National Bike Summit Day Two: Wassup

Despite the crazy news coming out of here these days, the sun does continue to rise every morning.

The sunrise serves as a reminder that our government continues to serve an important role in our daily lives, so participating in our democratic process still has value. The National Bike Summit is the one time each year you hear the word “bicycle” in every office around Capitol Hill.

Some advocates here have suggested that between the legislative gridlock, majority party objections to federal funding for bicycling, and the red tape local communities face trying to get federal funds for bicycle projects, we should give up on Washington and work only at the state or local level.  But while it is true that biking and walking only get about 1% of the federal transportation funding pie, it is 1% of a pretty big pie.

President Trump has promised a $1 trillion infrastructure bill to shore up our nation’s crumbling roads and bridges and bring jobs to our unemployed or underemployed. So at our sessions Tuesday, the League of American Bicyclists policy strategists have suggested that we citizen advocates from across the country ask our elected representatives and senators to make sure those funds can be used for bicycling and walking too.

This is a pretty vague ask, since the Trump has not yet introduced such a bill. Back in January, the Senate Democrats did unveil a $1 trillion bill, that includes $210 billion for roads and bridges, as well as $180 billion for rail and bus programs and $110 billion for sewer and water. Another $10 billion would go for VA refurbishing and $75 billion for school infrastructure.bishing and $75 billion for school infrastructure.

But since we don’t have a budget yet, that bill doesn’t really have any legs. We will have to wait until the Republicans or the President introduce something to know what we are talking about.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell response was “I don’t think we ought to borrow almost a trillion dollars and plus up a bunch of federal accounts, incur a lot of additional debt, and don’t build any projects to speak of. So, I can tell you what I’m against is a replication of the Obama stimulus package in 2009,” McConnell said.

Trump’s team says their plan, which gives few details, would be deficit neutral, but economists have come out saying that it would not.

Bike projects result in more jobs than other infrastructure projects. Click the image to read the full background paper prepared for us by the League.

Ah, politics, you have to love it (or not). Anyway, our goal is to tell our elected representatives that we want them to give the states and local communities the flexibility to use some of the money in any infrastructure bill to improve infrastructure for walking and bicycling. One fact on our side is that a federal study commissioned by AASHTO (The American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials) showed infrastructure projects for bicycling and walking produce more jobs than similar road projects. Specifically, for every $1 million spent, bike/ped projects produce 17 FTE jobs, compared to 12.5 for pavement widening and new highway construction, 11.6 for bridges, and 9 for regular pavement improvement projects.

You can see the background behind our ask, that study, and polls that show how more people than ever before want better bikeways in this PDF backgrounder prepared by the LAB.

Today, we are all off to meetings with our senators and representatives to make that ask. It seems a bit unreal, but the results of this game have very real consequences. Fingers crossed, off we go…

 

 

About Dave Schlabowske, Deputy Director

Dave was the first full-time staff member hired to open the Bike Fed's Milwaukee office 15 years ago. A former professional photographer and life-long Milwaukee resident, Dave likes wool, long rides, sour beer, and a good polar vortex once in a while.

3 thoughts on “National Bike Summit Day Two: Wassup

  1. I watched an interview with Trump’s Transportation Secretary. She touted their plans to attract foreign investment in toll bridges and roads that would return the profits to their investors. (She did correct herself and say she didn’t mean to say foreign, but followed that up with a call to bring money into the US for these projects. I’m not sure how that changed anything.)

    • While we had relatively good meetings, as a reality check, I can tell you that my sources at Federal Highway Administration tell me the administration has not asked for any specific suggestions about infrastructure projects. I have also heard members of the House who represent primarily rural areas responded that private investment would never happen in their districts. Both those things mean we are unlikely to see an infrastructure bill anytime soon. Honestly, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 was a really successful model for an infrastructure stimulus package, but many conservative Republicans didn’t like it on ideological grounds.

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