Congress is looking at a transportation spending bill this week, but bike advocates are worried that senators who are “anxious for a deal” will toss out a provision that would provide bicycling safety measures. The Senate originally presented the transportation bill as a two-year, $109 billion measure that also funded bike paths and sidewalks through various programs such as the Federal Highway Administration’s Safe Routes to School. The House, however, approved a couple of temporary funding exceptions that did not include the bike paths and sidewalks provision.
House Republicans have pushed for reforms that include an opt-out provision for bike and pedestrian funding. The deadline for negotiations is June 30th, prompting the America Bikes Coalition to spring into action. Spokesperson Mary Lauran is concerned that allowing states to opt out means local government will choose not to opt in. According to her, because 14% of roadway fatalities involve cyclists and pedestrians and 2/3rds of those deaths are on federal-aid highways, funding for safer pathways is essential.
Lauran wrote in an email:
“If Senate negotiators give in, local governments across the country would lose the ability to access transportation funds for bike lanes and sidewalks — projects that local officials find crucial to reduce traffic fatalities, keep downtowns economically competitive, and increase daily physical activity for kids and adults.”
House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) countered that he wants the bill to include “real reforms” so that taxpayers are funding “legitimate projects that support economic activity” and seemed to think that the safety provision would only serve to result in “planting more flowers in beautification projects around the country.” It seems as if the House doesn’t understand that having safer walkways and paths nationwide will help people get to work and school in healthier, less environmentally impacting ways, and that it should be considered a “legitimate project.”
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