Bicycle and Pedestrian funding is under threat in Washington. Act now to tell your Senator that you want to see these defended!
The Federal Government hasn’t created a new budget for transportation spending in years. The last FAA bill was in 2007, and the last highway bill was in 2009. After years of haphazard funding patches, Congress is finally close to passing a bill extending the budget, and another bill with a new forward-looking budget, but one Senator from Oklahoma is set to derail the whole thing over bike and ped funding.
According to the White House, if the extension is delayed just 10 days, the country would lose over $1 billion in transportation funding — “money we can never get back.”
Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) first objected to a mandate that states spend 10 percent of their federal funding on landscaping, pedestrian safety and bike paths. After failing to attach an amendment prohibiting projects like these from the extension, his sights are now set on the next longer-term budget. He wants to allow states to “opt out” of the 10 percent bike/ped requirement. California would likely still dedicate funds to these projects, but people in states that need these projects the most will lose out.
Consider that across the entire country, 3.4 percent of people commute by foot or bike, and that number is increasing every year. Also, over 13 percent victims in traffic fatalities were traveling by foot and bike. Senator Coburn doesn’t think we should do anything to make these trips safer.
What can I do?
Fortunately, California’s Senators understand why bicycle and pedestrian projects are critical. Senator Barbara Boxer was instrumental in protecting the budget extension from Coburn’s amendment. Their offices would still appreciate hearing from you.
If you have any friends in other states (especially Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Utah, Kentucky, South Carolina or Pennsylvania), urge them to get in touch with their Senators, too.
I know bike and pedestrian projects are important, but give me some talking points.
Senator Coburn declared on the floor of the Senate: “All we are saying is, if a state wants to continue to spend money on something other than safety and bridges and roads, fine, it can, but don’t make those of us who already have a big problem with safety have to spend money on something that doesn’t protect our citizens, doesn’t enhance their highways, by spending money on something that is called an enhancement but doesn’t enhance their safety or their ability to commute.”
Frequent 511CC readers should be able to spot the inconsistencies.
- Building more highways doesn’t make anyone safer. If anything, they just put more cars on the road, which make more traffic. We can’t build ourselves out of this mess. It’s time to start looking for ways to reduce trips, and make it easier for people to make trips by bike, foot, and transit.
- Cities with high bike ridership are safer. Putting more bikes and people on the street slow traffic, which might add a few seconds to your drive, but will reduce crashes and save lives. Not just crashes between pedestrians and cars, or bikes and cars, but cars and cars. Slow traffic is safer traffic.
- Getting people on bikes and feet actually reduces congestion by getting people off the road. Again, we can’t build ourselves out of this – we need to start building smart.
- Bike and pedestrian projects create more jobs per dollar than highway projects. And those are good, local jobs. Highway projects, where more of the money is spent on concrete and pre-fabricated materials – send more money out of the country.