Is 2010 the Year for Federal Bike Aid? The Answer: A Big ‘Maybe’

This week’s National Bike Summit culminated in an ambitious new campaign to recruit a million bike advocates and the unveiling of a new Google Maps bike feature. But in a Wednesday session dedicated to the outlook for federal bike investments, cycling advocates hesitated to declare that they could secure new commitments from Washington.

profile190.jpgRep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), founder of the Congressional Bike Caucus. (Photo: NYT)

"If Congress is going to act" on a new long-term transportation bill, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy president Keith Laughlin said, "it’s definitely going to be our year. If we are ready."

Laughlin’s phrasing was aimed at stoking cyclists’ appetite for lobbying Congress in favor of pro-bike legislation, such as Rep. Earl Blumenauer’s Active Community Transportation Act. But his caution also reflected the ongoing uncertainty surrounding how lawmakers plan to pay for a new long-term infrastructure bill expected to cost at least $450 billion.

Even if bipartisan support can bring the White House on board for a new bill this year, it remains to be seen whether bike advocates can secure the $2 billion in competitive federal grants that Blumenauer has proposed.

Tyler Frisbee, an aide to the Portland lawmaker who spoke to the Summit on her personal time, was careful to praise House transportation committee chairman Jim Oberstar (D-MN) as a friend of bicyclists. But Oberstar’s transport legislation, Frisbee said, is "not the bill we want for another eight years … cycling will be light years behind Europe [if it passes]."

Frisbee warned fellow bike advocates that Oberstar views the Blumenauer bill as an expansion of the Non-Motorized Pilot Program that directed $25 million to four trail projects in the 2005 transportation law. Describing her boss’ legislation as separate from that spending, Frisbee said a Senate version would be introduced soon by Oregon Democrat Jeff Merkley.

Despite the hazy outlook for congressional action on transportation reform, Rails-to-Trails is continuing to push ahead with its long-term agenda. Laughlin said the group’s 10-year goal is to help pay for bike trails within three miles of 90 percent of American residences, while doubling existing federal bike spending to $9 billion over six years.

"If the bill comes up for a vote, we have a fighting chance, but to win" requires sustained and increased focus on grassroots lobbying of lawmakers, he said.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

Streetfilms: Blumenauer Bikes New York City

|
Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) is one of Capitol Hill’s strongest voices for walking, biking and transit. Soon after arriving in Congress in 1996, he started the Congressional Bike Caucus, now more than 160 members strong, and he’s the founding chairman of the House’s new "Livable Communities Task Force," which he announced two weeks ago here […]

Cities for Cycling Launches With Blumenauer, Sadik-Khan, Byrne

|
Addressing a packed house in Washington last night, Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), founder of the Congressional Bike Caucus, posed a Zen-like ‘universalist cyclist question’. (Photo: Cities for Cycling) "How many people, right now," he asked, "are stuck in traffic on their way to ride a stationary bike in a health club?" The quip got a […]

Earl Blumenauer Kicks Off 2008 Bike Summit

|
Congressman Blumenauer works the room Streetsblog’s Ben Fried files this report from Washington, DC.  The National Bike Summit is in full swing today. There are more than 500 participants from 47 states on hand this year, organizers say, making this bike summit the biggest yet. Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), a bike commuter himself, kicked things […]

Obama: I’ll Boost Funds for Bike-Ped Projects If Elected

|
Barack Obama riding with his family last week. Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama addressed bicycle advocates and industry leaders at a Chicago fundraiser on Thursday, lending more weight to the pro-bike comments he delivered in Portland, Oregon last month. Industry mag Bicycle Retailer has the scoop: Barack Obama, in a private 20-minute meeting with […]

$2 Billion for Bicycling in Stimulus Package?

|
Earl Blumenauer. Photo: New York Times The most tantalizing tidbit in today’s Times profile of Earl Blumenauer comes from fellow cycling Congressman James Oberstar: With an eye on the potential stimulus package, cycling advocates "have compiled a list of $2 billion of projects that can be under construction in 90 days," Mr. Oberstar said, adding […]

Blumenauer Introduces a Tax Break for Bike-Share Commuters

|
If you drive to work, the feds will subsidize that. But if a Citi Bike (New York), or a Divvy bike (Chicago), or CoGo (Columbus, Ohio) is your ride to work, no such luck. But that could change. Michael Andersen at Bike Portland reports that Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon) has introduced legislation that would establish tax incentives […]