Wednesday, February 1, 2012

An armature for healthy choices

Edited for my typo-  "Oppose" the bill,  support the Petri amendment which would restore TE and SRS Thanks OKB for proofreading.  

I don't dwell on the health benefits of biking much,  partly because they're subtle in my case ( I don't have any fun story about how I dropped 50 lbs, alas) ,  but more importantly, I feel mostly that the other pleasures of biking are their own reward.

There was an article in the NY Times though that I found interesting, although perhaps obvious to even the casual observer of urban spaces.  It posits that the move to the "luxury" of the suburbs has fueled the obesity crisis because the design of the suburbs does not facilitate active transportation- the kind of activity we get as we live our everyday lives.  Well....... duh!  Yes, it seems obvious, but there were lots of studies and data to back up what seems like a simple conclusion.

This was striking because after months of inertia, the Transportation bill has lurched into life, being used as a political football by politicians who think that more highways= more jobs.   And while there's a certain truth to that,  and in general I support spending on infrastructure to help create jobs in this economy,  for some reason the people controlling the bill feel that even the 1.6% of the federal transportation budget that active transportation receives is WAAAY too much.

The current bill would cut out Transportation Enhancements,  which is a flawed system, but it's one of the few funding mechanisms for paths,  rail trails and sidewalk improvements.   It also cuts Safe Routes to schools, which has been a very successful program in encouraging kids to walk and bike to school.

If you live in MA, you have a unique opportunity to support  oppose this bill,  because Representative Capuano is a member of the Transpo committee.  Even if you aren't in MA,  sending an email takes little time, and I'll add my voice to the chorus of advocacy organizations that are urging you to weigh in with your legislator about the importance of preserving even this tiny amount of funding.  There are lots of good templates and talking points here, and Here.  There's an amendment called the Petrie Amendment which would restore  TE and SRS,  which is a good thing to support, as obviously some kind of bill is likely to pass.

Bike and walking facilities cost much less to install and maintain than roads,  and if well designed, they provide a network of infrastructure, on which people can incorporate active transport into their daily lives.  And cutting them isn't a significant enough amount of money to make a difference in the larger budget.  So why cut them unless you think of bikes and walking as recreation and a sideshow?  I know that a lot of people feel activism fatigue,  but in this tough budget times, it's going to be a constant fight to keep people who don't understand how bikes allow freedom for kids, and healthy lives for grown ups, reminded that there are people who do,  and who vote, and who want their interests represented just as well as the big road contractors do.


  1. As we enter the phase where the major oil producers are no longer capable of increasing supply to keep the price below the level where it drags down the economy, and as obesity reaches historic highs with rising healthcare prices for an aging population, killing self-powered transport to fund more motorized transport feels a lot like desperately throwing fuel on a fire that is going out.

  2. I contacted Representative Capuano when I first read about this last week. It was the first time I'd done anything like that, but the possibility of this funding being taken away is disturbing.

  3. cycler wrote,

    ....."The current bill would cut out Transportation Enhancements....It also cuts Safe Routes to schools.."

    "If you live in MA, you have a unique opportunity to support this bill"

    Shouldn't this be a chance to NOT support the bill?


    A local bike advocate here in San Diego, CA provided this link to help alert your representatives about our feelings on this issue.

    Kathy provides this commentary and link in the "Bike Advocacy" thread of (

    Comment Author: Kathy


    Action Alert: Forwarded from the League of American Bicyclists

    It takes you to a site where you can submit a letter to your congressman/congresswoman to fight the proposed cuts to bike/ped funding in the federal transportation bill. Please click through and sign up now. This is funding for sidewalks, bike paths, sharrows, etc.

    Don't let them take it away!


    Ride well and be safe out there,


    1. I'm on the fence about this whole thing. "Safe Routes to School" has not been a net improvement any time I've run into same, but it also seems to me that the bill runs past benign neglect to active antipathy towards nonmotorized transport. It says a lot that the two main sponsors of "put some back in" are both members of the House majority party...

      And NO, I'm NOT a robot!