Secretary Peters Attacks Bike Funding
September 09, 2007
The mid-August Minneapolis bridge collapse sparked a wave of finger pointing that included harsh criticism of government bicycle and pedestrian funding. During the August 21 PBS News Hour, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters cited bike path and trails money as the number one misappropriation of federal transportation dollars, claiming that these projects “are really not directly transportation-related.”
Then, in an August 22 column in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Katherine Kersten asserted that Congressman Jim Oberstar’s (MN) strong support for bike facilities caused him to overlook the need to repair the I-35W bridge.
These were hardly the first attacks on federal bike/ped funding. Our opponents increasingly recognize that the bicycling community is becoming a powerful, nationwide movement and that growing concerns about obesity, road congestion, and air pollution bolster our position.
Contrary to Secretary Peters’ perspective, we know that bike paths are directly transportation-related: they take people to work, school, and stores daily. While Peters cited bike paths and trails first in her list of the “misspent 10 to 20 percent,” she failed to note that bike/ped money totals less than 1.5 percent of ALL federal transportation spending.
Responding to the Star Tribune column, Congressman Oberstar defended his time-tested commitment to bridge and infrastructure repairs. He then said, “Ms. Kersten insinuates that the bridge failed because I brought money to the state for other things such as light rail lines to relieve traffic congestion, bike and pedestrian trails to provide transportation and recreation opportunities and promote economic development, and highway reconstruction projects to correct unsafe road conditions and save people’s lives. How appalling!”
Attacks on bike funding are likely to intensify, particularly as the 2009 reauthorization of the federal transportation bill nears. Bikes Belong will continue to work with other national bicycle organizations to counter these arguments. Our ability to respond quickly and succinctly will be crucial to our success.