This is a very critical time for the future of cycling. Potential federal budget cuts are threatening the state of cycling in the U.S., and I’m headed to D.C. to get involved.
For the past 20 years, a small percentage of the U.S. Highway Trust Fund (HTF) has been set aside for pedestrian and cycling-related funding projects. The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee (TIC) manages this $286 billion budget. In 2009, bicycle and pedestrian projects received $1.2 billion of the money, or 1.5% of the total 2009 fund. (The bulk of which, interestingly enough, came from the federal tax collected on every gallon of gas we pumped into our cars.)
But like all finances, HTF funding is strained, and significant recent changes in leadership of the committee and of Congress are not boding well for cyclists and pedestrians. While the committee used to have a great advocate at its chair, sitting members of the current Transportation and Infrastructure committee ridiculed US Transportation Secretary Ray La Hood when he smartly announced his support of moving from automobile-focused funding to more balanced cycling funding. This type of response has occurred many more times since then, and I fully expect it to occur again as funding crunches continue.
I find these funding concerns to be shortsighted. The Committee members aren’t grasping the small but powerful role that bikes play in today’s pressing issues: over-dependence on foreign oil, unsustainable resources, better livability of cities – plus employment and health.
Bicycle and pedestrian projects provide more jobs per dollar than almost any other road infrastructure construction, by a dramatic factor of almost 2 to 1. (Last year, 80% of the money that NYC spent on bike lanes, bicycle parking, and pedestrian plazas was funded through federal programs.)
Moreover, the Center for Disease Control speaks of childhood obesity epidemic levels, and say it threatens to make our youngest generation the first with a life expectancy shorter than those of their predecessors. Meanwhile, Congress cutbacks are threatening to also impact the Safe Routes to School Program, reducing funds for this national initiative to make walking or biking to school safer for children, and to therefore reduce childhood obesity. Bikes can help – if we make room for them to do so.
Next week, I will join hundreds of bike and pedestrian advocates to lobby Congress for continued bike funding, at the National Bicycle Summit in Washington, D.C.
You can get involved as well. Sign the People for Bikes petition, where your signatures can show our elected representatives our broad support for cycling and cycling projects.
I hope you will join me by signing the petition online or in our store. I also welcome you to make the journey to D.C. for the Bike Summit. And of course, you can always speak out by having fun: Ride your bike.
The future is in our hands (and legs).
Owner, Bicycle Habitat