Aid for walking, biking, under attack

The proposed federal transportation bill rolled out today looks worse than we feared. Not only does House Transportation Chairman John Mica aim to eliminate the Transportation Enhancements program, he’s proposing to zero out the popular Safe Routes to School program, which has begun to reverse a generation of local neglect for children’s safety on America’s streets. Transportation Enhancements, of course, has paid for dozens of Miami-Dade paths, trails, sidewalks and the like in its eight years of existence.

 

In addition, the legislation would markedly change U.S. policy about public transit. According to Mica’s committee, the new six-year authorization bill would focus more on suburbs and rural communities, along with the elderly and disabled. And it would “[remove] barriers that prevent the private sector from offering public transportation services.” It’s not clear to us how that will affect metropolitan transit systems; we’ll report more when we can.

 

Our fellow advocates at America Walks, the Alliance for Biking & Walking, the League of American Bicyclists, and the Safe Routes National Partnership are calling for a wave of response to today’s proposal. They offer the following links to make your communication easier:

You can also sign our petition at change.org (and thank you, all who already signed!).  Whatever your choice, you’ll save time if you have your full nine-digit ZIP code handy before you start. For this article’s second page, click “Read more” below.

Mica’s committee, and its Senate counterpart, do not have a pleasant job before them right now. The mainstay of federal surface transportation funding for many years has been the tax on gasoline and highway diesel fuel. Those revenues, feeding into the Highway Trust Fund, have slumped as fuel prices and the recent recession have led to less driving. At the same time, consumers are choosing fuel-sipping hybrids and other thrifty cars. On top of that, growing numbers are wisely learning to walk more, bike more, and use trains and public transit where they exist. The bill Mica offered today seeks to stay within current levels of gas tax revenue — projected at $230 billion over six years.

 

Mica has cover for what he’s doing in the report of a bipartisan think tank that declared last month that trails, paths, sidewalks and the like do not represent any national interest.  We couldn’t disagree more. As the League points out:

  • Biking and walking make up 12 percent of all trips in the U.S. — even as funding for biking and walking projects only accounts for 1.5 percent of the federal transportation budget.
  • Two-thirds of all pedestrian deaths are on federally funded highways. One-third of children killed in traffic are struck by cars while walking or biking. Some timid or short-sighted parents may drive their children or keep them indoors because of those deaths — but that’s exactly what the children do not need if they’re to grow up healthy.

So, please reach out today to our members of Congress — both our senators and your House member — and let them know how much this matters to you and your families. The schedule for committee action is short, so don’t delay.

For the House committee’s report, click here.

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