Transportation Bill Briefing: Cut Bike Funds

WASHINGTON, D.C. (BRAIN)—Andy Clarke, president of the League of American Bicyclists, had a strong response to John L. Mica's  briefing on the next transportation bill yesterday morning.

"Whether the next transportation bill is $200 billion or $400 billion is frankly less important than what is done with that kind of investment," said Clarke. "Mica's 'New Direction' proposal in fact turns the clock back on decades of hard-fought progress towards a truly multi-modal transportation system that offers American's real choices.

"Even with a 'small' bill, returning to a 1950s highways-only mentality flies in the face of fiscal responsibility by guaranteeing more single occupant vehicle travel on ever more congested and dangerous highways that we can't even afford to maintain, let alone build," he added.

Clarke said that Chairman Mica and Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) want to cut funding for anything other than cars and trucks, seemingly oblivious to the disastrous impacts of 60 years of sprawl, air pollution, congestion, dependence on foreign oil and millions of needless highway fatalities.

"That's out of touch with what Americans want and is so deliberate that it smacks of vindictiveness rather than sound policy," Clarke said. "The reality is that Americans want choice. At the individual, community and national level we need more people bicycling and walking rather than less. We need fewer people trapped in a system that forces them to make even the shortest trips by car because there are no safe alternatives. We need robust and dedicated funding for transit, bicycling and walking to keep up with the demand for these critical modes of transportation."

Clarke said that bicycling and walking make up 12 percent of all trips today despite decades of under-investment in these two modes. In combination with transit, according to Clarke, they take on even more importance; and sadly bicyclists and pedestrians account for 14 percent of all fatal traffic crash victims on our nation's highways.

"That's a national tragedy we can't afford to ignore," he said. "Programs such as the Transportation Enhancements, Safe Routes to School and Recreational Trails programs have proven to be cost-effective, popular and successful programs in improving safety and offering real choices to Americans. And they make up just 1.5 percent of transportation spending over the past 20 years."

The League is calling for Chairman Mica to reinstate dedicated funding for bicycling and walking in his bill.

"We also ask that the Senate resist the efforts of Senator Inhofe eliminate dedicated funding for bicycling and walking," Clarke said. "In addition to being healthy activities, bicycling and walking are valid transportation options, with more than four billion bike trips made annually for trips to work, school, and tourism. Furthermore bicycling and walking projects have the potential to create 46 percent more jobs per million dollars spent than auto-only projects; and bicycling and walking are critical generators of economic activity in communities across this country. Now is the time to be investing in these modes, not cutting them off just as 20 years of investment is starting to bear fruit."