The League of American Bicyclists is convening some 800 bike advocates in Washington DC beginning Tuesday to “Save Cycling.”
That’s a fine theme for the 2012 National Bicycle Summit, as expressed at right in a League promo from September.
A more accurate theme, but less catchy, could be “Save Funding for Bicycle and Pedestrian Infrastructure.”
No one is threatening to take away our bicycles, but federal funding to make travel safer for bicyclists is at risk.
Federal funding pays millions of dollars for bike lanes, bike paths, greenway upgrades and other bicycling improvements every year. A League factsheet, for instance, reports $14 million a year goes to bicycling and pedestrian projects annually in the state of Washington.
Early versions of multi-year transportation funding bills in the House and Senate, however, pretty much ignored funding for alternative transportation, such as bicycling and walking.
Thanks to the overwhelming response to an email campaign, the Senate bill was changed to allow local governments to compete for federal grants for bike and pedestrian projects. This gives cities a chance to fund bicycling safety projects.
Reaction to the House bill was so negative — and the House is so dysfunctional — that congressional leaders pulled the bill back and may agree to the Senate version. The two versions are compared at DCStreetsBlog.
The threats don’t stop at funding, however. A “sidepath law” in the Senate transportation bill gives public lands administrators the ability to ban bicycling from some roads if a paved sidepath is available within 100 yards.
Although this latest version was watered down, it still gags bicyclists who have earned a right to the road. Advocates will try to get it removed in future versions of the transportation bill.
Meetings at this year’s summit run Tuesday and Wednesday, and the bike supporters from 49 states will flood the halls of Congress and buttonhole their representatives on Thursday. There’s also an all-day workshop on bikeshare that day.
Among the speakers are Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, US Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon), and other congressmen in a bi-partisan panel.
The summit ends with a 2-hour bike ride around Washington DC on Friday morning.
Then everyone returns home with renewed energy to fight the good fight for cycling. Here in Washington state, expect more action from the Bicycle Alliance of Washington and the Cascade Bicycle Club, which are on the front lines for us everyday.