February 3, 2012
Do you know that gut-wrenching feeling when your bike has been stolen off the street? You left it there a few minutes ago and, coming back, it's gone, the lock clipped, your heart sinking fast? That's the way I felt yesterday when the transportation committee of the U.S. House of Representatives voted by just two votes to keep biking and walking programs out of the next long-term transportation bill. I felt like my trusted transportation option had vanished.
It was stunning to see this important committee eliminate a modest, effective investment in programs that help more kids walk and bike to school, reduce congestion on our roads, decrease energy consumption and carbon emissions, and contribute to a better quality of life in American communities.
Now of course, there is more legislative process to come. The full House has to act (and the current bill is already drawing a lot of opposition from a wide array of interests). Senate committees still need to act and the future of the bill is uncertain in that chamber.
Nevertheless, yesterday's vote delivered the same sharp kick to the gut that you feel when your bike has been taken from you. In the next few weeks, cyclists and anyone who cares about investing in good, clean transportation and recreation will have to convert that pain into an energetic campaign to restore national bike/walk programs for America's future. We'll keep you posted.
P.S. Let me end on a slightly positive note. Huge credit is due to the bipartisan group of Representatives who led the fight in committee to keep bike/walk programs. They are Republican Representatives Tom Petri, Tim Johnson, and Frank LoBiondo, and Democratic Representatives Nick Rahall, Peter DeFazio, and Dan Lipinski. If you know them, please send them a heartfelt thanks.