Bicyclists are moving votes on key transportation amendments
Thanks, in part, to the powerful advocacy of bicyclists, members of Congress from both parties are speaking up for bicycling and walking. Bi-partisan amendments to improve the House and Senate transportation bills are being submitted in the both chambers of Congress. In the House, Representatives Tom Petri (R-WI), Timothy Johnson (R-IL), Steven LaTourette (R-OH), have teamed up with Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Dan Lipinski (D-Il), and Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) to offer a bi-partisan amendment to protect bicycling and walking funding, streamline project delivery, and increase local access to funds. In the Senate, the bi-partisan Cardin (D-MD)/Cochran (R-MI) Amendment, which would increase local decision-making, is gaining addition co-sponsors from both parties.
Ohio bicycling advocates meet with Congressman Steve LaTourette (R-OH) during the 2011 National Bike Summit
In Massachusetts, the state-wide advocacy organization MassBike has been working hard to line up Congressional support for bicycling and walking. For months, building on existing relationships, they have been in communication with their state’s Senators, John Kerry (D) and Scott Brown (R), to explain the challenges they face in the state and the need for policies like those contained in the Senate amendment. Massachusetts bicyclists have made dozens of phone calls and sent several hundred emails through the League’s system. Last week, both Senator Brown and Senator Kerry agreed to be co-sponsors. (Read more at MassBike.)
This is a testament to the power of bicycling & walking and the teamwork of the state’s bicycling advocates. “Our collaboration with other advocacy groups is what created the overwhelming groundswell of calls and emails reported by our Senators and Representatives,” said MassBike Executive Director David Watson. “Hearing personal stories from individual bikers and walkers generates a level of Congressional interest beyond what the advocates can achieve on their own.”
In meeting after meeting on the Hill, members of Congress tell us that they are hearing more from their constituents about the bicycling amendments than about any other transportation-related amendment. “Both the House and Senate transportation bills have been mired in amendments and concerns, but the work of the grassroots has really kept bicycle and pedestrian funding at the forefront. Almost every article about the transportation bill lists the changes to biking and walking funding as one of the top concerns,” says Caron Whitaker, Campaign Director for AmericaBikes. “We may be only 2% of the funding but at the moment we’re more than 2% of the bandwidth.”
So…what’s happening with the bills?
This week both the House and the Senate postponed votes on their bills until after next week’s recess: In the House, the delay is due to apparent lack of yea votes; in the Senate it is, in part, because of a host of amendments not related to transportation.
This means that lawmakers are in their home states. Now is a good time to schedule a visit to your members of Congress to make the case for bicycling and walking investments .