The new House Transportation Committee are doing a series of public meetings in the districts of certain of the committee members. (No meetings are scheduled in Minnesota at this time, despite the committee presence of Chip Cravaak and Tim Walz.)
Reports from early sessions of this dog-and-pony show are disheartening at best. Urban Indy managed to claw its way into the Indianapolis-area meeting and put together a great report of the session.
Of particular interest to cyclists is the following passage from Urban Indy’s report:
The conversation even turned pretty dark with Todd Rokita (R-IN) stating that he thought bike and pedestrian projects should not be funded by federal tax dollars. Another panelist said that the hunters & fisherman faced a similar situation in the past and banded together and determined a licensing program to fund projects and hedged the idea that perhaps cyclists should be using this as a means to fund bicycle projects. The low blow of his testimony was that he started his suggestion by stating that he likes cycling as a hobby and his body language suggested he has no interest in funding cycling infrastructure as well. I wasn’t found of his suggestion that cyclists should be segregated like hunters & fisherman. All of the panelists called DOT “the highway department” which as we all know, DOT are multimodal…. or SHOULD be. But I digress.
Note that Representative Rokita is not a member of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, but that it is not uncommon for local representatives to show up at such hearings when they occur in or near their districts.
Suggesting that cyclists are similar to hunters and fishermen is a dreadful step in the wrong direction. The heart of such an analogy is to suggest that cycling is recreational, and not a legitimate mode of transportation that should be accounted for in broader projects.
Cyclists, pedestrians and users of transit need to speak out and make their voices heard for spending on infrastructure that supports modal choice. Creating infrastructure that supports multiple modes of transportation provides access for economic and social mobility — and supports a cleaner environment and lower oil dependencies. This is going to be a long, hard and repetitive campaign in the current budget climate both in-state and federally, so every voice that can be added is essential!