Congress Ditched Kids with Transportation Bill


Last week was a sad one for those seeking a balanced transportation system. Congress wants to spend about $150,000,000,000 (yes, billions!) for transportation infrastructure.  Not one penny was directed toward kid-friendly facilities and Safe Routes to School, signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2005.

Last Thursday, the House of Representatives’ Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure rejected funding for bicycle, pedestrian, and Federal SRTS as part of the American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act of 2012 (H.R. 7).  That Bill terminates the Safe Routes to School Reauthorization Act that’s been languishing in a Senate Committee since last April.  If that House Bill becomes law, no more Safe Routes to School.  H.R. 7 says, “repealed.”  The message is clear:  kids don’t matter.

The next step sends the Bill to the full floor of the House in mid-February, about a week from now.  If you care about kids being able to safely walk and bicycle to school, read on.  

According to the League of American Bicyclists, tens of thousands of Americans sent letters through the League’s advocacy site asking that bike/ped funding and SRTS be retained.  Yet Thursday’s Committee vote was 29-27 against preserving funding.  The vote was largely along party lines, the Republicans comprising 100% of the 29.  Being a Democrat or a Republican shouldn’t matter when a safe route to school is at stake.

Three brave Republican Committee Members did the right thing.  They elevated SRTS above party politics and took a stand to preserve critical funding.  All voters need to thank them for their independence and courage.  Here are their names and numbers:  Tim Johnson, Illinois, (202) 225-2371; Frank LoBiondo, New Jersey, (202) 225-6572; Tom Petri, Wisconsin, (202) 225-2476. (Note: you cannot email them through their websites, which exclude emails outside their districts).

California needs more Safe Routes to School.  The 2012 Benchmarking Report on Bicycling and Walking in the United States ranks California as being in the worst 1/3 of all states in per capita spending on non-motorized infrastructure.  California is also in the worst 1/3 for bicycle & pedestrian fatalities.  It’s no wonder that parents put their children in the family SUV to individually carry them to the school’s front door.  A child shouldn’t have to risk life and limb just by walking or biking to school.

Despite those dismal percentages, 3 of California’s 5 U.S. Congressmen on the Committee voted against the Bill amendment that would preserve the funding and save SRTS. (Note: San Clemente’s Congressman Calvert does not sit on the Committee).  Had they voted “yes,” bike/ped/SRTS would have been formally included in the Bill as it made its way through the legislative process and debate.

You can help. Every Representative in every district in California needs to be called by every voter to ask for full funding of Safe Routes to School and non-motorized transportation.  Here’s a way to open the conversation (always be polite and respectful–don’t rant!):

Start by introducing yourself to the staff member, telling them where you’re from, how many kids or grandkids you have, and a little bit about our Spanish Village by the Sea.  When I called, I explained how our City has made Orange County history in declaring its new Circulation Element will comply in letter and spirit with California’s Complete Streets legislation, making front page news and being recognized by the Orange County Transportation Authority.  They had no idea.  I pointed out that our town had no Congressman on the Committee that voted against kids’ safety, so every Representative needs to know San Clemente is trying to do the right thing and we’ll need cooperation at all levels of government.  We need your District Representative to vote in favor of Bicycle, Pedestrian, and SRTS funding.  Kids’ lives are at stake. (Leave your name and contact with the staffer).  Say, “Thank you.”

Here’s the official U.S. House link to California’s representatives and their phone numbers HERE.  Organize your PTAs so that every parent calls each Representative.  Don’t sit back and let someone else do it for you.  Staying at home to stew about the political backbiting and the Federal budget problems won’t change anything.  Calling your Representative just might.

Remember:  the budget debate is not so much about how much we have or don’t have, but how it’s allocated.

$150 billion is being proposed for spending no matter what. And NONE of it will go to Safe Routes to School unless the Congress amends the Bill.

Call them.  Time is of the essence.  We have about 1 weekbefore this goes to the House floor.

Carpe diem.

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