Safe Routes to School Eliminated by GOP

I feel like I've been buzzed by an SUV while riding my bike well within the bike lane.

You know the sensation - your body shudders and you develop a sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach.  It's not only the disbelief that you could have been injured.  You just can't comprehend how a fellow human being could exhibit such complete disregard for your life.

I wasn't out riding my bike when this feeling overcame me - I was reading a list of the top ten problems with the proposed House transportation bill.

I honestly can't believe that GOP members of the House can be so callous toward constituents who choose to walk, ride bikes, or take public transportation.  The bill reads as if they have a vendetta against anyone who is not driving a car - including kids walking to school, pedestrians in crosswalks, and just about anyone who would like to breathe clean air within city limits.

In case you just glossed over what I wrote - GOP congressmen do not believe that your kids require Safe Routes To Schools.  This inexpensive and successful partnership that has helped identity, create, and promote safe routes for your children to walk or ride their bikes has been lined out.  Cancelled.  Eliminated.  Repealed.  The party of no, no way, and hell no have just given your kids the bird.  I guess they're counting on them not remembering by the time they become old enough to vote...

This is only the tip of the iceberg.  Every hard fought, progressive policy guideline advanced by forward-thinking urban planners has been scrapped.  Traffic calming - gone.  Unsafe rumble strips - back.  Utilization of experts - disallowed.  Funds for bicycling infrastructure - eliminated.  Rail trails - on their own.  Safe bridges - non-essential.  Clean air - let's just add more expressway lanes.  Sidewalks, crosswalks, bikeways - slashed to save a whopping 1%.

I seriously believe that the GOP outsources the drafting of its legislation to lobbyists from special interest groups.  Who else would purposely eliminate every other constituent from receiving funding?  You can't tell me that there are no pedestrians, cyclists, or public transportation patrons in red districts.  No parents of school age children?

The video by Andy Clarke from the League of American Bicyclists will let you know exactly what you can do to help restore funding for kids walking to school, pedestrians, and cyclists.

Thanks for your help!


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  • You aren't really that naive to believe that the federal government pays for your roads, bridges, and crosswalks, are you? You realize, of course, that those costs are overwhelmingly funded by your local governments and the state. D.C. is not dictating how many bike lanes there are in Chicago. Most of the items that the GOP has left out of the bill were essentially unfunded mandates by the federal government. The only real argument that you have here is that a substantial portion of public transportation is subsidized by the federal government.

    Your real beef should be with a state that is essentially out of money and can't afford to help pay for these infrastructure improvements.

  • Thanks for reading and your reply.

    The federal government pays for roads partially through fuel tax receipts, which have been declining, with the balance made up from the general fund. This issue is about how the pie is being divided up.

    The US Chamber of Commerce and lobbyists for freight firms want the entire budget to go toward highway and bridge repair. Part of the reason that the Interstates are in such disrepair is lack of regular maintenance and abuse by overweight semis. Since the fuel tax comes up short, the GOP is making up the shortfall by taking funds from all other modes (pedestrian, cycling, and public transportation).

    We taxpayers are being forced to subsidize Interstate commerce while the users of the Interstates - mainly freight companies operating semis - are not paying their fair share for use of the roadways (sound like a familiar theme?). Germany solved this problem with a road pricing model that collects tolls based on miles driven AND emission levels of each semi model, as fuel tax was unreliable (drivers filled up in other countries and didn't refuel in Germany).

    We could discuss the distribution of Federal dollars among states and specific priorities forever. This issue is about favoring one mode at the expense of all others. If there is a pie (Federal funds NOT covered by fuel tax) and the pie has to be divided, pedestrian, cycling, public transit, and air pollution mitigation deserve a fair share (not saying equal, but proportional).

    While you may consider some of the items "unfunded mandates", what they are in this case is "equality guidelines". If we are going to the expense of reconstructing a roadway, shouldn't we spend an incremental amount more to make it safe for pedestrians and cyclists who are entitled by law to share the road? If we are looking to reduce emissions, shouldn't we encourage active transportation and public transportation through specific infrastructure enhancements?

    These guidelines exist for the benefit of everyone who breathes and wishes to get around on public streets. Everyone who chooses to reduce congestion and emissions on a personal basis shouldn't have to pay to subsidize those users who are exacerbating the problem. If all things were equal, drivers would pay more than others for their contribution to air pollution and roadway wear.

    I think we've all given up on our broke state contributing...

  • As of 10:10am CST the amendment restoring funding for cycling was defeated by 2 lousy votes.

    I am officially depressed...

  • Does it really take the federal government subsidies and 500 organizations to tell a person how to get from Point A to Point B safely?

    Kids cocooned in constant "safety" will make for poor preparation for reality, where, unfortunately, Darwin rules. is state and local governments that are supposed to take care of the roads.

    The city is broke, the county is broke, the state is broke, the nation is broke -- and so is the world.

    I hope your depression lifts. I heard exercise is good for depression.

  • In reply to Richard Davis:

    Richard, thanks for reading and taking the time to reply. Thanks for the concern - I exercise enough to pull myself out of it...

    The "safety" these kids are being cocooned from is cars while they're on foot or bike. Back when we were kids there were less cars on the road, less neighborhood traffic, and more kids seen walking, riding their bikes, and playing outside. Now we have more kids staying inside and being driven point to point. Motorists have lost the habit of looking out for kids and Safe Routes helps local residents create a local environment that helps make kids visible again.

    The money this organization received was small, yet its network allowed communities across the country to share best practices for solving local challenges. Lining it out didn't save a significant amount of money - it just signaled a complete disregard for the value this organization provides to communities.

    So once again, we're back to a 1950's transportation policy that subsidizes cars and trucks at the expense of individuals who choose to reduce congestion, reduce emissions, conserve fuel, and take personal responsibility for their health.

    If road users paid ALL the costs of using the roadways and pedestrians and cyclists did not receive a dime toward infrastructure, one could make a Libertarian argument that this was fair. When the active transportation participants receive no money AND are forced to pay for the shortfalls of users who create congestion, pollute the air, waste fuel, and increase health care costs, that's patently unfair.

    Whether any of these governmental bodies is broke is almost irrelevant. This isn't an austerity measure - it's a money grab by the people who are not paying enough money to maintain, let alone repair or improve, the infrastructure they rely on.

    It's just another example of balancing the books on the backs of the people who play by the rules while the privileged profit by not paying their fair share...

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