Cutting through the partisan fog in D.C.

I’m not sure if we made a difference you will be able to see in the next federal transportation bill, but of the more than 800 bicycle advocates who visited Washington for the National Bike Summit last week, the 23 from Wisconsin were quite well received by our elected leaders, even those who don’t believe bicycles should be funded at the federal level. Participating in our democracy is always rewarding, even if we don’t succeed. We must never stop telling our elected representatives that we bike and we vote.

This year our state delegation to the National Bike Summit included three staff members of the Bike Fed, industry representatives and citizen advocates who managed to meet personally with all our elected leaders or their staff in D.C.  Our message was simple: Bicycles are part of the transportation mix and as such deserve federal transportation funding.

Maintaining federal funding for bicycling is crucial if we are to continue to make Wisconsin a better place to ride. Federal funds have paid for virtually every single trail, shoulder and bike lane in our state.

Below is a brief report on who we met with and how the meetings went:

Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-2nd): Congresswomen Baldwin is a long-time supporter of Wisconsin bicycling and a supporter of federal bicycle transportation funding. We met with her staff who reiterated this commitment and who spoke proudly of Madison, our capital and great bicycle city.

Rep. Sean Duffy (R-7th): It was a pleasure meeting personally with Congressman Duffy.  In fact he made a special effort to come off the House floor to meet with us in the wings of the Capitol. Coming from Hayward and having ridden in the Chequamegon Fat Tire 40, Duffy is a bike guy, but he still does not support funding bicycle projects with federal funds.

If you live in his district, email him to thank him for meeting with the Bike Fed in D.C., and tell him you support federal funding for bicycling.

Sen. Ron Johnson (R): Our newest Senator was gracious enough to personally meet with us but is firm in his position that cycling should not be part of the federal transportation bill. We argued that bicycling is transportation and has a huge economic impact for a very small investment and deserves to be included in the federal transportation bill. You can email Senator Johnson to tell him you believe bicycling should be funded at the federal level.

Rep. Ron Kind (D-3rd): Congressman Kind’s staff reiterated his support of federal funding to support the growth of Wisconsin bicycling. Staff also discussed Congressman Kind’s deep commitment to Safe Routes to School programing which he supported with success stories from in and around La Crosse.

Sen. Herb Kohl (D): We met with a member of Senator Kohl’s staff who told us he bikes to work and for pleasure.  Senator Kohl is retiring after this term but he has always been a supporter of bicycling and we will miss him on the hill.

Rep. Gwen Moore (D-4th): We met with staff but said hello to Congresswoman Moore in the hallway as she rushed off to another meeting. Rep. Moore’s staff has been very supportive of bicycling in the past and continues to be one of our allies in Washington.

Rep. Tom Petri (R-6th): We met several times with Congressman Petri and he spoke to the larger audience at the summit.  Rep. Petri is our strongest advocate for cycling in D.C. and his Petri/Cochrane amendment is our best bet to have the House include funding for bicycles in their version of the transportation bill.

Rep Reid Ribble (R-8th): We met with personally with Rep. Ribble, but could not get him to say he would support federal funding for bicycling. If you live in his district you can email him to tell him you believe that bicycling is a legitimate form of transportation that should be included in the House version of the federal transportation bill.

The Cherry blossom petals helped, but I still wore off a lot of shoe leather on my old Allen Edmunds walking to all my meetings on the Hill.

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-1st): Congressman Ryan has become one of the most powerful leaders in congress as the Chair of the House Budget Committee. We met with Ryan’s staff who reminded us Congressman Ryan is an avid cyclist. Unfortunately, Ryan’s past actions and statements do not support the belief that bicycling should be funded at the federal level. During our meeting, we explained that bicycling is transportation, it has a huge economic impact in Wisconsin, and bicycling deserves to be included in the federal transportation bill. If you live in Ryan’s district, you can email him to tell him you believe bicycling should be funded at the federal level.

Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-5th): We met with his staff, who bike to the office, but they told us the Congressman does not believe in keeping a dedicated funding source for transportation because he believes the state DOT’s should have full authority to decide how to spend all transportation dollars. Once again we argued that bicycling is transportation, has a huge economic impact in Wisconsin and as such, deserves to be included in the federal transportation bill. We argued further that the Petri amendment does not make cycling a set-aside, but instead simply allows states the freedom to spend federal dollars on bicycle projects if they want. If you live in Congressman Sensenbrenner’s district, you can email him to tell him you believe he should support fellow Wisconsin Congressman Petri’s amendment.

You can read about some of the other important visits to the Hill, including our trip to Rep. Petri’s office in the League of American Bicyclists Blog here.

About Kevin Hardman, Former Executive Director

Kevin is the former Executive Director of the Wisconsin Bike Fed. He lives in Wauwatosa with his wife and three daughters. Kevin is happiest on a bike, any type of bike!

10 thoughts on “Cutting through the partisan fog in D.C.

  1. I’m glad that there seems to be a growing number of advocates making the trip and there and being seen and heard. The squeaky wheel gets the grease….

    How frustrating was it to speak with people who regularly bike and enjoy what the funding provided but yet not supportive and voting for a dedicated source. Thank you for your patience. I would’ve started banging my head against the wall

    • Casey, this really is a purely ideological issue. The TEA Party Republicans honestly believe that there needs to be a greater separation between federal, state and local issues. I have been thinking of asking someone like Rep. Duffy (remember he is a bike guy) to write us a guest blog post explaining that position. Since most trails are really local, I can see their point to some degree. That said, whenever a road is constructed, it needs to accommodate pedestrians and bicycles, so they should not make rules that prohibit states or municipalities from using their money as they see fit. The problem with that is we have not done a good job of convincing our state and local leaders to spend money on bikes. There is NO state money in our budget for bikes and there is NO local money for bikes outside of the Madison capital budget. So if the federal funds go away, we will be left with nothing.

  2. Great work BFW – it’s great to have this straightforward little summary on the positions of our elected officials. It’s pretty clear to see who is actually considering the issues put before them, and who is just parroting the same old ‘party line’. There is indeed work to be done.

    • Thanks Don, there is indeed work to be done. But the distinction may appear to be on party lines, but I think it is a bit more blurred than that. For instance our Rep. Tom Petri, a senior Republican member of the House, is perhaps our strongest advocate for cycling. The issue is the strict constitutionalist (TEA Party) member of the Republican members of the House are driving the leadership to take these firm anti-bike, anti-transit stands. Since this is a new group (to the degree that they now have political power), we need to continue to have conversations with those leaders. Paul Ryan, Sean Duffy, etc. If you live in their district, call or email them and tell them your position. I can tell you that I ride with quite a few people who think government should not be using transportation money for bikes, and these are guys telling me that while they ride a bike. Where to begin…

  3. Thank’s for the detailed summary Kevin! To let you know I actually read it- I think a word was omited from Rep. Ryan’s summary- instead of “… past actions and statements do support the belief…” you perhaps meant …”do not…” ? What a difference one word can make. I’m sure that is true in the transportation bill as well.

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