Bike-partisanship in Sacramento?

One of the mysteries of modern bicycle advocacy in the United States is the partisan divide about promoting bicycling. Bicycling is good for our economy and our nation’s energy independence. It does not require big government; to the contrary, bicycling investments are the most cost-effective. Yet, in many American legislatures, Democrats are pro-bike while Republicans are reliably opposed. That’s the case in Sacramento and in the U.S. Congress, until last week, when the League of American Bicyclists defeated a huge threat to bicycling with substantial Republican support.

On June 9, the House of Representatives voted down a proposal to eliminate funding for projects that make new transit systems safer and more accessible for bicyclists and pedestrians. The ability for transit agencies to use federal funding to pay for bike racks and storage facilities, racks on buses, and bike lanes leading to the stations is an important tool to increase transit ridership and a key source of funding for bicycling improvements.

Thanks to the League’s organizing, with assistance from local organizations around the country, especially BikeTexas, 32 Republicans voted against the amendment, killing it by just two votes. It was a rare example of “bike-partisanship” overcoming the two-party divide in this country, and it bodes well for the future of federal legislation affecting bicycling.

California is not immune to this partisan divide on bicycling. The Three Feet for Safety Act passed on a purely partisan vote, for example. However, there is precedent for bike-partisan consensus in California: one of the California Bicycle Coalition’s most important early victories, a 1997 increase in the Bicycle Transportation Account, was authored by Republican Assemblymember Brooks Firestone. And this year, we have seen a return of bike-partisanship. Our bills to prevent tolls for biking and walking across state bridges and to permit bicyclists to avoid a traffic fine by taking an education class both passed with bipartisan support. Anthony Cannella, a Republican Senator from the Central Valley, proposes increasing the fines for traffic violations around schools and directing the funds to the Active Transportation Program. These and other examples show that thanks to support from Californians of all parties, we’re building a true bike-partisan movement!