In the upcoming May issue of Bicycling, Mnneapolis is to be named their top city for cycling – beating out perennial favorite Portland (OR). This was somewhat inevitable editorially, as eventually they needed to shake up the list, and it’s easy to give Minneapolis a few bonus points for the fact that our weather is more of a challenge.
However, looking at this another way, this is a win for the Nonmotorized Transportation Pilot Program (NTPP). Established as part of SAFETEA-LU as advocated for by Congressmen James Oberstar (D-MN), the program provided $25 million to each of 4 communities to demonstrate how improved walking and bicycling networks can increase rates of walking and bicycling in communities.
During the National Bicycle Summit, this program was spotlighted in several ways. The Minnesota delegation was privileged to meet with Congressman Oberstar’s Chief of Staff and legislative director, who discussed some of the history of the program. A core piece of the NTPP is that it provided for federal study of mode-shift – key to overcoming objections from some that most studies have been done by local advocacy groups who may not be wholly objective. The pilot report is due in September, but Congressman Oberstar’s staff do not believe it will come through until year-end at the most optimistic.
The Congressman is a strong supporter of the NTPP, but between the lines is was suggested he cannot support expansion prior to the report’s availability due to the commitments he made relative to the original pilot funding’s passage.
This ties into the second spotlight at the NBS for the NTPP: On March 2, a week prior to the Summit, Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) introduced H.R. 4722, the Active Community Transportation of Act of 2010. The ACT Act calls for “the Secretary of Transportation to carry out an active transportation investment program to encourage a mode shift to active transportation within selected communities by providing safe and convenient options to bicycle and walk for routine travel, and for other purposes.” It amounts to an extension of the NTPP.
As part of the Summit, many state delegations asked for cosponsorship for this bill. As a result, a Bill that started with 6 co-sponsors is now up to 27. The bill has been referred to the Transportation Committee, chaired by Congressman Oberstar, where is is likely to remain until the NTPP report comes out.
However, in the meantime, if you’re excited about Minneapolis cracking the top of Bicycling’s top cities for cycling list, or live in another city you’d like to see get funded to make similar strides, consider writing your Congressional delegate to support HR 4722. Your best bet is to ask them to co-sponsor the Bill – this is the most immediate supportive action a Congressperson can take.
Even if it takes some time to come out of committee, having solid national support will help drive the bill through the Committee and through Congress when the time is right.