminates a requirement that states provide bike and pedestrian accommodation when there’s major bridge replacement. It repeals the Safe Routes to School program which has been so instrumental in trying to make sure that kids can get to school safely on their own – to make sure that there are bike lanes, that there are curb cuts, that there are sidewalks for heaven’s sakes – common sense steps that make our kids safer, and frankly give our families more choices so that people aren’t having to shuttle kids to school and have another traffic jam in the neighborhood every morning.
It’s ironic when we’re looking at the health of the economy – these bike and pedestrian projects actually create more jobs per million dollars than just dropping asphalt for roads.
[T]o take away essential investments that allow our transportation systems to work better for everybody, it is more than a step backwards, I mean it is really an assault on 20 years of progress.
What we are doing is eliminating a mandate for what’s called ‘enhancements,’ and actually devolving to states so that local communities and states don’t have to come to Washington and to ask for the money. So we think there will be even less red tape and states can do more or less according to what they desire.
I’m a strong supporter of the bike trail program. We’ve had a ten percent set aside of highway money for enhancements, and it went, actually, beyond just bike trails, it could be used for anything, for plantings, for whatever’s considered an enhancement. So sometimes bike trails were actually short-changed in the process, and people had to come to Washington on bended knees.
Eventually, we’ll have to probably do away with the gasoline tax because we have the issue of electric cars who pay no fee, we’ve got gas cars, we’ve got fuel-cell cars coming on line. And the trust fund is actually depleting because cars are going further and paying less – that’s a problem.