Written by Andy
Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC), chair of the Senate Steering Committee, has proposed an amendment to the stimulus bill that would prohibit any funding of bicycle infrastructure from this bill. He was supported by Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) who is known for his opposition to bicycle lanes and paths.
|"When people see bike trails and hiking trails and golf courses, they know this is not designed to stimulate the economy and create jobs. It’s just basically special-interest pork barrel spending."|
Blumenauer rebuts DeMint's statement with this:
|"Republican amendments and assertions that the creation of hike and bike trails in the recovery plan will not create jobs or stimulate the economy shows us just short-sighted and out of touch they are. Investment in bike paths will not only improve our economy, and take our country in the right direction for our future; it is precisely the kind of investment the American people want. American families have indicated time and again in the passage of bond measures across the country that they favor spending on alternative transportation, such as bicycles and mass transit, over spending on more highway capacity. Americans want a real solution to the economic crisis, not just a band-aid fix. These investments will stimulate the economy in the present and point our nation toward the economic and environmental realities of the future."|
Here is what it means to Americans: While about 16 million of 330 million Americans use bikes, and even fewer of those use them regularly for commuting or errands, bikes are a viable form of transportation that is quickly gaining support in many major cities. Surely spending a million dollars on a bike lane in a rural area is not a smart investment, but creating a network of livable streets in urban environments is. Currently, the stimulus bill has a lot of funding for highways, which has few restrictions and may go towards building and expanding highways. Fixing our existing infrastructure is a good idea, but that doesn't mean adding more lanes or more routes for cars, it means fixing old bridges and repairing roads that desperately need it.
President Obama and his administration have made a strong commitment to finding solutions for climate change, reducing our use of non-renewable resources, and improving Americans' health. Any attempt to improve our population centers to accommodate public transit, pedestrians, and cyclists is a good step towards those solutions. We need to prepare our economy and way of life for a sustainable future, and highway expansion or restricting bicycle infrastructure is a major step in the wrong direction.
In the past year, we saw gas prices over $4 a gallon across most of the country. Car sales plummeted 30% and America's major car manufacturers are in dire trouble just trying to stay afloat in this economy and even overseas manufacturers like Toyota are now struggling. Many transit programs saw major increases in ridership this past summer, but still lack the proper funding to expand service. Bicycle infrastructure is the cheapest, most effective way to get people around without causing environmental harm. To think that this is somehow a detriment to creating jobs or helping our economy is just an ignorant excuse for wanting to get around in cars more. But we need to face the facts: Personal vehicles, for single-occupant use, will one day be a thing of the past. Gas prices will go up, fewer people will drive as more take buses, trains, and live closer to work to walk and bike for their commutes, and infrastructure costs for maintaining this enormous highway system will overwhelm the economy. Let's make good decisions now before we waste billions finding out that more highways doesn't help our economy.