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Industry Lobbying Fighting Funding Cuts

Published September 15, 2011

LAS VEGAS, NV (BRAIN)--“We won,” Tim Blumenthal said.

The Bikes Belong president celebrated an industry victory yesterday as Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Oklahoma, withdrew an amendment that could have jeopardized at least $200 million in federal funding for bicycle infrastructure projects.

Coburn sought to repeal a mandate in a highway funding bill that requires states to spend part of the funding they receive on so-called “Transportation Enhancement” projects, which include cycling infrastructure projects. (An article in yesterday’s Show Daily cited an incorrect figure for the percentage of highway funds that dedicated for Transportation Enhancements. It is 1.5 percent.) The key factor in making this happen, I think, was about 50,000 e-mails from people who support bicycling, and all the business phone calls that happened here,” Blumenthal said. Bikes Belong and other advocacy groups mounted a campaign yesterday calling on supporters to call their senators and ask them to oppose the amendment.

Blumenthal said the industry can’t claim all of the credit for defeating the amendment, because the highway bill was tied to several other critical measures being considered by the Senate. But Blumenthal and Caron Whitaker, campaign director for America Bikes, said yesterday’s lobbying campaign had an effect.

Whitaker, who is in Washington, said staffers at several Senate offices called her and said their senators wanted to support the cycling infrastructure programs.

“We can’t thank the callers and the e-mailers enough,” Whitaker said. “Definitely, the Senate offices were feeling a lot of pressure.”

By withdrawing his amendment, Coburn cleared the way for the current level of highway spending to be extended for six months.

-Doug McClellan
dmcclellan@bicycleretailer.com

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