This afternoon the Bike Fed formally asked Gov. Scott Walker to veto a state budget amendment that would stop, slow or make more expensive dozens of recreational trail, bike lane and even sidewalk projects around the state.
The eleventh hour amendment was snuck into the budget without a public hearing or any debate in the final week of consideration by the legislature. The Bike Fed’s attempts to get the Republican-controlled legislature to remove the amendment came up short. On Friday a move to do that failed in the state Senate on a party-line 20-13 vote.
Now our last hope remains with the governor. Below find the complete text of our letter. Feel free to use any part of it in your own contact to the governor which you can do here.
September 18, 2017
Governor Scott Walker
Dear Governor Walker:
On behalf of the Wisconsin Bike Fed and our 7,000 members all over the state I am asking you to use your line item veto authority to eliminate provisions of the budget bill that would prohibit the state and local jurisdictions from using powers of eminent domain for the purposes of establishing or expanding recreational trails, bike lanes or ways or pedestrian ways (sidewalks).
We offer the following reasons:
This will cost taxpayers’ money. We have heard from local governments all over the state that this prohibition will slow, make more expensive or force them to abandon popular trail expansions. One landowner could stop a popular project from going forward. Because these trails are popular it’s likely that they will move ahead, but either landowners will extract a higher amount for their land or the trail will be needlessly rerouted, resulting in a longer trail and more expense.
This will hurt economic development. Recently, trails have been especially strong drivers for the tourism industry. The Heart of Vilas County Trail, for example, is a forty-five mile paved trail that has been a recent addition to the tourism economy there. There are many similar trail projects going on all over the state. And as global climate change warms our winters, it is likely that the tourism industry will be looking for recreational trails to help replace snow and ice dependent activities.
This will discourage commuting by bicycle. The power of eminent domain would remain in effect for road construction. Bicycles are vehicles under Wisconsin statutes and bicycle commuting is growing in popularity. So, for those who want to commute by car eminent domain remains in effect to expand roads, but for those who commute by bike (saving wear and tear on streets, reducing demand on parking, and reducing green house gas emissions and other pollutants) eminent domain would be repealed. We should be encouraging more bike commuting, not less.
This will increase conflicts between drivers and cyclists. Dedicated bike lanes and trails provide separation between bicycles and cars. That leads to fewer conflicts between modes. We should be encouraging projects that lead to fewer conflicts.
This will discourage healthy habits. Wisconsin, like much of the rest of the nation, faces an obesity epidemic, resulting in human suffering and incredibly high health care costs. We know that active transportation, whether for commuting or recreation, helps keep people healthy with benefits to individuals and to the bottom line for state government and society as a whole.
There are potential unintended consequences. The language of the budget amendment would seem to suggest that if a road with existing bike lanes or sidewalks were widened beyond the original right-of-way those bike lanes or sidewalks could not be moved if eminent domain was required. In other words, the language – beyond stopping new projects from going forward – could actually result in existing bike lanes and sidewalks being eliminated.
The process was wrong. This leads us to our next point: that language raises questions because it was not vetted through the normal legislative process. This policy item simply has no place in the budget. There was no public hearing, no discussion, no debate and we don’t even know which legislator or special interest is behind it.
For all of these reasons we ask you to veto this provision.
Wisconsin Bike Fed