I have a backlog of design related topics that I have been meaning to discuss here at Bicycle Design, but those posts are going to have to wait… at least one more day. This morning, I want to take a minute to mention the American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act, which was proposed yesterday in the US House of Representatives by Congressman John Mica of Florida. In his announcement, Mica said, “This bill will put Americans back to work rebuilding our roads and bridges and developing new sources of low cost energy.” OK, putting Americans back to work sounds good on the surface, but how does eliminating the already miniscule percentage of funding going toward bicycle and pedestrian projects further that goal? As US Secretary of Transportation Ray Lahood’s Fast Lane blog pointed out last year, “bicycle projects created nearly twice as many jobs per dollar spent than typical road projects.”
Highways and Transit Subcommittee Chairman John J. Duncan of Tennessee went on to say, “These jobs will also greatly improve highway safety. Highway fatalities have steadily declined in recent years, and the funding provided in this bill will work to continue improving safety.” Again, that may sound good as a soundbite, but he failed to mention the fact that, while car deaths have dropped, pedestrian and cycling fatalities have INCREASED in recent years. The press release states that this new bill does not contain any of the numerous “earmarks” that were found in SAFETEA-LU. I assume that Transportation Enhancements and Safe Routes to School, two programs that would both be eliminated under this bill, are two of the earmarks to which they are referring. If they really want to address the issue of wasteful spending, the House Highways and Transit Subcommittee should look at the indirect and hidden costs associated with our automobile centric system (the most heavily subsidized transportation system in the world). Ken Kifer, who was tragically killed by a drunk driver while cycling in 2003, wrote a great piece on his website discussing the true cost of automobile use. More recently, an article in the New York Times yesterday provided an economist’s perspective on the issue of traffic congestion. We are facing a transportation problem that cannot be solved by building more and more roads just for cars, but that is exactly what this new bill aims to do.
The League of American Bicyclists states that this bill would “reverse all the progress we have made in the past twenty years.” That is a bold statement, but not one that is off the mark. The Highways and Transit Subcommittee will vote on this bill tomorrow morning before a full House vote soon after, so it is very important that you voice your opinion today. The LAB, America Bikes, and Transportation for America all have links that you can use to contact your contact your Representative. Congressman Tom Petri of Wisconsin will offer an amendment that restores funding for Transportation Enhancements and Safe Routes to School programs, but it won’t pass without strong support from cyclists all across the country. Take a minute right now to let Congress know that you care about bicycle transportation. As the LAB mentioned in their call to action, this is as urgent as it gets!