Trailnet staff recently attended the National Bike Summit in Washington, D.C., hosted by the League of American Bicyclists. This event was attended by upwards of 700 bicycle enthusiasts from around the U.S. (and Canada), ranging from advocacy organizations similar to Trailnet, bicycle retail owners, lobbyists, academics, and people who love biking. The theme of the conference was “Acting on a Simple Solution.” This simple solution, bikes, can help to solve lots of America’s problems, whether it is health, economic, or environmental.
This simple solution also coincided with our simple ask to the 112th Congress: don’t cut bicycle/pedestrian funding. Currently, the 112th Congress is going through major budget cuts and bicycle/pedestrian funding, along with all funding, is in jeopardy. Therefore the group ask, by National Bike Summit representatives from all states, was simply to not cut bicycle/pedestrian funding. In previous years, this ask is usually to increase funding, but since all funding is at stake, we just want to make sure our funding is safe.
Bicycle/pedestrian funding, which comes out of transportation funding, only makes up .03% of the budget. This low-cost solution is crucial to provide transportation opportunities with the added benefits of helping the environment, health, and economy. Since 2001, the federal investment in bicycle infrastructure has spurred a 25 percent increase in ridership. Bicycle commuting has increased even more—44% nationwide since 2000, and more than 70% in bicycle-friendly communities with the largest investment.* Bicycle projects also create more jobs than road projects, with 14.4 jobs created per $1 million investment for bike lanes compared to only 6.8 jobs per $1 million investment for road resurfacing.** With these facts in hand, we made a strong case for our ask.
The Missouri contingent met with Senator Claire McCaskill (pictured above) to discuss our agenda. Senator McCaskill bluntly explained to us the debt situation that America is facing, and that no funding is guaranteed. When discussing with her the benefits associated with bicycle/pedestrian infrastructure, she understood our case, but explained that trimming the budget was her priority. Our discussion with Senator Roy Blunt went similarly. He was interested to learn why bicycle/pedestrian funding is important, but his priority was to cut the overall budget, but not specifically bicycle/pedestrian funding.
When meeting with St. Louis area Congressional Representatives Clay, Carnahan, Akin, and Luetkemeyer, our discussion was more optimistic. Our Representatives (and in some cases, their Legislative Assistants) were proud to represent Districts where Trailnet was implementing rides, events, the Safe Routes to School program, Healthy, Active, and Vibrant Communities program, Bike/Walk Masterplans, and Bike-to-Work Day activities. We helped our Congressional Representatives to understand the link between bicycle/pedestrian infrastructure and improving the health and economic well-being of their constituents. While not all Representatives were willing to sponsor a bill, they were all interested and wanted to learn more about how they can help.
After returning from Washington, D.C., the job is now in our hands to continue advocating for funding for bicycle and pedestrian projects. It’s up to you to contact your Congress member to explain how important bicycle/pedestrian funding is to you, your family, and your community. Visit the League of American Bicyclists for a variety of resources related to bike advocacy. Visit the following website to find your district and the contact information for your Congressional representative:
*Source: National Household Travel Survey: American Community Survey, US Census
**Garrett-Peltier, Heidi, Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.