Folks on Spokes Club conservatives – though I don’t count myself among you, I personally ask for an alliance.
I’m sure that, like the rest of us, you’ve been besieged this February by emails bearing news of the tinkering to transportation funding in House Bill 7.
Tinkering, as in absolute cut. Zero. Zilch. Nada. Nothing and more nothing in federal transportation funds for improvements for bicycling and walking.
To be fair, House Bill 7 provides the same treatment for all mass transit programs, which would be eliminated from the $260 billion federal transport funds up for renewal in March.
I can only say thank God that Congress is looking after the best interests of the oil industry.
Hmmm. Maybe that’s not the argument we wish to make. But I suppose we could bring God into the picture. After all, it’s a known fact that when you are on your bicycle, it’s impossible to engage in sex. In fact, after a long ride, you’re likely not to have energy left for such activities. Natural birth control!
As it stands, biking and other forms of active transportation get a whooping 1.5 percent of federal transit dollars.
In contrast, bicyclists and pedestrians make up 14 percent of all travel fatalities. Maybe there’s another argument lurking here: dead folks don’t have sex either: eliminate life and you also eliminate the need for birth control!
Maybe that’s what the House was thinking when it also decided to fully gut the Safe Routes to School funding that now is a piece of the federal transportation pie.
Why this fierce attack? It’s not just happening in that august body known as the House of Representatives. Bike and pedestrian programs are also under attack in the Senate, albeit in a slightly less savage fashion: cutbacks, not elimination, are being pushed in that body politic. The pro-cyclists and pedestrian forces are pushing for an amendment that would give some choice to local governments to dedicate funds for sidewalks, crosswalks and bikeways.
Perhaps a compromise makes sense. Sidewalks, after all, might be used for sex, but that’s highly unlikely to happen in the middle of crosswalks and on bikeways.
A different paradigm may be in order. Remember culture wars? As I recall, conservatives like harking back to classical white and European (and yes – even Greek – have a, ahem, cup of wine, Socrates) culture.
Remember to write your congressman (or that Republican Floridian or Texan representative for those GOP snowbirds among us) and tell him, or her, all about Al Sturges’ talk at Folks on Spokes’ monthly meeting at 7:30 p.m. on February 23 at the Flossmoor Village Hall: Biking from Prague to Vienna. Now, you can’t get more classical than that!
When you compose those letters, remember to renew your membership in Folks on Spokes. Warmer days will be around the corner, and we’re going to want to go on some bike trips together. Meanwhile, we can dream about them.
And when you receive your zillionth email urging you to protest bike funding cuts, consider putting in your missive, and maybe even coming up with a new insight. We need to get these folks’ attention.
p.s. – If you are inclined to take action now, rather than wait for another email, visit the League of Illinois Bicyclist website, or mainline it at http://www.bikelib.org/2012/02/vote-could-kill-bike-funding/
William Lazarus is an attorney in Flossmoor and president of Folks on Spokes, Chicago’s south suburban bike club, whose board has not considered or approved the outrageous thoughts contained herein.
Drivers should want their taxes to go to bike and ped facilities because the more people that don't drive the easier it is for the drivers that continue to drive.
...or maybe all those drivers I see wasting their lives away in traffic jams like it that way...
Crain's: Bipartisan House trio vows changes in transportation bill 02/21/12 — (Greg Hinz on Politics) Two suburban Republicans and a Chicago Democrat say they want to restore guaranteed funding for Metra and CTA projects in the pending House bill.
Crain's: House GOP drops plan to cut transit funding, at least for now
February 23, 2012
It looks like U.S. House Speaker John Boehner is backing off that much-criticized plan to eliminate funding for mass transit improvements from federal gasoline tax revenues.
Washington newsletters CQ Today and The Hill reported late Thursday that Mr. Boehner has decided or is leaning toward knocking out the transit provision.
Area transit leaders — and three different suburban Republican congressmen — had charged that the changes would endanger needed Metra and Chicago Transit Authority capital projects by forcing them to compete for federal general revenues, rather than keeping the 20 percent cut of gas taxes they get now.
Though nothing final had been announced as of this writing, the reports drew an immediate cheer from House Infrastructure Committee member Dan Lipinski, D-Chicago.
"This is a victory for everyone who rides the CTA, Metra and Pace, as well as for drivers," he said in a statement. "Ending dedicated funding would have put $450 million for local public transportation at risk."
Mr. Lipinski said he'll await final details, particularly on the duration of what was supposed to be a five-year surface transportation bill. So will I.
Mr. Boehner and allies, including the local member of GOP leadership, Rep. Peter Roskam of Wheaton, had said they were acting because gas tax revenues are insufficient to pay for all transportation needs.
Instead, they wanted to rely on royalties from increased off-shore oil drilling and increased pension payments by federal workers. But the first is highly controversial, some of the money from the second was grabbed off as part of the deal to finance extended unemployment benefits and suburban Republicans from around the country ended up revolting.