With a good map, you can get just about anywhere—to work on a buffered bike lane, from Puget Sound to Long Island Sound, or from now to a time (soon?) where biking is easy, connected, safe and convenient.
But with a bad map? Or a really, really bad map?
That’s the kind of map that the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works committee just threw down on the table. And I’m certain that it’s not going to get any of us anywhere. In short, it turns back the clock 20 years on the progress we’ve made in getting dedicated funding for bicycling.
Dubbed “MAP-21,” it’s a draft of the new transportation bill that we’ve been waiting for over two years since the last bill (“SAFETEA-LU“– what’s up with these acronyms?) first expired in September, 2009. Since then, Congress has passed a series of extensions that’s kept our transportation system’s doors open. We’ve fended off attacks on bike funding along the way, recently from both Senator John McCain (R-AZ) and Senator Rand Paul (R-KY). As a coalition of national partners, we sent well over 50,000 emails in 24 hours to members of congress and have kept bicycling alive and funded.
Our hope has never been in the House. Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chair John Mica (R-FL) has been clear about his intentions to gut funding for biking since day 1. “The focus of the bill is on the national highway system,” Mica replied when asked about biking and walking.
So that left us with the Senate. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), one of the “Big Four” (along with Inhofe, Vitter and Baucus), has been our hope in preserving dedicated funding for bicycling. But for some reason or another (have negotiations with Inhofe eroded Boxer’s promise to preserve bike funding?), they’ve taken a devastating first step.
What does MAP-21 do? Three zingers. The draft Senate bill:
1. Offers far less money for biking (and walking)
2. Adds a pile of new categories eligible for this smaller pot of funding
3. Allows an opt out option that many states will likely take
With MAP-21, some states might just cease spending any money on bicycling and walking! Remember the rescissions issue? States could simply send back those millions of dollars that could be building safe, connecting bicycle infrastructure.
What can we do? At this point, our Senators Murray and Cantwell are aware of the threat and have been long-time supporters of our goals. This week the Environment and Public Works Committee is marking up the bill. With the federal budget and “super-committee” getting all of the attention in D.C. right now, we don’t expect things will really get rolling until the end of the year—and maybe until March (when the current extension expires).
But stay at the ready. We’ll be sure to call on you to help us protect federal funding for bicycling. You don’t need a map to know that D.C. feels far away. But these decisions dramatically impact what we can do at a local and regional level to fund and build infrastructure so that bicycling is safer, convenient and connected for everyone. And that is one thing we need a really good map for.