Today is what the National Bike Summit is all about. This morning, as you read this post, more than 800 people will ride bikes to Capitol Hill to carry the message that cycling is a simple, inexpensive solution to many of our nations’ problems.
Each year, the number of bicycling advocates who come to Washington for the Summit has grown. We have accomplished quite a bit simply by showing up. We don’t have a lot of money and a building full of hundreds of paid lobbyists like many of the other issue groups out there. We just participate in our democratic process. We carry our personal stories of how important bicycling is to our local communities and states to our elected representatives.
This year our “ask” is different for the representatives in the House and the Senate. If we are talking to a senator, we will thank them for supporting MAP-21, the two-year transportation bill the Senate drafted and approved with broad bi-partisan support about a week ago. In Wisconsin, Senator Kohl voted for it, but Senator Johnson voted against it. Johnson will get a lump of coal in his stocking at Christmas this year, and an earful in an effort to get him to understand that bicycling is a national transportation issue that provides a huge return on a very small investment.
It would be great, and theoretically possible, for the House to take up the Senate Bill and simply write a House number on it and pass it. They could do that by Friday and our nation would actually have a funded transportation bill for the first time in years. The last long-term surface transportation bill expired at the end of fiscal year 2009. We have been running on extensions of that bill since then.
So, when we are talking to a House member, where partisan politics have blocked a transportation bill, we need to tell our elected leaders to support a “clean extension” of the current (but long expired) transportation bill. A clean extension would continue to include funding for the three core bicycling (and walking) programs: Transportation Enhancements, Safe Routes to School, and the Recreational Trails Program. It is possible that they might pass an extension that does not include money for those key programs.
If the House actually returns to work on HR 7, their own version of a federal transportation bill, we will ask that they support the Petri Amendment, which gives states the right to use federal transportation funds on bicycling and walking, if they choose to do so.
Today the Wisconsin delegation to the Bike Summit has scheduled meetings with every office in the House and the Senate, so let us know in the comments below if you have a message or story you want us to tell your elected leader. And wish us luck as we dive into the partisan political morass.