A recent visit to D.C.
A recent trip to Washington, DC for an America Bikes board meeting revealed that it’s a very different playing field for bicycling these days on Capitol Hill from even six months ago. For one thing, longtime bicycle champion Rep. Jim Oberstar (D-8) from Minnesota is gone, and with him went a lot of the support for bicycling. Within the Republican ranks, soon the majority in the U.S. House of Representatives, leadership and committee heads are looking at virtually all federal funding with increased scrutiny, including the programs that fund bike trails, bike lanes, and programs like Safe Routes to School. We’ll have to put up a fight to show that we’re deserving of funding and policy initiatives at the federal level.
But thanks to the support of the bicycle industry through Bikes Belong, a plan of action is being formulated and will be put in place in January. Instead of focusing on livability and the benefits of bicycling, with the new fiscally conservative orientation we need to focus more on how bicycling is cost-effective and pragmatic and on how bicycling both for transportation and recreation has an beneficial economic impact on communities. We also need to stress the business aspect of retailers, manufacturers, and suppliers as successful independent small business people. Our plan includes bringing members of the bicycle industry to Capitol Hill on a regular basis, to help make the case that “Bikes Mean Business.”
The good news is that many of our friends in Congress, on both sides of the aisle, are still in office. Many of the newly elected members, even those of the Tea Party persuasion, will understand the business focus and see its value. We just need to meet these folks and connect them with some local constituents to help make the case that bicycling can continue to be a mode of transportation and recreational outlet. We're going to keep at it – it’s just that the hill got a little steeper.