The Senate is at it again…

We got a press release from the other day:

Last month, we asked you to contact your U.S. Senators to oppose Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn’s plan to strip funding from the Transportation Enhancements program, which is the main source of the federal investment for bike projects of all types. supporters and our allies generated more than 75,000 emails to Congress in 48 hours. This rapid and powerful grassroots response succeeded: Mr. Coburn withdrew his amendment and crucial funding for bicycling was preserved.

We are sorry to report today that bike infrastructure funding is under serious and immediate attack again – this time in an amendment proposed by Senator Rand Paul (KY) that would redirect all funding for Transportation Enhancements to bridge repairs. Mr. Paul’s amendment is set for a Senate vote Tuesday, Nov. 1.

While we are all for bridge repairs, gutting the Transportation Enhancements program is not the way to get the job done. We must defeat this amendment and we need your help. We need you to contact your state’s two U.S. Senators today and ask them to oppose this amendment. Here are four reasons why:

1. Everyone deserves to be safe. We agree that we must keep our bridges safe, but the lives of pedestrians and bicyclists are important too. Nearly 5,000 Americans die each year biking or walking on our nation’s roadways.

2. Reallocating bike funding won’t make a dent in the cost of bridge repairs. Even if every penny of Transportation Enhancements money is diverted to bridge repairs, Senator Paul’s plan would still take 80 years to fix the backlog of bridge repairs we have today.

3. Transportation Enhancements provide essential transportation benefits, like reducing road congestion, improving safety, getting people active, and creating more jobs per dollar than highway-only projects.

4. States don’t spend all the money they already receive for bridge repairs.

This is the third attempt in a month by a small group of Senators to target Transportation Enhancements, using a different angle each time. It is a waste of the Senate’s time and taxpayers dollars to focus on eliminating this modest, cost-effective, valuable program when we are in dire need of real and viable solutions to fix our failing transportation system.

Please contact your Senators today to ask them to vote against the Paul amendment (SA-821) to eliminate Transportation Enhancements. (You can find your Senators, review basic suggested text for your email, and send your note directly from this link.)

Thank you for your help today, and for passing this call to action along.

Tim Blumenthal

If you’re in an email-writing mood, let your elected representatives know how you stand on this. Time is short; the Senate is scheduled to vote on it Tuesday, November 1st.


  1. RIder

    What do conservatives have against cycling?

    Cycling is cheap, cycling saves money (i.e., it is conservative), cycling reduces our dependance on foreign oiland federal support for cycling provides excellent returns — a big bang for the buck. Not so, bridge repair, which is the most expensive of road projects.

    I don’t get it.

    Is this another of those cultural issues?

    Otherwise, you’d think conservatives would be out front in support of cycling and providing more transportation options — freedom, choice, etc.

    I’ve let my senators know. One is likely to take action to block the raid on cycling and pedestrian funding, the other is likely to do nothing — and will probably vote for Rand Paul’s amendment.

  2. BluesCat

    Rider – The answer to your question is contained in your list of reasons cycling is so GOOD. Remember, you MUST know that the formula is: conservatives = GOPs (pronounced “gawps,” as in “I GOPs mine, too bad you don’t GOPs yours.”)

    “Cycling is cheap” – GOPs equate “cheap” with “substandard,” NOT “inexpensive.”
    “Cycling saves money” – Saves YOU money, maybe, but the GOPs LOSE money if you save a single penny; you’re not BUYING stuff to make them RICHER!
    “Cycling reduces our dependance on foreign oil” – What?!? What do you think is the BASIS of the wealth for Major GOPs like Dubya, His Family and Cheney??
    “Federal support for cycling provides excellent returns” – Right, so it makes the present administration look GOOD; GOPs simply can’t abide THAT!

    I live in Arizona, so BOTH my senators are going to side with Rand Paul. (McCain is, after all, the co-conspirator/co-author, with Senator Coburn, of the “Out of Gas” manifesto; that anti-pedestrian, anti-bike guide for humungous SUV drivers everywhere.)

    I mailed them a plea to vote against Paul, but they’re too afraid of the Tea Ba… er … Partiers.

  3. Mike Myers

    I called both my senators. Bill Nelson will probably vote against, but my other senator is the Neocon prince Marco Rubio.

    It sucks, because Florida has the highest bicycle fatality rate in the country, and Rubio is from south Florida, which is probably the worst in the state.

    We shall see.

  4. Steve A

    I support cycling. I ride every day. I do not support pork, which fits most of the so-called “enhancements” that are mostly pushed by motorist politicians who are clueless about what really makes life easier for cyclists. Cycling is nonpartisan. Cycling advocacy, unfortunately, is not. There are many elements of cycling that should strongly appeal to small government conservatives, but THOSE messages are not being communicated by advocates and THAT is truly a tragedy.

  5. Ghost Rider

    “There are many elements of cycling that should strongly appeal to small government conservatives, but THOSE messages are not being communicated by advocates and THAT is truly a tragedy.”

    Steve, what sorts of messages would you suggest? How should they be communicated to our elected officials?

  6. Iron_Man

    I won’t answer for Steve, but I’m a libertarian/classical conservative so I’ll answer for me. The federal government is simply the worst entity to address cycling needs, just as they are generally the worst entity to address most “needs,” particularly one as local as cycling. Cycling needs are best assessed and then solved by the local community, drivers and cyclists together, who are the ones actually using the roadways, not some distant bureaucrat in DC or even the state capital. Aside from the typical waste, fraud and abuse that comes with federal spending, there’s also the typically top down, one size fits all approach that they bring. So you get nutty solutions, like lanes to nowhere on roads cyclists aren’t using, that satisfy the government regs and fill state or city transportation coffers, but generally offer little benefit to the cycling community. They also lack the sorts of common sense solutions and compromises that communities can achieve that resentment over dictates from outsiders will never accomplish.

    Take my town of Springfield, MO for instance. It’s an old western town (only recorded western movie style pistol-duel took place here in 1869 with Will Bill Hickock). Springfield has grown up with little cycling advocacy, but has a pretty good network of roadways, through neighborhoods, crisscrossing town. There is very little need for huge infrastructure investments of dedicated bike paths, protected lanes or car-free zones, what’s needed instead is some ongoing education for cyclists regarding proper riding and route selection. All the routes in town are marked well with signage, so there’s little need for more of that. Instead we just need more volunteers and a small budget that our community can afford to educate kids and adults about what’s already in existence in this town. Unfortunately Uncle Sam and many well intentioned advocates aren’t content with that. They have eyes bigger than their stomachs and end up forcing solutions that aren’t going to be used by the population they are trying to serve.

    And ultimately as a fiscally conservative guy, I have a really difficult time accepting that it’s moral to take money from the people, skim a bit off the top, then redistribute it back to the states—especially when vote hungry politicians are in charge of distributing that largesse. It would seem reasonable to argue that if Uncle Sam wasn’t constantly dipping into our pockets so much, local communities would have a bit more money to invest all on their own.

  7. BluesCat

    Iron_Man – My hometown is Phoenix, and you can’t get anymore Wild West Independently Conservative than Arizona. The town grew up after WW2, with all the roads built by designers and construction firms with the idea that the automobile was going to be the ONLY traffic on them. As a result, before the Feds stepped in with some money for local road improvements, riding across town on certain roadways was more terrifying than a John Carpenter movie.

    States are given WIDE latitude in how they spend Federal transportation dollars, as a result, pedestrian and bicycling infrastructure in states like mine are almost always shortchanged: the automotive and oil industries rule. In other words: if the federal pittance earmarked for a more balanced transportation infrastructure were actually shared fairly, the entire transportation system in Phoenix would be SO much better, all the way around.

    Scottsdale, Arizona — right next door to Phoenix and a League of American Bicyclists Gold community — has proven that “if you build it, they will come.” And they did it NOT by using federal bucks to build high-speed freeways, but the Crosscut Canal multi-use path:

    My own political views probably lean more liberal, in YOUR view. But I’m a card-carrying member of the NRA and a big supporter of Arizona’s SB 1070 immigration law. Hey, when something is right, it’s right, and it is very MUCH right to improve the ability to walk and bike SAFELY in our big western cities.

  8. Iron_Man

    But BluesCat, Phoenix should pay for that. Your town planners chose to build a town that was unfriendly to pedestrians and cyclists, and according to your account they have a deep hole to dig out of, but that’s Phoenix’s fault for being so shortsighted. Now if your town wants to make it more pedestrian and cyclist friendly, then that’s great—unless it needs to do so by taking from the productive citizens of other states or borrowing from China to dump on the shoulders of future citizens. What drives my approach to policy is not right vs left, conservative vs progressive, GOP vs Democrat. I approach every policy from the viewpoint of maximum individual freedom vs no freedom, even if that means I end up opposing something that I might personally gain from.

  9. BluesCat

    Iron_Man – If it were left to the 48 contiguous fiefdoms we call “states” to build the American transportation system, the ONLY high speed freeways we’d have would be from rich-guy’s-house-to-rich-guy’s-house over on the east coast (just like you have in middle-eastern kingdoms). We wouldn’t have the federally funded Interstate system, so it would cost a fortune to truck products across our country.

    One of the things the “small federal government” folks forget is one of the big roles of the Feds is to protect the little guy. Case in point: right after WW2, there was a great electric streetcar system in downtown Phoenix; all the “regular” folks, who couldn’t afford a car, used it. A big, wealthy corporation came in, bought the system and took it out of service. Why? Because they wanted to replace it with their diesel buses. The company was General Motors.

    Sometime later, everybody looked at what was happening in L.A. — with all the cars, trucks and BUSES gridlocked on the roads — and realized they couldn’t possibly build enough roads to accommodate all the cars. So in 1985 the voters of Maricopa County approved an increase in taxes to build an electric light rail line, the Metro, at a cost of $1.4 BILLION.

    This stuff about “Phoenix’s fault for being so shortsighted” is pure BS: if the Feds had been there in the first place to keep the rich from getting richer at the expense of the little guy, EVERYBODY not connected with Big Auto and Big Oil would have been much better off in Phoenix.

    Unless you’re independently wealthy, or have an outstanding pension plan with your company, think about that “small federal government” crap when you want to retire at 65 and need to depend on Social Security; that’s the NEXT target for the rich GOPs.

  10. Mike Myers
  11. Iron_Man

    An interstate freeway is in keeping with the general welfare clause of the constitution as it helps encourage travel and commerce using the predominant and effective mode of transportation in our modern society—yet its history is still rife with atrocities as whole communities in and around major cities were destroyed by the building of those freeways to the detriment of minority communities almost entirely. Building bike trails for Phoenix residents via the federal government, however is not exactly improving the general welfare of the nation. Therefore it is the responsibility of the states and communities to build if needed. Where in the constitution does it read that government shall provide for the common transportation? If it’s not there I could care less about trolleys vs buses vs bike vs cars. It’s your own responsibility to get yourself from point A to point B. So if your city or state are not meeting your needs as a cyclist perhaps it’s time to look for a new place to live that is more in keeping with your lifestyle. That’s the beauty of states vs one massive federal government—choice. If the case can be argued that the general welfare of the nation is served I’m all for it, but arguing on behalf of some benefitting at the expense of others is not in keeping with founding principles. As for the rest of your rant I’m not going to bother getting into a class warfare discussion on a bike blog. There’s other sites for that.

  12. BluesCat

    Iron_Man – “It’s your own responsibility to get yourself from point A to point B.” Okey, dokey, guy; hope you remember that the next time you’re stuck on the tarmac at the airport for 7 hours in a snowstorm, in a dark, stuffy, stinky airplane.

    In the TRUE spirit of “I GOPs mine, too bad if you don’t GOPs yours.”

    Yay for the U.S. Senate! Looks like we actually got 7 Republicans there with their heads mounted properly.

  13. Robert Guico

    While my political orientation also leans right, I take issue with this…

    “Building bike trails for Phoenix residents via the federal government, however is not exactly improving the general welfare of the nation.”

    While bicycling may be tediously hot for the 5 hottest months of the year, it is at least possible (compare to the soon-to-be-tundra of Chicagoland) and opens up the possibility of some people ditching their cars entirely.

    I would really like the public to step away from the assumption that cars are a mandatory cost of living in society. There exists a market of people that can’t afford to own, or would choose to avoid cars.

    The open question is: how much government money would be better redirected away from a car-based infrastructure onto other things, and how much consumer money would be better spent on nicer foods / services as opposed to living somewhere they feel a car is necessary.

    “Just moving” isn’t really an option, depending on how far underwater you are or how cash-constrained your household is.

  14. Steve A

    Actually, I had more in mind the repeal of discriminatory laws that restrict the right to travel. Such repeals cost nothIng and hurt no cyclists. However, better clarification of interstate commerce and where the Fed’s reach should end would be good as well.

    I do fail to see how the Alaska bridge to nowhere really promotes the general welfare outside Alaska, nor some of the things like museums that get stuffed as pork into Highway spending bills. OTOH, recreation has value and there is a long history of spending highway dollars on roads primarily used for such. How else would you get to Yellowstone? I’d be willing to give up on Fed funding for bikes if we could also turn back the Fed tap for cars. Bikes would win in any such equitable cutback. I think that, if put to him as such, Rand Paul would not claim that cyclists should be subsidizing motorists to build facilities they are not allowed to use. Instead, cut Fed Highway spending. Period. I really don’t need the 820 Freeway widened. My first political act was to act for a fellow GOP in Seattle and collect petitions to stop building the West Seattle Freeway. The Dems won that one…

  15. BluesCat

    Steve A – “I’d be willing to give up on Fed funding for bikes if we could also turn back the Fed tap for cars.” That’s a better idea than anything the GOPs have put forward, but I’ll go you one better:

    How about if we roll back transportation funding a straight 10%, across the board, and offer a bonus return of half of that rollback to states and/or local jurisdictions which will (1) Implement a Complete Streets Program, and (2) invest a matching amount of LOCAL revenues to pedestrian and biking infrastructure. THAT might make Iron_Man happy, it WOULD make ME happy, and if it would make YOU happy we’d have a WIN-WIN-WIN situation.

    A car does more damage to the roadway than 100 bicycles, so the more people we get riding bikes the less road repairs we’ll have to do, the less traffic and pollution we’ll have, the less health problems we’ll have, etc., etc., etc.

    This is called COMPROMISE, and is a concept which seems to elude the GOPs.

  16. Mike Myers

    It’s disappointing that Sen. Paul chose to LIE and misrepresent the issue to sway opinion. The examples he chose to highlight as “wasteful” turned out to have not received TE money AT ALL. The giant teapot. The “turtle tunnels”. BTW, as someone who lives in Florida, we have BIG turtles here, and you really don’t want to run over them. Plus, gopher tortoises are endangered. Building a mile of wall at a known wildlife crossing area, and providing tunnels for the critters, will save HUMAN lives.

    I’m beginning to think Rand Paul is a jerk, and has nowhere the morals or credibility of his father. Ron Paul may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but he’s unfailingly honest and moral. He’s also a dedicated cyclist at 77 years old.

  17. Steve A

    I’d go BluesCat one better – zero out ALL of the Fed highway funds beyond what they collect in the Fed portion of fuel taxes and rebate half that savings to the states with no strings attached whatsoever. The fuel tax should be used to fund construction and maintenance of interstate items, which includes preservation of the right to travel (including nonmotorized travel). The smart states will spend their money on smart things. Even the dumb states at least get back money their citizens paid in the first place. Sending money to the Feds so they can send some of it back to us with strings attached is NOT anything more than a losing proposition unless you are a Federal employee. Is ANYTHING I suggest above inconsistent with “small government” principles and adherence to the principles embodied in our Constitution? I don’t think so either…

  18. BluesCat

    Steve A – The big problem with your plan is the “no strings attached whatsoever” part. States have less regulatory power as far as making the rich and powerful developer interests pay their fair share for infrastructure. (And as we have seen with Wall Street and the banking industry, lack of strong regulation leads to disaster.) Land developers in Arizona are legend for getting sweetheart deals which have lead to sub-standard utilities, and actually resulted in unsafe water supplies, waste management and roadways.

    Without some sort of watchdog, at the federal level, life in a lot of states would be third-world level.

  19. Robert Guico

    In fact, right on schedule, developers co-opting state government to build a highway that may or may not actually be used.

    Now you could argue that this development was going to happen anyway, and that people need to live somewhere, and it needs to be on Texas-sized suburban one-acre lots. But that’s $5.2 billion of taxpayer money. Are you sure?

  20. BluesCat

    LOL! You and I should write a TEXTBOOK on this, eh, Robert? Wonderful, TEXTBOOK, example. Thanks.

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