Senate listens to bicycle activists in transportation bill

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Those of you who responded to the call from bicycle advocates to contact your US senators to support federal funding for bicycle programs should be pleased to know your efforts have paid off.

The Senate approved a two-year $109 billion Transportation bill today that, among other things, includes an “Additional Activities” fund that local governments can use for such local projects as bike lanes and trails.

The original version of the bill — MAP-21 — didn’t include any language that enabled local governments to access that fund. It would have been controlled at the state level.

Opposition leads to amendment

Bicycle and pedestrian advocacy groups such as the League of American Bicyclists, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy and the Alliance for Biking and Walking put out the word to oppose the Senate bill. They correctly argued that control over such projects should be at the local level.

After receiving thousands of emails, Senators Ben Cardin, D-Maryland, and Thad Cochran, R-Mississippi, created a bi-partisan amendment that allowed local governments to compete for grants from the “Additional Activities” funding.

The sweet thing about the amendment is that local governments that see a need for local safety projects can apply directly for a grant. Covered are local street safety improvements such as bike lanes, street and boulevard redesigns (greenways) bus stop and rail station access improvements, Safe Routes to Schools, recreational trails and more.

That amendment passed Friday, and the Democrat-controlled Senate passed the overall Transportation bill on Wednesday by a 72-44 margin, gaining 22 Republican votes in the process.

More details about the Senate transportation bill and the Cardin-Cochran amendment can be found at the Transportation for America blog.

Sidepath law remains

Unfortunately, the so-called sidepath law remains, although it is watered down, the League of American Bicyclists reports.

Originally, the Senate bill prohibited bicyclists from riding on roads in federal lands with a speed limit of 30 mph or greater if an adjacent path was available within 100 yards. That sets a dangerous precedent, but a few bicycle-friendly Senators were unable to get it removed.

It did get watered down, however. The new clause reads:

“The Secretary of the appropriate Federal land management agency shall prohibit the use of bicycles on each federally owned road that has a speed limit of 30 miles per hour or greater and an adjacent paved path for use by bicycles within 100 yards of the road unless the Secretary determines that the bicycle level of service on that roadway is rated B or higher.”

Those “level of service” guidelines are so complex that perhaps the agency secretaries will just throw up their hands and let bicyclists use the road.

Congress is next

The defective House of Representatives has been unable to bring its transportation bill up for a vote. The 5-year, $260 billion bill also was opposed by biking and walking advocates after an amendment failed that would have funded bicycle projects.

According to McClatchy news service:

“House Speaker John Boehner has since stumbled in his efforts to rally Republicans, prompting speculation that the House might simply take up the Senate version.”

Advocates have been busy raising grassroots support for the amendments that sought to fix the Senate and House versions of the deficient transportation bills. The League of American Bicyclists estimates that its “action alerts” resulted in 50,000 emails flooding Congressmen’s and Senators’ offices on Capitol Hill.

Read more here:

Here’s the Senate vote:

Akaka (D-HI), Yea
Alexander (R-TN), Yea
Ayotte (R-NH), Nay
Barrasso (R-WY), Nay
Baucus (D-MT), Yea
Begich (D-AK), Yea
Bennet (D-CO), Yea
Bingaman (D-NM), Yea
Blumenthal (D-CT), Yea
Blunt (R-MO), Yea
Boozman (R-AR), Yea
Boxer (D-CA), Yea
Brown (D-OH), Yea
Brown (R-MA), Yea
Burr (R-NC), Nay
Cantwell (D-WA), Yea
Cardin (D-MD), Yea
Carper (D-DE), Yea
Casey (D-PA), Yea
Chambliss (R-GA), Yea
Coats (R-IN), Nay
Coburn (R-OK), Nay
Cochran (R-MS), Yea
Collins (R-ME), Yea
Conrad (D-ND), Yea
Coons (D-DE), Yea
Corker (R-TN), Nay
Cornyn (R-TX), Nay
Crapo (R-ID), Not Voting
DeMint (R-SC), Nay
Durbin (D-IL), Yea
Enzi (R-WY), Nay
Feinstein (D-CA), Yea
Franken (D-MN), Yea
Gillibrand (D-NY), Yea
Graham (R-SC), Nay
Grassley (R-IA), Yea
Hagan (D-NC), Yea
Harkin (D-IA), Yea
Hatch (R-UT), Not Voting
Heller (R-NV), Yea
Hoeven (R-ND), Yea
Hutchison (R-TX), Yea
Inhofe (R-OK), Yea
Inouye (D-HI), Yea
Isakson (R-GA), Yea
Johanns (R-NE), Nay
Johnson (D-SD), Yea
Johnson (R-WI), Nay
Kerry (D-MA), Yea
Kirk (R-IL), Not Voting
Klobuchar (D-MN), Yea
Kohl (D-WI), Yea
Kyl (R-AZ), Nay
Landrieu (D-LA), Yea
Lautenberg (D-NJ), Not Voting
Leahy (D-VT), Yea
Lee (R-UT), Nay
Levin (D-MI), Yea
Lieberman (ID-CT), Yea
Lugar (R-IN), Nay
Manchin (D-WV), Yea
McCain (R-AZ), Nay
McCaskill (D-MO), Yea
McConnell (R-KY), Nay
Menendez (D-NJ), Yea
Merkley (D-OR), Yea
Mikulski (D-MD), Yea
Moran (R-KS), Yea
Murkowski (R-AK), Yea
Murray (D-WA), Yea
Nelson (D-FL), Yea
Nelson (D-NE), Yea
Paul (R-KY), Nay
Portman (R-OH), Nay
Pryor (D-AR), Yea
Reed (D-RI), Yea
Reid (D-NV), Yea
Risch (R-ID), Nay
Roberts (R-KS), Yea
Rockefeller (D-WV), Yea
Rubio (R-FL), Nay
Sanders (I-VT), Yea
Schumer (D-NY), Yea
Sessions (R-AL), Yea
Shaheen (D-NH), Yea
Shelby (R-AL), Yea
Snowe (R-ME), Yea
Stabenow (D-MI), Yea
Tester (D-MT), Yea
Thune (R-SD), Yea
Toomey (R-PA), Nay
Udall (D-CO), Yea
Udall (D-NM), Yea
Vitter (R-LA), Yea
Warner (D-VA), Yea
Webb (D-VA), Yea
Whitehouse (D-RI), Yea
Wicker (R-MS), Yea
Wyden (D-OR), Yea

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