Next Thursday, February 2, the House Transportation Committee is expected to vote on the “American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act.” Note the propaganda-friendly naming. This is, in fact, intended to be the long-awaited multi-year transportation bill.
As usual, we are being asked to PANIC about it and contact appropriate representatives. The League is asking us to contact everyone (even though this is still in Committee), because the current version eliminates the two largest programs that fund biking and walking infrastructure — Transportation Enhancements and Safe Routes to School.
Most representatives will not be a part of this voting process. Work is also underway to restore these programs to the bill, probably via a Committee member such as Earl Blumenauer (D-OR).
I agree that keeping Transportation Enhancements and Safe Routes to Schools active in any new transportation bill is important. I agree that people should contact appropriate House members to urge amending the bill or not passing it from Committee. I am growing a little tired of the constant state of panic about “they are going to kill cycling!”
Transportation Enhancements has been under near-constant assault for the last year. Transportation Enhancements federally funded, community-based projects that enhance surface transportation by improving the cultural, historic, aesthetic and environmental aspects of the infrastructure. They can address bike/ped infrastructure and safety, landscaping, rail-trail work, environmental mitigation, archaeological planning/research, historic preservation, and tourist facilities. The Heritage Foundation, a big conservative think-tank, has labeled them “a waste of taxpayer dollars.”
Because, look. They can’t kill cycling. They can remove funding, make things harder when working with federal funds, etc. But they lack the ability to dictate the use of local funds for cycling. They lack the ability to quash the grassroots. Sure, some existing infrastructure could be eliminated, but that’s true right now. A key to keeping cycling alive is much more about expanding the “movement” beyond the already-involved, the lifestylers, and advocates and convincing members of the community that bicycling is worthwhile, that bicyclists aren’t trying to force everyone’s ass onto a banana seat, and that by providing access to many modes of transport within a community we enrich users of ALL modes.
When you make that expansion, situations like this are less about paaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaanic and more about harnessing the general social sentiment. Right now, the general sentiment isn’t there to harness outside of specific communities. And that’s where we need to focus more energy — rather than on repeating the advocacy panic response repeatedly.
That said, check the list of members. See if your member is on the Transpo Committee. Note that if your person is not a Republican, you’ll have to manually find their House web site to call or e-mail them, the preferred methods of contacting an office in this modern, post-terrorist age. In Minnesota, these are Tim Walz of MN-1, and Chip Cravaak of MN-8. The League of American Bicyclists also has an excellent run-down of the act, some facts around the at-risk programs, and nice contact forms for members of Congress.