There are many important issues up in the air after this election, but this blog is about bicycling, so I’m going to stick pretty close to that topic here.
Is bicycle funding at risk?
It is difficult to predict what may happen at the federal level with a divided House and Senate. I am sure that there will be attacks on the bicycle and pedestrian funding sources such as Transportation Enhancements. Much will depend on who heads up the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. Democrat James Oberstar, a strong bicycle advocate, will certainly be replaced, probably by John Mica (R) of Florida.
The good news on that front is Mica at least likes transit more than most Republicans. His position on bicycle and pedestrian funding is less clear, but we can have some reason to hope on that front.
But the new Speaker of the House could be Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) who has opposed using federal transportation funds on bicycle projects, which he likens to “beautification” projects, not transportation projects. The next transportation bill could look very different from the last one in which bicycle and pedestrian funding was increased.
At the state level, we have fewer reasons to hope. Transit and high speed rail folks have something to fear with Walker. I suspect bicycle folks will also have a bit to fear when his line-item veto pen comes out. The Bicycle and Pedestrian Facilities Program could be cut from the budget. We can forget about a bike path on the Hoan while Walker is in office. He has made that pretty clear.
Possible reasons to hope
The leaders of our state’s major bicycle businesses (Trek, Saris, Pacific, Hayes) are all Republicans (correct me if I am wrong). Perhaps they can help Walker see the economic value of keeping Wisconsin’s lead as a great state for cycling.
Walker hired Sue Black to run the Milwaukee County Parks Dept., and she has been done a fabulous job with very limited resources. If she and some of her key staff, like the very talented and dedicated Guy Smith, follow Walker to Madison, we certainly have reason to hope.
Rep. Thomas Petri (R-WI) was re-elected. Petri is a very powerful senior Republican in the House and he is a strong supporter of bicycle funding.
Federal and state policies now require bicycle and pedestrian accomodations on road projects unless some pretty difficult exceptions can be met. It is unlikely those federal policies will change any time soon.
What can we do now?
Keep riding our bikes.
Keep calling your elected representatives and saying the word “bicycle.”
Continue to support your local and national advocacy organizations like the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin and the League of American Bicyclists. These groups are very good at working with both parties in Madison and on the Hill. But they will need all the financial support you can afford and all the members they can muster to help them continue to sell bicycling as a real solution to the economic, transportation and health problems facing our country.
This is only a temporary set-back. Remember we shall overcome in the end.