Bike Fed kicks off legislative campaign

This week Governor Scott Walker and a new legislature were sworn in to office to start a fresh two-year term.

We wasted no time in sending a letter to the governor asking him to increase funding for bike and pedestrian programs. Specifically, we asked that funding be increased to two percent of the state transportation budget. That’s up from about 1.2% in the current budget.

This is part of our campaign for: “Two wheels. Two feet. Two percent.”

We also asked the governor to follow the recommendations of his own Transportation Finance & Policy Commission, which recommended a new $20 million program to help finance the construction of local safe biking infrastructure in cities, villages and towns all over the state. The program would require a local match, so that it would leverage another $20 million in project support.

The governor is expected to introduce his budget in early February. It will then be referred to the Joint Finance Committee, which will hold hearings on it throughout the spring. Joint Finance usually starts working on the budget in earnest in April and May. The budget is scheduled to pass both houses by about July 1st. Then the governor can sign it, veto it, or veto it in part. The whole process should be done by about August 1st.

You can help by contacting the governor and simply asking him to include the Bike Fed proposals in the budget he introduces next month. You can write Governor Walker here.

The full text of our letter is reprinted below.

Dear Governor Walker:
Congratulations and best wishes on your second term as Wisconsin Governor. The Wisconsin Bicycle Federation looks forward to continuing to work with you to improve bicycling and the industries and jobs that it supports. As you may know, biking is a $1.5 billion industry in our state (even bigger than deer hunting) and it accounts for some 14,000 jobs.The Bike Fed’s key initiative for the 2015-2017 biennial budget will be committing two percent of the state’s transportation budget to bicycle and pedestrian initiatives.

Here is how Wisconsin compares to some other states on their budget support for bicycling and walking:

Wisconsin: 1.2%
Michigan: 2%
Minnesota: 3%
Iowa: 3%
California: 4%

We could justify a much higher percentage. According to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation website, nine percent of all Wisconsin trips are made by walking or bicycling and studies show that as many as five percent of commuters in Wisconsin bicycle to work during peak months.

Yet, according to the 2012 Benchmarking Report from the Alliance for Biking & Walking, Wisconsin ranked 42nd in per capita investments in infrastructure for these modes of travel. Right now Wisconsin spends just under $40 million or about 1.2% on bicycling and walking infrastructure and education. That’s out of a total annual transportation budget of $3.3 billion. So we’re asking that that number increase to about $66 million.

This could be achieved by simply using more Federal Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) dollars for bike and pedestrian projects that instead now go for other purposes.

We understand that the state is at a crossroads regarding future funding for transportation projects, including bicycling. I served on the Transportation Finance & Policy Commission and voted for its recommendations. These included, on a bipartisan unanimous vote, a recommendation of $10 million annually ($20 million over the biennium) for bicycling infrastructure projects. The exact language from pages 83-84 of the Commission’s report is as follows:

“THE COMMISSION RECOMMENDS an increase of $10 million annually
for creation of a state-funded bicycle and pedestrian program, a competitive local program to fund bicycle and pedestrian projects.

“Under the Commission’s recommendation, new bicycle and pedestrian accommodations would continue to be implemented as part of state and local highway projects, increasing the percentage of state and local highways that accommodate bicycles. Currently, 64.8 percent of state highways and 91.5 percent of local highways accommodate bicycles.

“Projects eligible for funding in the proposed new Bicycle and Pedestrian Facility program would add pavement width, acquire real estate, sign, mark, and otherwise improve bicycle and pedestrian facilities. Local governments would be responsible for 50 percent of costs as well as maintenance of the improved facilities.”

Because of the local match requirement this new program would actually leverage a $40 million investment in new infrastructure for bikes and pedestrians over the biennium.

We know that more people will bike and walk if they feel safe. A recent study showed that six out of ten people are interested in doing more biking but are concerned for their safety. So, we believe that safe infrastructure is the key to getting more people biking and walking, with ripple effect benefits in public health, jobs, air quality and in many other ways.

In addition, there is a benefit for motorists as separated facilities for biking and walking will lessen conflicts between motorists and cyclists and pedestrians.

And of course these kinds of investments will help create even more private sector jobs in the bicycle industry and related industries such as tourism.

So, as you consider the budget we ask you to include the Transportation Finance & Policy Commission’s recommendation regarding bicycle infrastructure and that you propose an overall transportation budget that includes two percent for bike and pedestrian programs.

Thanks so much for your consideration.

Sincerely,

Dave Cieslewicz
Executive Director
Wisconsin Bike Fed

7 thoughts on “Bike Fed kicks off legislative campaign

    • Right. This will be a tough sell in the current environment. However, something pretty much has to happen on transportation funding this session. We need to be in the discussion on this. It’s an opening we need to try to exploit.

  1. Good letter, but I think the best legislative change we could make to get more people bike commuting, and to make our laws more consistent with how most cyclists actually ride in the real world, would be for Wisconsin to boldly adopt the Idaho Stop Law (at least as to adult cyclists, who are more likely to appreciate risk than minors do). The rationality of such a law, is succinctly and persuasively explained in this youtube video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=84eB0N-LG6M. Our current mantra of treat bikes exactly like cars, is inconsistent with reality, and how the vast majority of cyclists ride. Society should repeal statutes that hardly anyone obeys, because the existence of such laws bring the laws of our state in general in to contempt, and lead to highly discretionary and often biased policing. Adopting the Idaho Stop Law would send the message that Wisconsin is serious about promoting more biking, and is a leader in progressive approaches to doing so. It would also largely disarm the biggest criticism that the non-cycling public has against cyclists, i.e., that cyclists are the biggest law breakers out on the road.

    • I like it. It’s something we’ve kicked around here at the Bike Fed in the past. I think the issue in the current environment is ‘do we want to do anything that seems to change the rules for cyclists in a way that advantages them over cars?’

  2. Well done. Increase spending in this area should be more than covered by potential reductions in health care costs. (assuming unlike me, you can avoid wiping out after hitting a stray cat).

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