The most encouraging industry trend in the past two decades has nothing to do with products. It’s the increase in industry advocacy awareness and the closely related rise of Bikes Belong.
The understanding that if we’re to grow cycling, it needs to be more appealing to more people. And the Number One barrier to “regular folks” appeal is the perceived danger of riding in traffic.
So through strong industry support, Bikes Belong has been able to leverage huge amounts of Federal funding for bike facilities nationwide. Over $500 for every industry dollar invested!
Bikes Belong grants have helped build everything from user-friendly off-street paths, to BMX tracks, and a wide variety of facilities in between.
Every six or seven years, we as an industry (through Bikes Belong’s funding of America Bikes) have made a carefully coordinated pitch to Congress to keep those Federal funds flowing.
This year, for the first time in two decades, it’s not working. The Republicans, in their apparent zeal to push back all forms of alternate transportation, have pretty much eliminated any bike-ped funding, at least in the House version of the bill. Even popular programs like Safe Routes to School.
We could see bills considered in both the House and the Senate that would eliminate a 20-year history of federal investment in infrastructure that is essential to any successful 21st century community.
From what I have been able to gather, the Republicans justify taking away the 1.5 percent of the transportation bill for bikes and peds and adding it to the 80 pecent spent on roads because, well, America’s a car culture.
And while they might be correct about their constituents’ current behavior, how does continuing to put all our eggs in the road-building and fossil fuel basket prepare America for the future?
Bikes Belong has done a wonderful job of being a non-partisan movement. And there are true heroes on the right side of the aisle. For example, the three Republicans who voted against bringing the egregious House bill to the floor (Petri/WI, Johnson/IL, Lo Biondo/NJ).
Being a Boulder Liberal, it's easy for me to both vote Democratic and lobby for bike funding.
I challenge my Republican industry colleagues to maintain your political affiliation while you stump for the funding to move bicycling forward.
I hope to see you at the Bike Summit in Washington, DC, March 20-22. Democrats in the industry and in Congress are a known quantity.
We really need you Republicans to say to your elected representatives: “I voted for you, and I hope you’ll support bike and ped funding.”