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National Bike Bill passes U.S. House vote

Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on May 29th, 2008 at 10:30 am

nationalSummit08_ride-28.jpg
Bike legislation is moving
forward in D.C.
(Photo © J. Maus)

House Congressional Resolution 305, also known as the National Bike Bill, has passed through a vote by the U.S. House of Representatives earlier this week.

The resolution -- which was introduced by Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) back in February -- recognizes the importance of bicycling to "enriching the nation’s health, reducing traffic congestion and greenhouse gas emissions, and improving America’s economic vitality and overall quality of life."

A statement released from Blumenauer's office (which incidentally referred to it as the "Blumenauer Bike Resolution"), shared why this piece of legislation is so important (emphasis mine).

"H. Con. Res. 305 documents more than twenty specific, quantifiable benefits that bicycling brings to cyclists, motorists and pedestrians alike. It calls on Congress to establish national target levels for increased bicycle use and intermodal travel. The National Bike Bill supports providing federal incentives for adoption of State and local “complete streets” policies, expanding funding for Federal transportation programs that support non-motorized infrastructure and safety enhancements, as well as developing coordinated interstate bicycle routes and bike-friendly land protections, and much more. Lastly, the legislation re-establishes the Interagency Bicycle Task Force, launched after the 1994 report to Congress."

As a "Concurrent Resolution" the bill must also pass the Senate, but it does not need the president's signature.

Unfortunately, according to Blumenauer staffers, at this point the bill does not have a Senate sponsor. A natural champion to introduce the bill would be the leader of the 17 member Senate Bike Caucus, but that group has been without any leadership since Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) stepped down.

Meeky Blizzard, who works in Blumenauer's Portland office says Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME) has recently agreed to chair the Senate Bike Caucus but she has not stepped forward yet.

In other national bike legislation news, the extension of the transportation fringe tax benefit to bike commuters passed the House last month. The bike commuter benefit is now part of the Renewable Energy & Energy Conservation Tax Act of 2008 (H.R. 5351). It is also slated for a vote in the Senate.

Stay tuned for updates on both of these important pieces of legislation.

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Comments
  • Pete May 29, 2008 at 11:05 am

    Maybe Senator Barack Obama could sponsor it?

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  • Ashley May 29, 2008 at 11:08 am

    Ooooooo....this feels like one of those important \'hold your breath\' moments.

    Fingers crossed for a successful vote!

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  • Dave May 29, 2008 at 11:13 am

    \"interstate bicycle routes\"

    Yeah baby!

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  • Chris Sullivan May 29, 2008 at 11:14 am

    Sweetness.

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  • Martha R May 29, 2008 at 11:19 am

    Wowee! I hope it passes. C\'mon, Senate, do your stuff! Lead us to independence from foreign oil!

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  • Russ May 29, 2008 at 11:28 am

    I see Ron Wyden, Gordon Smith, and Maria Cantwell on the Senate Bike Caucus list. Perhaps some phone calls and letters/emails are in order?

    As for the Senate Caucus leader, which I doubt is needed to sponsor the bill: What does Wyden need to get leadership? A flag? Does he need to present Orrin Hatch\'s still beating heart to the other caucus members in order for them to bow to his will? Inquiring minds want to know.

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  • Hillsons May 29, 2008 at 11:32 am

    This will be wonderful groundwork.

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  • erin g. May 29, 2008 at 11:42 am

    What can we do to help? Letters and emails? Phone calls? Does anyone have access to web-based viral-style communications solutions (like what moveon.org or ACLU does/uses) for getting the word out there quickly; prompting quick actions with clear messaging, motivating thousands to call/write senators in all states?

    Any helpful links or contacts would be appreciated, so please share them if you have them.

    Let\'s do this!!!

    Erin

    We are ALL Traffic Coalition

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  • bahueh May 29, 2008 at 11:44 am

    I have a feeling Bush will trash it with one last \"F-YOU\" to this country...he\'s too deep into the oil lobbyist pockets...

    it set a good ground work...but I wouldn\'t expect much to phsyically change anytime in the next 10 years...

    sorry to be so negative...I work for the federal government though...and the pace of progress is PAINFUL if not seemingly backwards...its an entity based on status quo by enlarge.

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  • bahueh May 29, 2008 at 11:45 am

    duh..I really must read all of article..the veto is not necessary apparently...I still fear for it in the Senate..

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) May 29, 2008 at 11:49 am

    \"Any helpful links or contacts would be appreciated, so please share them if you have them.\"

    Great to hear your enthusiasm erin g. I\'ve just added a bit more to the story... apparently Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME) had agreed to lead the Senate Bike Caucus but so far, has not made any real moves in that direction. Perhaps she would be a good person to direct emails to ...encouraging her to take the reins and introduce the bill onto the Senate floor. it would be a great way to kickoff her leadership of the caucus!

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  • Allison May 29, 2008 at 11:50 am

    I just picked up the phone and called Senator Wyden\'s office in DC

    202-224-5244

    There isn\'t any direct relationship between number of contacts and a policy change with a law maker, but the more contacts they get the more sense they have that their constituents feel a particular way. If everyone on here called in the next half hour, it\'d make quite an impact on the office.

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  • Allison May 29, 2008 at 11:52 am

    Oh! And what I said (in case you\'re a bit uncomfortable on the phone)

    Hi! My name is ____. I\'m a constituent. I\'m calling because I just saw on Bike Portland that the National Bike Bill concurrent resolution passed the house but does not currently have a Senate Sponsor. I\'m asking, as a constituent, that Senator Wyden consider being that sponsor, especially considering he\'s a member of the Senate Bike Caucus. Can you pass that message along?\"

    They asked for my zip (which means I\'m at least being recorded by their systems) and that was that.

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  • Allison May 29, 2008 at 11:56 am

    \"Great to hear your enthusiasm erin g. I\'ve just added a bit more to the story... apparently Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME) had agreed to lead the Senate Bike Caucus but so far, has not made any real moves in that direction. Perhaps she would be a good person to direct emails to ...encouraging her to take the reins and introduce the bill onto the Senate floor. it would be a great way to kickoff her leadership of the caucus!\"

    There\'s nothing *wrong* with contacting a Senate office that does not represent you, but in my experience, there\'s a heirarchy in responses to those who are constituents versus those who are not. Their staff has limited resources in responding to correspondance and they prioritize their own constituents.

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  • Russ May 29, 2008 at 12:05 pm

    bahueh,

    My understanding is that HR 305 does nothing but say the Congress ought to do something. Sort of like how I say I should stop eating donuts.

    It\'s H.R. 5351 that includes the tax write off for bicycle commuters. It also cuts domestic oil tax breaks and provides money for a grab bag of stuff you may not be too fond of.

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  • geoff May 29, 2008 at 12:07 pm

    I just emailed Senator Wyden from this page:

    http://wyden.senate.gov/contact/

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  • Russ May 29, 2008 at 12:22 pm

    Here\'s the contact info for Gordon Smith too.

    http://gsmith.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Contact.Home

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  • Jon May 29, 2008 at 12:29 pm

    Does this bill do anything except say bicycling is good? I don\'t see any additional funding for bike paths or any other facilities or programs that would actually encourage bicycling. Why does this bill exsist?

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  • kevin May 29, 2008 at 12:31 pm

    I wouldn\'t get too excited. It has no force in law. The cynic in me says, politicians pass non-binding resolutions to say they are doing something when they\'ve really done nothing.

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  • Allison May 29, 2008 at 12:47 pm

    It\'s not the end of the fight no, but it\'s not meaningless. Stuff like this builds momentum and it provides easy arguments for advocates in DC to say, \"See! We *should* spend money on this! You voted to say you liked it last month!\"

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  • peejay May 29, 2008 at 1:52 pm

    Not to get too political here, but I feel really uncomfortable having Sen. Snowe take the lead of the Senate Bike Caucus, since she has a big \"R\" next to her name. She\'s just not going to go against party leadership when that party stands against everything that bikes stand for. Also, from a practical standpoint, after November, the Republicans will be powerless in Congress, and the caucus should best be in the hands of the majority party.

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  • DJ Hurricane May 29, 2008 at 2:18 pm

    I agree that the whole non-binding resolution thing is largely BS, but if you look at other topics (e.g., environmentalism) you had those types of resolutions followed later by substantive legislation (e.g., CWA, CAA, NEPA, etc).

    Also I agree with peejay. The Snowe assignment is actually a worse sign than the non-binding aspect of the current resolution, because you can bet that no meaningful change in transportation policy will come if a Republican has a key role.

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  • erin g. May 29, 2008 at 4:15 pm

    Thank you Jonathan, Allison, Russ, and others who responded with great, proactive suggestions for contacts and actions!

    This is just what we need!

    Think about how many hundreds of people are reading Jonathan\'s news about this bill, how hundreds of people each of us know (through work, community involvement, sports, knitting, yoga class, synagogue...anything!). If we all chip in by

    1) making quick personal calls/emails to senators and

    2) spreading the word to our networks, urgently encouraging people to take two minutes for action,

    ....we could feasibly hit the right contacts with thousands and thousands of messages, expressing how important and necessary it is that this bill passes. It is not just about transportation: it about a health epidemic, our environment, and how those things impact all facets of our economy and society. This bill is a profound step in the right direction. Let\'s work hard to do whatever we can to ensure that our thousands of voices are heard.

    Idea: Speaking of viral messaging, maybe someone could make a cool YouTube video about this topic, with people speaking to the camera as though they were approaching senators That would be a cool, creative, viral way to get the word out.

    In the meantime, please- call and email the contacts provided above! My day could not be busier, but I am going to take two minutes to do so myself, right now!

    Remember: The time spent writing doubtful emails about questionable powers-that-be is time that could be spent in proactive directions. I understand why some are skeptical (believe me, very much so), but I have also seen the power of collaboration in making sure that messages and desired outcomes are delivered with great success.

    We CAN take our communities and country back, but it is hard work, and it will take one step at a time. Most importantly, it takes tens of thousands of individuals who are willing to take a few minutes from their day....like right now. Go for it!

    Thank you again, everyone.

    By the way, this is a good time for The Metal Cowboy! He has an incredible nationwide network. Joe, if you read this, pass on the good action word! Thank you in advance, my friend!

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  • JJ May 29, 2008 at 5:51 pm

    Others probably could comment better than I can, but the fact that this is a Concurrent Resolution means it doesn\'t \"do\" anything, but it is still important as a precursor to getting other, more specific bills and/or funding through.

    Perhaps Senator Merkley will ask to chair the Senate\'s bike caucus next year? I\'d imagine the bar is set pretty low if the former chair is Kay Bailey-Hutchison.

    JJ

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  • Russell May 29, 2008 at 9:06 pm

    Folks do not write off Senator Snowe simply because she has an R next to her name. A Republican from Maine is VASTLY different than a Republican from South Carolina. Go check out Senator Snowes information here:

    http://tinyurl.com/6la3vt

    and

    http://tinyurl.com/5nbt5r

    So to pull out some key data here: According to Govtrack.us she is a \"moderate republican\" but has voted more liberally than some Democrats. Project Vote Smart reports that she received a 100/100 rating from NARAL Pro-Choice last year and last year she supported the interests of American Conservative Union 28% of the time, while she supported Americans for Democratic Action 60% of the time.

    I\'ve garnered all of this from a brief glance at her profile on these two sites, but I think throwing out her support, simply because she is a Republican, is a little hasty.

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  • Peter W May 29, 2008 at 11:19 pm

    just sent this email using http://wyden.senate.gov/contact/:

    Dear Senator Wyden,

    I just read on BikePortland.org that the National Bike Bill concurrent resolution (H. Con. Res 305) passed the house but doesn\'t currently have a Senate Sponsor.

    I encourage you to consider being that sponsor, especially since you\'re a member of the Senate Bike Caucus, and you are from what is probably the most bike-friendly state in the country.

    In these times of global warming and peak oil, we really need a leader in the Senate to promote the use of bicycles in this country, and I hope that you can be that leader that we need today.

    Please consider sponsoring or otherwise supporting the National Bike Bill.

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  • David Feldman May 30, 2008 at 7:45 am

    I\'d bet money that Bush\'s signing statement has some reference to bicycles being \"not really transportation.\"

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