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‘The worst piece of transportation legislation I’ve seen’

by Ted Johnson

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.

Living on Earth: PRIIn 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.

Earl Blumenauer

[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.

John Mica

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.

   
 
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13 Responses to “‘The worst piece of transportation legislation I’ve seen’”

  1. Ted Johnson says:

    You have to love how John Mica thinks privately-run toll roads are great for reducing traffic on highways. Cycling infrastructure, not so much.

  2. Correction: Rep. Tom Petri (R-WI) and Rep. Timothy Johnson (R-Il), who submitted the amendment, are REPUBLICANS. The bi-partisan amendment was also co-sponsored by Rep. Dan Lipinski, a democrat from Illinois.

    In that sense, in was an unexpectedly good week for bicycling advocacy (though, admittedly, not for pro-bicycling legislation).

    Congressman Petri, Johnson — and Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ), who was the only other republican to vote in favor of the amendment — deserve bicyclists’ utmost appreciation and thanks. (They went out on a limb against the wishes of their party leadership.) If you live in their districts, especially if you took part in the League’s advocacy alert, you should be proud. Please give them your thanks.

    This is by no means the end of the battle, and we will continue to find ways to improve the bill. The legislation disrespects bicycling as transportation. Period. Now is the time for all bicyclists, not just those who consider themselves advocates, to get fired up.

    We will turn our attention to the Senate, which is a whole ‘nother beast. Stay tuned.

    • Ted Johnson says:

      Thanks Darren. I made the corrections. I got the information from BikeLeague.org, and I presumptuously added the D’s myself — intending to double check, which I forgot to do.

      You are right. It is a tiny little silver lining in the week in bike advocacy.

  3. Thanks, Ted. I think that this vote has really opened a lot of people’s eyes to the misplaced priorities of some in Congress. It couldn’t be more stark — highways good; Transit, walking, biking bad.

    And safety! They are fighting to allow larger trucks on our roads — even AAA has come out against that.

    It really is a critical time to raise our voices. I would ask all CbB readers to watch out for our advocacy alerts — Ted, I’ll be sure to send them to you — and forward them to 10 friends who may never have gotten involved before.

    Have the opponents of Safe Routes to School and Transportation Enhancements overreached? Let’s show them that they have.

  4. Dr. M says:

    Keep in mind that the school Unions particularly the bus drivers aren’t interested in Safe Routes to School. More children biking or walking to school means empty school buses and more driver lay offs. They want to keep these jobs even though children are getting fatter and fatter.
    The local high school used to have bike racks. They were removed about two years ago. They don’t encourage children to bike to school and remove simple things like bike racks that would facilitate it. The problem is much deeper than just this piece of legislation.

  5. David Strobelt says:

    It is so sad Republicans continue to focus on traditional infrastructure projects that require an automobile to get you from point A to point B. it’s outdated…it’s old thinking…unhealthy…environmentally harmful…and cannot be sustained as the population in United States continues to grow. This article made me very sad.

  6. BluesCat says:

    Dr. M – “The problem is much deeper than just this piece of legislation.” SO true, and a phrase very much worth remembering and quoting. I submit (and I may get some backlash from this) that the problem goes back to the dismal level of education in REAL math and science in the U.S.

    David – Yes, it indeed IS sad. But just as I think the Republicans who vote in favor of the car-centric infrastructure, playing to this low-level American education regarding REAL science, I see glimmers of hope in the three Republicans who voted FOR the amendment to the bill. Maybe the tide will change this November, we can’t give up the fight!

  7. Graham says:

    I will respectfully disagree with your assertion that bus drivers are Anti-SRTS. Our fine state of NC has been slashing budgets for a few years now and bus drivers now have overcrowded (and unsafe) buses and their beings asked to drive more routes with no extra pay.

    Every one of them would love to see students within a few miles of the school able to see themselves safely to campus.

    I will agree that the schools themselves are doing little to promote the idea of self-propelled attendance.

  8. Drew says:

    Haha. That’s probably pretty tough for the first kid on the bus.

  9. Scott says:

    We need cycle/ped hwys that allow light weight electric bikes/trikes/recumbents, with a speed limit of 15 mph. Rail-trails are a good start. We just have to make low speed infrastructure practical.

  10. BluesCat says:

    Scott – I would make a wee-little two edits to your statement and email it to every single member of the U.S. Congress:

    “We need a national system of cycle/ped hwys that allow light weight electric bikes/trikes/recumbents, with a speed limit of 20 mph.” (Emphasis is mine.)

    My first edit would put it within the purview of the Congress to fund it. And my second edit … well … ya don’t wanna slow down BluesCat when he’s late for work in the morning!

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