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Inspiring moments amid ugly legislative “sausage-making”

“Laws are like sausages,” said Otto von Bismarck, “It is better not to see them being made.” Yesterday, Barbara Boxer, chair of Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said about the transportation bill, “Everybody who says it’s like making sausage, it’s a lot uglier than that.”

To be sure, there has been plenty during the recent debate over the re-authorization of the surface transportation bill to make a sane person crazy: a formerly bi-partisan issue has become at times bitterly partisan; there has been delay after delay since the previous law, known as SAFETEA-LU expired in September, 2009; there is no consensus on how to pay for our nation’s transportation infrastructure; there’s been a string of short-sighted attacks on bicycling and walking, transit, and other investments that help us travel more safely, more cleanly, and, often, more happily.

But there have been many truly inspiring moments as well.

Bicyclists have really stepped up. At all levels – in local communities, in states, and nationally, and at universities and businesses across the country – we have seen a tremendous outpouring of energy. It has come from a wide range of people interested in promoting cycling, including transportation experts, health advocates, safety advocates, bicycling buffs, and even those concerned about the military preparedness of our young people.

In the past month alone, people using the League’s advocacy tool have sent 50,000 messages to their members of Congress in support of bicycling and walking in the transportation bill. Over 14,000 individuals signed our petition to protect cyclists’ right to the road in response to a mandatory side-path clause in the current version of the Senate bill. State and local advocacy organizations have done really impressive outreach in their districts and states, mobilizing countless more cyclists through custom alerts. And local leaders, like mayors, business owners, and university officials, have been making critical calls to their elected officials to explain how important bicycling and walking are to our communities. We are now asking people to start setting up in-district meetings with their representatives when Congress is on recess next week.

“We’ve proved that we can turn out a really good volume, a high number, of emails and calls,” says League President Andy Clarke. “What sets us apart is this unique blend of individual bicyclists, bike shop owners, suppliers, and businesses that get the fact that federal investments in bicycling are important to them. It’s not just a special interest – it’s a public interest issue.”

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