One of the most frequently asked questions we get these days is whether our work at the Congressional level is relevant and valuable to local cyclists.
Tuesday evening in the House of Representatives we got an important part of the answer to that question. Without any warning, there was a vote to eliminate funding for projects that make new transit systems safer and more accessible for bicyclists and pedestrians.
This was pretty wonky stuff, and could easily have been missed. The word “bicycle” didn’t actually appear in the language of the amendment – it would have eliminated “enrichments as defined in Appendix A to part 611 of Title 49…”, effectively overriding the local planning process to prevent any funding for new start transit projects from being used for sidewalks, bike lanes, bike parking, etc., at train and bus stations.
Imagine that. Investing billions of dollars in building transit systems and then deliberately preventing any of the funds from being used to let people walk or ride their bikes to get to the system!
Fortunately our Vice President of Government Relations, Caron Whitaker, was on top of the action in Congress, and working with Margo Pedroso, of the Safe Routes to School National Partnership, and key Congressional offices managed to flag the issue and rally members of Congress to defeat the amendment by just 2 votes – 212-214.
Perhaps this “enrichment” funding isn’t the biggest source of funding for bike projects in the Federal transportation program – but this vote was critically important for four reasons:
1. We won!
2. It sends an important message that a majority in Congress support funding for bike investments and value local control and a good planning process. Hopefully, that sets us up well for future votes.
3. In this most partisan of Congresses, 32 members chose to vote against their party line and make this a “bike-partisan” vote of support for our issue. That’s a big deal.
4. The vote proved the value of the Congressional Bike Caucus, as it was the caucus, which is lead by Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Vern Buchanan (R-FL), who reached out to their fellow caucus members when crunch-time came. So, if you've ever wondered whether it’s worth asking their Members of Congress to join the Congressional Bike Caucus, the answer is a definitive “yes”!
We invest a lot of time and money in our government relations work – including the National Bike Summit, where your passion and commitment shines so brightly – to make sure that your voice is heard. Even with no notice, Caron managed to get tweets and e-mails into key Congressional offices because she was there, paying attention to the details, reading the fine print, and taking advantage of the local contacts we nurture throughout the year.
Tuesday evening was a timely reminder of the value of our work, even in the challenging environment of the United States Congress.
Thank you for your support of our work. Please donate today to help us sustain this important work and, with you, build a bicycle-friendly America for everyone.