Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on February 2nd, 2012 at 11:41 am
Since the House transportation bill has gone all crazy, I've been banging my head against my desk to figure out why Republican members of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee are so afraid of including any mention of bicycling, transit (except to strip away dedicated funding for it), walking — or anything that doesn't harken back to the 1950s Interstate Highway era — in the bill.
Then it occurred to me (with some help from sources on Capitol Hill, who say there's a threatening letter going around from House Majority Leader Eric Cantor that there better not be any mention of bicycling in the bill), perhaps they're afraid of Republican party leadership? (Feel free to point out my political naivete if this is an obvious thing.)
"I did a [bike] path over an interstate years ago... but we didn't send out a press release on it."
— Congressman John Mica, Chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee
This led me to T & I Committee Chair John Mica (R-FL). As we've noted, Mica has clearly been a supporter of Safe Routes and other bicycling and walking-oriented projects in the past. However, now he has crafted a bill that many advocates say will eliminate funding for bicycling completely and roll back their progress several decades.
Then I remembered when Rep. Mica attended a fundraiser hosted by Bikes Belong during the 2009 National Bike Summit (at the time, Mica was minority leader of the T & I committee). Here's what I wrote about Mica's brief remarks at that event to a room full of bike advocates:
"He shared candidly that, while he and Rep. Earl Blumenauer "have our disagreements from time to time," he is supportive of biking. Mica boasted that Florida leads the nation in rail-trails and then said in a self-deprecating tone, "That's pretty good for a right-wing, knuckle-dragging conservative." On that note, Mica said that as a Republican he has to support biking "quietly". "I did a path over an interstate years ago," he said, and then began to smile, "but we didn't send out a press release on it.""
So now we have the House member with power over federal transportation legislation doing his best to not simply be "quiet" about his support for bicycling; but to eradicate it from national law altogether.
The debate over this bill is far from over — and without the Petri amendment it's even less likely it will ever pass in its current form — but I think it's important to keep stuff like this in mind. What do you think?
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