Today is the last day of National Bike Month. The Sierra Club was honored to join with the League of American Bicyclists and the National Council of La Raza in promoting biking as a green transportation choice. In our joint report Pedaling to Prosperity, we noted that bicyclists save $4.6 billion dollars each year (pdf).
We heard some great stories from across the country about bike month. In Austin, a two-mile stretch of Sixth Street was closed down for Viva Streets, a day long festival of active transportation and — as our Lonestar Chapter noted — well, fun! We heard from Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, and more about biking in South Texas. We were pleased to not only reach folks in English about the importance of biking as a transportation choice, but also in Spanish.
Despite the good news from this past month, some Republicans in Congress are eyeing the small amount of federal dollars that support biking in their crosshairs for elimination. As it is, only 1.6 percent of federal transportation dollars go toward biking and walking infrastructure despite the fact 12 percent of trips are by biking and walking.
several freshman GOP members of the House had been attending conference meetings held primarily by staffers, creating an unexpected chilling effect during negotiations. We also reported that a number of House members have renewed efforts to take Transportation Enhancements, the most important source of federal funds for bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, out of the transportation bill entirely.
In March, the Senate passed a bipartisan bill — Map-21 — that takes some important steps toward a 21st century transportation system that repairs our roads and bridges, increase transportation choices, including investing in biking and walking, invest in transit, and set a national goal for reducing energy consumption. The Senate bill includes an important bipartisan compromise led by Senators Cardin (D-MD) and Cochran (R-MS) that ensures communities have more control over investing transportation dollars to make streets safe for everyone — including bikers and walkers.
Even though we seem to have avoided the direst of predictions for gas prices this summer, we still need to invest in a transportation system that gives Americans choices now and for a future of higher and volatile gas prices.
Our Pedaling to Prosperity report (pdf) showed that if Americans hopped on a bike for one four-mile round trip each week instead of a car, we could save $7.3 billion each year. Investing in making our streets safe for biking will encourage more bike trips and save even more.
The end of bike month also starts another critical month for transportation — Congress has only 30 more days to pass a new transportation bill. House conferees should drop their attack on safe biking and walking choices and stop holding the Senate’s bill hostage to poison pills.
Ann Mesnikoff is the director of the Sierra Club Green Transportation Campaign.