It could be that Speaker John Boehner never read the story of Pinocchio, or maybe a life in politics has taught him that if you repeat an untruth often enough, a significant percentage of the population will believe it. A case in point is a post on the Speaker’s blog over the weekend that included this interesting, but patently false, statement:
“- Reforms passed by the Ways & Means Committee today will stop taxpayer dollars from being siphoned off for non-economic projects – such as beautification and bike paths – which currently receive 25 percent of Highway Trust Fund expenditures”
Wow, that is a doozy. Bohener calls bicycling wasteful beautification so often, it could be a drinking game. But seriously, the post is referring to the $260 billion House transportation bill that strips dedicated funding from the Transportation Enhancements and Safe Routes to School programs. Most cities in the US would look a lot more like Copenhagen or Amsterdam if we were spending 25% of our transportation budget on bicycle and pedestrian “beautification” projects. In fact, we spend less than 2% on bicycling and walking, even though they make up 12% of all trips and account for 14% of all fatal crashes.
Even if you are a real budget hawk, cutting that 1.6% for bicycle and pedestrian projects and adding billions to widen highways is not going to get you very far towards reducing our federal deficient. If you are interested in restoring the Highway Trust Fund to financial solvency, you can’t be happy with the House bill’s drilling-to-drive fantasy funding plan the leaves about a $60 billion dollar gap in revenue.
The bottom line is that bicycling and walking ARE incredibly inexpensive modes transportation, not wasteful “beautification.” Bicycling is a cheap date. A very small investment in bicycling has a relatively huge return in terms of providing jobs, decreasing our healthcare costs, reducing our dependance on foreign oil, creating more livable communities and reducing congestion without expanding our highways.
The full House is scheduled to take up the bill next week and it promises to be a very partisan debate. Our own cycling superstar on the Hill, Rep.Tom Petri (R-WI) was the only Republican to vote against the bill in committee and we will need more Republicans on our side if we are to save federal funding for cycling. In the meantime, don’t believe the false rhetoric and stay tuned here for more updates and future calls to action. If we are to defeat these attacks on bicycling, the cycling community has to come together and get more politicized.
You can also come to Madison for the Wisconsin Bike Summit, Feb 21st. John Burke, the President of Trek, is fond of saying “the world is run by the people who show up.” If you don’t show up, you can’t complain. I hope to see you all in Madison.