There is some pretty dire prose over at the League web site about saving cycling. While I share the concern with the Federal transportation bill being ludicrously auto-centric and energy-intensive, and I personally worry that the House Republicans are attacking anything they can connect to various progressive movements, I remain confident that cycling is in no danger of ending as we know it, even if our (rather small) seat at the Federal trough is cut back or eliminated. The power to “save” cycling, assuming it is in need of being saved, is within each of our saddles and indeed, organizations like LAB can fall back on deep roots that far pre-date Transportation Enhancements. Not without some pain, though.
Some good will possibly die if this bill passes as written. We could be hamstrung in defending against poor rumble strip placement and bridges lacking cycling access, as mentioned in a comment on the LAB Blog by Bill Hoffman. I’d add to that list that there should be Federal drivers that we have qualified people on state DOTs who know something about bicycling and can push for good roads–although I’ll probably take some flak here for saying that due to some of the more dubious things foisted on cyclists by planning funded under Federal programs or pass-throughs–the emphasis should be on quality, not quantity. I would like to see Federal standards on shoulder quality in rural areas. Even under current law, New Mexico kills cyclists with impunity on badly designed state bike routes. For that matter I would like to see Federal standards protecting our right to the road so a cyclist on a transcontinental (i.e., interstate) journey doesn’t have to worry about Black Hawk, Colorado (a worry recently brought close to home in Albuquerque when the cycling community, including LAB, fought off an attempt to ban cycling on a perfectly good road). Finally, in a nation as dispersed as ours and where much of 20th Century urban architecture has focused on automobile based mobility, I really do think we need to address how we will integrate more sustainable modes into our national consciousness, as a national security as well as public health issue. That is one role I would like to see us not leave to landscape architects or auto-centric policy makers.
But cycling will not die. We don’t need to save it but we do need to nurture it. We do need to keep the baby and toss the bathwater, when it comes to Federal programs. Let’s make sure the cycling community doesn’t form a circular firing squad on this topic.