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http://www.salon.com/tech/feature/20...22/bike_paths/

Congress to bikers: Get a car

A house subcommittee has voted to cut all funding for bike paths and other pollution-free transportation programs.

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By Katharine Mieszkowski

July 22, 2003 | For every bike commuter who proudly pedals to work under the mantra "one less car," Congress has a message for you: Get back on the highway where you belong, burning fossil fuel like a real American. That goes for you, too, you traffic-hazard pedestrians.

Fresh out of subcommittee, a new congressional transportation appropriations bill will entirely eliminate some $600 million worth of annual federal funding for bike paths, walkways and other such transportation niceties in fiscal year 2004.

Never mind the political fallout of U.S. oil dependency on the Middle East, or the fact that the average mileage per gallon for new cars and trucks in the U.S. is at its lowest level in 20 years. Members of the House's Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Treasury and Independent Agencies know that what America needs now is fewer bike paths and walkways -- but more highways.

Defenders of the bill argue that, in light of huge federal deficits, something has to go, but for bike activists and environmentalists who have been pushing for decades for alternatives to driving, the cuts are a giant step backward.

"The irony of trying to make it easier for people to drive when we're clearly running up against major roadblocks on providing oil for driving is just too much," says Leah Shahum, executive director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, a nonprofit that promotes bikes for transportation.

Under the new bill, which the full Committee on Appropriations is likely to consider this week, before it goes to the House floor for a vote, highways would receive $34.1 billion in fiscal year 2004, which is $2.5 billion more than this year, while the Transportation Enhancements program that funds bike paths and walkways would get nothing.

The bill would also significantly reduce funding for everything from Amtrak to reverse-commute transportation programs that connect low-income urban workers to jobs in the suburbs.

"It's saying: 'We're not really that interested in community restoration or improvement. We just want the money going toward highway development,'" says Susan Prolman, government relations counsel for Defenders of Wildlife.

She points out that the bill puts $4.8 billion more into highway projects than President Bush asked for in his 2004 budget.

"Draconian," "cynical," "nonsensical," "grave" are some of the words that congressional lobbyists for environmental, conservation and historical preservation groups had for the legislation, which will cut funding specifically aimed at supporting pollution-free modes of transportation.

"They essentially gutted funding for sensible alternatives in favor of more road building," says Eric Olson, who works for the Sierra Club's Challenge to Sprawl campaign in Washington.

After 40 years of funding highways, in 1991 the Department of Transportation started the Transportation Enhancements program to develop a more "modally balanced transportation system by encouraging projects that are more than asphalt, concrete and steel."

Environmentalists and historical preservationist groups viewed its creation as a watershed in federal transportation policy -- an acknowledgement that the U.S.'s vast federal highway system can do more than just seamlessly move cars and trucks.

"So much of the devastation to the historic fabric of our cities and communities was due to the barreling through of highways in our neighborhoods," says Susan West Montgomery, president of Preservation Action, a group that's among those fighting the cuts. The creation of the enhancements program countered that with "symbolic meaning, as well as practical money."

From 1992 to 2002, the program invested more than $2.4 billion in some 12,000 projects, with about half of that money going directly to benefit cyclists and pedestrians. It has provided funding for bike paths, pedestrian bridges, sidewalks, as well as scenic overlooks on highways and wildlife underpasses under roads. The program has helped pay for rehabilitating historic train stations, removing illegal billboards and mitigating pollution runoffs from highways.

In San Francisco, the birthplace of the global bike activist movement Critical Mass, urban cycling has doubled over the last decade. And like many other local governments, the city has won federal funds to keep up with the increase in bike transportation.

"To lose these federal transportation dollars would be a huge blow to San Francisco's growing bicycle infrastructure," says the San Francisco Bike Coalition's Shahum. "We've seen tremendous change in the last 10 years from striped bike lanes to better signage to bike access to transit and safety promotional campaigns that wouldn't have been possible without the funding."

On July 24, San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown will unveil a new educational campaign, underwritten by the currently threatened funds, that aims to encourage cyclists and motorists to "coexist" better.

"What we've got now in San Francisco and many cities across the country is the beginning of a good system," says Shahum. "But we're really kind of on a precipice of making a sea change in the city, because what we're close to building is a complete connected network of bike lanes and passages, a chance to ride in dedicated space."

It's not just the pedaling urbanites in San Francisco who have benefited from the monies under the program. Elementary school students who ride on the Shannon Park-Ladd School Bike Path in Fairbanks, Alaska, and bird-watchers in Texas on the Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail, also enjoy the fruits of the program.

Among the thousands of projects the program has supported are Denver's Bike-and-Ride Project, which retrofitted buses with bike racks and provided bike parking at bus stations.

It also contributed $815,000 for the creation of a new pedestrian plaza as part of the revitalization of Journal Square in Jersey City, N.J. (To look up what the program has helped finance in your state, go here and click on the "projects" link.)

Micah Swafford, press secretary for Rep. Ernest J. Istook, R.-Okla., who chairs the subcommittee that wrote the bill, argues that, with the prospect of a $455 billion federal budget deficit and anticipating declining revenues in the highway taxes that fund transportation programs, the committee had to cut something.

"It's more important to provide the basic funding for roads, before you provide money for enhancements whenever you're facing a shortfall," Swafford says, citing Department of

Transportation statistics that there are 6,476 structurally deficient bridges on the national highway system as one of the reasons that highways were the subcommittee's priority.

But Rep. Istook put out a press release on Friday, July 11, the day the bill made it out of the subcommittee, bragging that "$518 million is headed to Oklahoma!" leading one environmental lobbyist to attribute the whole issue to "parochial Oklahoma politics."

"Actually, it's kind of sad. He's basically eviscerating these programs that are important to a lot of other states for the sake of benefiting Oklahoma," says Deron Lovaas, a lobbyist for the Natural Resources Defense Council, another group fighting the cuts.

The move by the transportation appropriations subcommittee also represents a turf war between the congressional appropriators and authorizers. The current law governing all U.S. Department of Transportation funding expires Sept. 30. But the congressional authorizers, in charge of setting the agenda that the appropriators then enact, have yet to decide if they will extend the previous authorization for another year, or revamp it entirely for the next six-year term.

In the ensuing vacuum, Rep. Istook and crew have just gone ahead and set the transportation agenda for fiscal 2004.

Groups opposed to the measure are lobbying members of the larger Appropriations Committee, as well as other members of Congress. But they think they'll have better luck making the case in the Senate for spending a fraction of highway dollars on bike paths.
 

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this is just sad.. cutting $600 million for an environmentally sustainable practice when you're increasing an environmentally damaging one by $2.5 billion..
 

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BEAT

BUSH

2004

Everything is being cut. The fate of the world is in the hands of big business. That's one reason I quit meat--it's one industry I can cut out of my life. The ONLY reason for them to increase spending on the car industry is because they're getting $$$ from it. (Cheney, Rumsfeld, Bush, Rice, & co.) 41 members of congress have direct ties to the oil industry.

The oil industry is one of the most evil things that ever exitsted.

Many of the wars that'd been fought during the 20th century (and now the 21st) were fought in the name of oil:

-WW1 (in which the British took control of the Middle East at the boom of the industrial revolution. So how do you make money in the industrial revolution? Get control of the oil.)

-WW2 (the Germans wanted the Middle East back, which was taken from them by the oil greedy British during WW1. The Holocaust was the other reason, but the fight for oil did exist)

-Gulf War 1 and 2 (no explaination needed)

-the "War in Afghanistan" (Clinton didn't do what the oil industry wanted him to--which was attack Afghanistan to establish military bases along a gas pipeline route that ENRON wanted to establish through that region. Hence, Enron, after sinking tons of money into the preceedings of that pipeline, had to fudge their books to hide what they were doing, and went under.)

It's sick.

SUV's are a hazard to the future of the earth, and how many ads do you see on TV for SUV's?

I ride my bike to work in protest of the NYC Subway Fare hike, but also to take a stand against this whole obsession with oil.

The best thing we can do is vote Bush out in 2004. Vote democrat, even if you don't like who's running. Bush CANNOT win the next election or we're doomed.
 

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Ugh.

The bike paths here are pathetic -- especially in the neighborhoods where people actually ride bikes as a means of transportation rather than recreation.

This pisses me off to no end.
I'm going to stop now before everything I type gets censored.
 

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Quote:
Originally posted by jwnyc

Bush CANNOT win the next election or we're doomed.
He didn't really win the 2000 election to begin with


I would vote for someone other than Bush, but I'll only be 17.
 

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Just make sure all you people against Bush vote for the same person ... get that &^#%$ outta there ... he effects other countries too (we should be able to vote ;-) )
 

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they won't stop me from riding my bike....


PS

I know this issue is serious and very sad.

PPS

I didn't vote for Bush then, and I won't again.

Please look at http://www.lcv.org it will help you understand who votes for what and who you should be supporting (at least based on the environment). I am stuck with two A##HOLES in the senate, and I let them know regularly.

Time to ride my bike down to the coop and pick up some veggies!!!!
 

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Mantra:

I will change the world!

I will change the world!

I will change the world!

I will change the world!

I will change the world!

I will change the world!

I will change the world!

I will change the world!

I will change the world!

I will change the world!
 

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As a biker, I'm actally a bike lane skeptic. The majority of car-bike collisions occur not because some stupid car driver runs into the back of a cyclist, but because of mistakes at intersections. Bike lanes force me to merge out of traffic and then back into traffic over the course of a block. In fact, the majority of accidents can be prevented through education of both car drivers (bicycles have the same rights of way as cars, can take the full lane if necessary at an intersection, and should only be passed when safe to do so) and bike riders (don't ride on sidewalks, stop signs are not optional, travel with the flow of trafic, make yourself visible (ride naked ;-) )).
 

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kirkjobsluder, what about separate bike paths? As opposed to bike lanes. I am a bicycle commuter and most of my route to work is on bike paths.
 

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Ugh... That makes me SICK. The bike paths/bike lanes here are non-existant -- part of the reason I do not ride more often. I have no death wish... So I can not ride for transportation. I had HOPED that eventually the city would wise up and put in some bike paths or bike lanes, but this news increases my skepticism of this ever happening.

Grrrrrrr... Oil-sucking gits.
 

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I Feel A Little Rant Coming On

Forgive Me...

2 things really get to me about this whole biking/oil use thing.

1. It pisses me off that my representatives in my government are corrupted so much by oil and car manufacturers that they just look the other way, or worse yet crush ideas on how to better save our natural resources. Biking, higher MPG, alternate fuels etc.

2. Don't people realize when I bike to my store to pick up groceries, or a movie, or whatever I am being one of the most patriotic people in America. I don't use foreign oil (that obviously assists with governments that threaten our friends), I don't ruin my natural resources, I take up less space, I don't hurt young children's lung development, I am less of a burden on our health care system (as I keep in better shape)....

This could go on and on...

I wish people would look at me on my bike and say "that guy is cool, he knows what it is all about"...instead of honking their horns and getting pissed because I am going 25MPH in a 35MPH zone....

F##KERS!

End of my rant, thanks for listening.
 

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Quote:
Originally posted by Daisy

kirkjobsluder, what about separate bike paths? As opposed to bike lanes. I am a bicycle commuter and most of my route to work is on bike paths.
I think that bike paths are a good idea, but I worry about how they deal with intersections at roads.
 

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I don't know how many times an SUV has almost run into me. I ring my bell and yell at them and they give me this mightier than thou look, I wanna jump off my bike and bash their gas guzzling, road hog of a vehicle. I swear I'm gonna start kicking the crap outta those things so their insurance goes through the roof and no one will wanna drive them anymore.

BIKERS AGAINST SUV'S!!
 

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Quote:
Originally posted by kirkjobsluder

I think that bike paths are a good idea, but I worry about how they deal with intersections at roads.
Hmmm... Mine doesn't cross many roads. When it does there is a crosswalk like for pedestrians.

What bugs me about the bike paths is when people use them to walk their dogs!
 

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Quote:
Originally posted by kirkjobsluder

As a biker, I'm actally a bike lane skeptic. The majority of car-bike collisions occur not because some stupid car driver runs into the back of a cyclist, but because of mistakes at intersections. Bike lanes force me to merge out of traffic and then back into traffic over the course of a block. In fact, the majority of accidents can be prevented through education of both car drivers (bicycles have the same rights of way as cars, can take the full lane if necessary at an intersection, and should only be passed when safe to do so) and bike riders (don't ride on sidewalks, stop signs are not optional, travel with the flow of trafic, make yourself visible (ride naked ;-) )).
i think it's safe to say, kirk, that if bike lanes were to play a more prominent role in communities, drivers would become more accustomed to driving with them and become better educated about it. i recently moved from new jersey (what is a bike lane?) to boulder, colorado, where there are bike lanes everywhere and you can tell that drivers understand right-of-way and are respectful to bikers here. back in new jersey, i thought i was going to get hit all the time, people would come speeding around curves and not even think that a biker like me might be riding on the side of the road.
 

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Quote:
Originally posted by dk_art

Just make sure all you people against Bush vote for the same person ... get that &^#%$ outta there ... he effects other countries too (we should be able to vote ;-) )
Spot on, dk! He's the "leader fo the free world", right? So, only the US of A is "free", or we are too and we should get to vote for our leader too.
 

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I am often amazed at the lack of knowledge that many US citizens have about the budget process. Amazed, and disappointed.

Oh, and FWIW, why is the Federal government building bike paths in the first place? Shouldn't this be done by local and state governments?
 
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