What does the fiscal cliff have to do with biking? From a distance, very little. But look closer and biking is, indeed, perched on a potential precipice…
With the debt ceiling coming due in February, the fiscal cliff deal expiring March 1 and the current budget expiring on March 31, Congress will be looking for any and all possible budget cuts. Though the new transportation bill, MAP-21 passed last year, there could still be some attempts to eliminate funding for biking. After all, we’ve been down this road before.
In the past several years, we’ve seen a small number of lawmakers use the budget process as an opportunity to cut funding for biking. Since 2009 there have been at least six (unsuccessful) attempts during the budget process to either weaken programs that fund biking and walking, or eliminate funding to biking facilities outright.
The irony: None of the anti-bike amendments that were suggested or voted on would have actually cut spending if enacted. They would just shift that funding into road building.
The truth: Investing in bicycling facilities and complete streets is a cost effective way to improve transportation, health and safety and to boost local economies. Improving the economy IS in the federal interest.
I don’t need to tell you that. But we do need to tell Congress that.
Avoiding this scenario will require bicycling advocates to do what we do best. Two years ago, when the 112th Congress came in their main goal was to cut spending — and that’s exactly what they did. In March 2010, the House of Representatives approved a series of cuts to transit, to Amtrak and to several other programs. But, despite the dramatic cuts to several related programs, biking and walking programs survived intact.
That was no accident. In 2010, bicycling and walking advocates met with more than 100 members of Congress in their districts and more than 400 members during the National Bike Summit — within weeks of that budget process. Now, the drumbeat to cut spending is even stronger. We need to be prepared to tell the story of the importance of biking to safety, transportation and to local economies.
The National Bike Summit is a critical opportunity for people who ride bikes to have our voices heard — and let Congress know that Bicycling Means Business.
There’s just one week left to register with the reduced, early-bird rates and save $100. Don’t wait; sign up today!
Caron WhitakerPrior to joining the League of American Bicyclists in 2012, Ms. Whitaker served as the Campaign Director for America Bikes where she coordinated and implemented America Bikes federal policy agenda. Before that, she worked for the National Wildlife Federation on smart growth, international policy, and community engagement. In addition, Caron served as a Community Land Use Planner for the State of North Carolina Division of Coastal Management, providing technical assistance to local governments and staffing a stakeholders’ council responsible for revising state planning regulations. She has a Masters in Environmental Management for Duke University, Nicolas School of the Environment and a Bachelors of Arts from Williams College.
Vice President of Government Relations