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Congress Swings Back into Action – Boxer, Cardin Support Cyclists

The nation’s capital was hit with both a major snowstorm and a return to Congressional action this week – with the transportation bill and future funding issues for once making more progress than the car commuters stuck in  Wednesday’s heavy snow!

On Wednesday, a Senate hearing on the transportation bill included a revealing exchange, reported by StreetsBlog DC, between Senators Inhofe, Boxer and Cardin, and witnesses from the construction industry who seem unaware that their members also build bike and pedestrian infrastructure. Inhofe (R-OK) appeared to ask for help in getting Republican support for a transportation bill that includes funding for transportation enhancements – which prompted witnesses from the National Construction Alliance and Associated General Contractors to express surprise that this even existed! Odd, given that the program has been popular and thriving for the last 20 years and their members have, presumably, been the primary beneficiaries of the investments that have gone to such community-building transportation projects such as trails, sidewalks, and bike lanes.

While no fellow Republicans leaped immediately to the defense of the program, long-time cycling supporter Senator Cardin (D-MD) certainly did, and he was joined by Senator Boxer (D-CA) who noted that many of her constituents consider cycling and walking to be transportation. Given her role as Chair of the Environment and Public Works Committee, this was good news.

Commuters on a Transportation Enhancement project in Denver. Source: NTEC

Commuters on a Transportation Enhancement project in Denver. Source: NTEC

Attention shifted to the House on Thursday. Representative John Mica (R-FL), chair of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, announced a series of dates and locations for field hearings on the next transportation bill. While there are a lot more details to come, we know for sure that its going to be important for our issues – i.e. continued investment in bicycling and walking transportation measures – to be raised at these hearings, and for those attending to know that there is a lot of public, business and public agency support for the programs that support these activities.

Concurrent with all this is an ongoing and slightly byzantine budget and appropriations process that will impact overall funding levels for transportation in the short term, and set the scene for longer-term transportation funding and policy. The America Bikes coalition – of which the League is obviously a part – is staying on top of all this, but it is a fast-moving and slightly bewildering process to try and follow from a distance. In the next month, there are probably going to be some action alerts and quick responses that are needed from cyclists around the country; we are continuing to encourage folks to meet with their members of Congress in their districts at this critical time – especially new members and new appointments to key committees. And we are looking forward to seeing many of you in Washington for the National Bike Summit in just a few weeks – where perhaps we can take stock of this current flurry of activity. It’s a lot to ask of state and local advocacy groups and individuals at a busy time for all of us – state legislatures are also back in session around the country and a lot of city and county agencies are struggling with difficult budget decisions at the same time – but all we can say is that we appreciate anything you can do to help amke the case for bicycling during this time…and this isn’t a drill, folks. The next month or so really is pretty crucial.

Which makes it really nice to have the support of key members of Congress like Senators Boxer and Cardin.

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