With Republicans in charge as Congress considers the next six years of federal transportation funding, this year’s National Bike Summit and Women’s Forum took on a new urgency. From Tuesday to Thursday last week, approximately 50 delegates from California met to share best practices in bicycle advocacy, emphasizing the importance of equity and inclusion, and meet with Representatives and Senators to highlight the importance of federal support of bicycling in our communities. And we are on the verge of a hugely important win.
In previous years, Summit meetings had a decidedly partisan feel, with Republicans generally opposed to federal support bicycling and Democrats generally in support. This year, with one party in charge, the Summit presented the huge opportunity to overcome the partisan divide in bicycle politics. There’s no reason Republicans shouldn’t support more bicycling, and in fact, Republican mayors usually do. California delegates delivered letters from mayors across the country, and made the case that bicycling is good for our economy, good for health, and that local (smaller) governments should have as much control as possible over transportation spending. These in-person meetings were convincing, we hope, as surveys indicate that such meetings are the most effective ways to get your point across to a Congressional representative.
If the current Congress can be convinced that bicycling is key to our national interests, we will have overcome the partisan divide that has hindered the improvement of bicycling in communities throughout the country.
The stakes are high, because a faction in Congress wants to set us back 25 years when federal transportation dollars were restricted to the highways. President George Bush overturned that rule in 1991 when he signed the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act to allow federal money to be spent where states thought it was needed most, not necessarily only on highways. California needs the flexibility that current transportation bills provide because we will use that flexibility to fund transit, pedestrian and bicycling improvements. That debate will continue for months and we will keep you informed