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Advocacy Director Walter Finch on the transportation bill and his 50 mile commute
In celebration of May as National Bike Month, we are asking League staff members why they ride and how they make the most of Bike Month.
Next up is Advocacy Director Walter P. Finch.
Walt on Capitol Hill
Hi Walt, how are you celebrating Bike Month?
I will take the opportunity to participate in Bike to Work Day on Friday, May 20 and do my 52 mile round trip commute.
What’s your favorite Bike Month memory?
This year is my 6th Bike Month at the League and each year I have been impressed with the participation from folks in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan region, which includes Maryland and Virginia, even in inclement weather as we have had a few of those.
Probably my favorite bike to work day memory was two years ago when I had the opportunity to join a group of Capitol Hill staffers, several Congressional Members and the Mayor for a ride up Pennsylvania Avenue on the then yet-to-open bike lanes. It was quite exhilarating to take in the view as we rode up one of the world’s most recognized streets.
OK, give us the inside scoop. What’s really happening with the transportation bill?
Well now, that is the sixty-four thousand dollar question, isn’t it? It seems the answer changes on a daily basis depending on whom you speak with on the Hill. On the House side, the latest we are hearing is that Representative Mica (R-FL), who chairs the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee (T&I) wants to complete the Federal Aviation Authorization first before taking up the surface transportation bill. The goal is to complete FAA by the end of May, which would delay surface transportation until later in June. Completing FAA by the end of May is certainly a huge hurdle and we expect that deadline to slip into June.
On the Senate side, we understand the Committee with jurisdiction, the Environment and Public Works Committee is meeting to hash out the “principles” and major decisions for the surface transportation bill. We have not heard of a timeframe for introduction on the Senate side, but typically, the House introduces first so we would expect that to be the case this time.
I think the reality is that the further we get into the year the less likely we are to see a long- term reauthorization. We do have to remain vigilant however to ensure that any short-term extensions or variations do not include negatively impact bicycling and walking programs such as Transportation Enhancements, Safe Routes to Schools and the Recreational Trails Program.
Can you share with us an experience you had on Capitol Hill this year that encouraged you? Talk a little about the challenges you’re seeing, as well.
I think this year, as in the past years, the Thursday Congressional Reception get-together after the National Bike Summit is always the most encouraging day on the Hill. Year after year, the energy level grows, not just from the Summit attendees, but also from Congressional Members and staffers that are visited by the Summit attendees.
The major challenge we continue to face is that bicycling in still not viewed as a mainstream viable transportation option that should be part of our nation’s transportation policy. The fact that some Members of Congress rise on the floor of the House or Senate to say that funding for bicycle projects is a waste of money is quite frustrating.
When and why do you ride your bike?
My goal is to ride a few nights a week and on weekends primarily to workout. When time allows I also ride with my wife and son on weekends. We will bring our bikes into D.C. to ride around the city or we will hop on the Baltimore and Annapolis trail at some point, ride into Annapolis and spend the day.
During the workday, I sometimes use the Capital Bike Share system to go to meetings. Great system.
What tips do you have for new bike commuters?
As they say at Nike “Just do it”. Enjoy the fact that you have the option to commute by bike. If you are just thinking about starting to commute by bike, take the opportunity this month, during bike month to participate in bike to work days to explore the various routes you might be able to take to work and meet others that are commuting to work. The League has many great resources online as well, that can provide tips and suggestions on how to get started.
What do you know now that you wish you knew before you started to ride frequently?
That there are so many resources for bicyclists from learning the safe and proper way to ride, to tips on how to pick the bike that fits you best, to finding where to ride.
What do you typically wear to ride?
I typically ride to work out so I usually just wear shorts, t-shirt, sunglasses, and helmet. For the bike share trips, I wear business attire.