Eric Cantor Postpones Battle Over Safe Routes Funding

6_15_10_cantor.jpgImage via Bike Portland

(Update: Cantor’s office responded below that the reason the “Safe Routes to School” funding cuts can’t be found on the site was because the vote on this proposal ended and that it could be a YouCut proposal again in the future.  Streetsblog will monitor YouCut to see when it comes up again.  To see the original post, and the text of Cantor’s response, click on after the jump.- DN)

 

It’s no surprise that Republican House Whip Eric Cantor would target bicycle and pedestrian funding as “wasteful.”  Earlier this month, he proposed“eliminating federally funded transportation ‘enhancements like landscaping, preservation of historic facilities, and pedestrian and bike facilities’ at a savings of $833 million to the federal government.”  In his list of proposed areas of saving highways were not included.

At YouCut, Cantor proposes five ways the federal government can save a lot of money, and urges people to vote on which program is most deserving of being cut.  The Whip promises a floor vote on each
“winning program.”  However, when Cantor proposed saving the government $183 million by cutting funds to make children’s commutes safer; the reaction wasn’t what he expected.  By this morning, the option of voting to eliminate Safe Routes to School was missing from the site.

Wielding e-mail lists, blogs and social network websites, advocates beat back Cantor’s attack.

Almost immediately, The League of American Cyclists sent a letter to supporters urging them to contact their Member of Congress in case a Safe Routes cut actually made it to the House Floor.  Their letter was picked up by blogs ranging from Bike Portland to Virginia Bikes, which also urged Cantor’s constituents to give him an earful.  In addition, the League’s letter was forwarded by an untold number of groups.  Personally, I received five copies of it: from Bikes Belong, the Caltrans Bike Advisory Committee, the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, Ciudad de las Luces and the Safe Routes to Schools National Partnership.

However, just because this attempt at cutting Safe Routes to School’s funding was beaten back, it doesn’t mean that it’s not going to rear its ugly head again.  In his justification for cutting Safe Routes, Cantor calls the project “duplicative’ because other funding sources exist for bicycle and pedestrian projects and blasts the requirement that every state have at least one Safe Routes coordinator.  This sort of Car Culture reasoning, that funding for bicycle and pedestrian projects is wasteful without ever thinking that our federal subsidy for car-driving is far more costly and wasteful, isn’t going to go away because of a bunch of angry email from cyclists.

  • Brad Dayspring

    Fellow riders –

    The report above is inaccurate.

    Specifically, the notion that “blogs and social network websites, advocates beat back Cantor’s attack” is nothing more than a figment of the author’s imagination. In fact, the grassroots enthusiasm surrounding the proposal was overwhelmingly in favor of cutting the funds spent on duplicative programs (bike paths in this instance) to save taxpayer dollars.

    As part of the YouCut initiative, five new proposals to cut federal spending are posted on the website each week, and citizens select the spending cut they want the House of Representatives to consider. Over 855,000 votes have been cast thus far.

    The proposal to cut taxpayer funding for duplicative bike paths did not receive the most votes this week (a proposal to sell excess federal lands did), but it still generated a groundswell of public support and will certainly be considered in future YouCut votes. In the interim, a new round of spending cuts has been posted and we encourage all readers of LA Street blog to cast their votes so that Washington can start saving a money the best way for the federal government to save them money. They can visit the website here: http://republicanwhip.house.gov/YouCut/

    Brad Dayspring
    Press Secretary
    Congressman Eric Cantor

  • Eric B

    An illiterate press secretary: the product of underfunded public schools?

    “In the interim, a new round of spending cuts has been posted and we encourage all readers of LA Street blog to cast their votes so that Washington can start saving a money the best way for the federal government to save them money.”

  • Brad Dayspring

    In the interim, a new round of spending cuts has been posted and we encourage all readers of LA Street blog to cast their votes so that Washington and the federal government can start saving a money.

    Thanks for pointing that out, and please encourage all of your friends to vote.

    http://republicanwhip.house.gov/YouCut/

  • Henry Henrico

    Eric Cantor is a political whore who consistently votes against the wishes of his constituents.

  • Zufechten

    Subsidies on corn syrup and sugar should be cut, and the funds diverted to bike/ped improvements.

    That would address obesity in two ways, and also allow Mexico to regain some of the agriculture lost to NAFTA. Once that happens, people who now cross the border illegally to make money will be able to find work closer to home.

    Cutting wasteful subsidies and slowing illegal immigration. What’s not for a Republican to like?

  • Marcotico

    Brad Dayspring is a shill.

  • Cory

    Why is it that every anti-bike statement begins with “Fellow riders” or “I’m an avid cyclist, but…”

    At somepoint in their lives everyone has been behind the bars of efficient transportation. Past, present, or future; everyone rides bikes!

    Guilty conscience?

  • Brad Dayspring

    Cory –

    Hardly, just was being friendly and since this is a blog for riders, it seemed appropriate. That and I just bought a new bike and was happy to post here.

    No statement made here or through the YouCut program is “anti-bike” or anti-cyclist.
    The point is that this program is indeed duplicative, and at a time when our national debt is soaring and Washington is spending $4.8 billion per day, we must start finding ways to save – even small ways. Congress should at least have a conversation about whether this duplicative program is deserving of federal tax dollars

  • And let’s be nice. Brad only posted here after I got the story wrong…

  • Damien – you received 5 copies – wow. It did seem like it moved through lots of networks which great. Thanks everyone who helped! Thanks for the update on the story too.

  • Matt

    Brad –

    I’ve seen several places that the “program is duplicative” but have yet to see a detailed explanation of how this is so. While there certainly are other bike and pedestrian improvement programs, this one is specifically targeted at assisting schoolchildren (who, by the way, are on average getting fatter at an alarming rate).

    While I understand you personally may not be anti-bike or anti-cyclist, raising this as wasteful at a time when other government programs are focusing on increasing health and reducing our oil dependency seems a bit of a head-scratcher.

  • Rich Wilson

    The proposal to cut taxpayer funding for duplicative bike paths

    That makes it sound like there will be parallel bike paths between the same two points. I highly doubt that’s accurate. For one, SRTS is about more than bike paths.

  • Cory

    Brad,

    Regarding duplicative programs, yes the State of California has it’s own SRTS program, however that program is primarily geared towards infrastructure improvements (with 10% towards programs like walking buses, bike trains, outreach and education). The federal SRTS is the only funding source that can be used specifically and exclusively towards these types of programs. Programs that in my opinion do alot more for promoting healthy lifestyle choices for kids than any infrastructure and at a fraction of the cost. If you are about saving federal dollars I would urge you to consider the value of a dollar spent on programs like SRTS versus the value of a dollar spent on building massive infrastructure projects. With so much transportation funding spent on freeways, is our government really being good stewards with out tax dollars? USDOT recently published a report that looks at Bicycle and Pedestrian funding over the last 15 years. Bike and peds averaged about 1% with a peak last year of 2%. Two-percent of transportation funding went to bikes and peds and you are looking here for places to cut?! I know when I am balancing my household expenses and need to make some cuts I look at where I am spending the most money. Maybe we can do without one freeway widening and leave some money for our children? Just sayin’!

  • XLFD

    I agree with Brad; the SR2S program is a big waste of money used for administration, bureaucracy, and duplicative local projects. It is better to encourage your local city councilors and state reps to improve your local infrastructures and safety concerns. Let the Feds use this money to create ways for pedestrians and bicyclists to get past the blockades created by all the limited-access highways they have built without any concern for the non-motorized segment of the population getting from one place to another. Its better than a sidewalk here or there, and safety pamphlets provided at a highly inflated cost by SR2S.

  • Eve Alone

    Talk about wasting taxpayer money. I do not recommend this to anyone, but some people believe that everybody who has ever had to pay a processing fee for FOIA requests can easily circumvent the total costs by conspiring with other people to submit the exact same FOI requests. That way the agency will have to spread the initial fee among all the requests. If you have a $200 fee and then conspire with 4 of your family or friends to submit the same request, they will have to divide that $200 by all 5 of you so that each of you will be asked to pay only $40 ($200 divided by 5). Then, only one of you pays the $40 and your 4 co-conspiracers decline the information. You get the information for $40 instead of $200. Bilk the taxpayer.

    Quote from the Torch: “That weekend, XLFD (Tom Rotta) organized three other people, including me, to send out our own FOIA request just containing one request, so that we would get the information without the prohibitive, unlawful costs. “

  • Eva Green

    What exactly was the reasoning behind the multiple FOIA requests?

  • Robert Frazier

    I am a firm believer of the FOIA. It provides everyone with the opportunity to looks at public documents. Unfortunately there are those who will take advantage of the Act to the point that they submit dozens of requests for not other reason but to try to dig up whatever dirt they think they might find, even if there is no dirt to be found. Or they will get a group of people to submit multiple requests for the same information which still takes up additional time to process each request separately. Ultimately it adds unreasonable costs to the majority of people because each request still needs to be processed by one or more governmental employees.
    If one person were to submit 120 FOIA’s to the same local government entity and tie up the office help for a few days or weeks. Why should one person be allowed to do that without accessing additional fees? I would suspect that the local government agency will eventually take up the issue of multiple requests and create a fee system that makes it fair to the entire population base.
    Bicyclist account for about 1% of all travel in the US and they do not pay taxes to maintain the roads. I do believe that bicycles need to be fairly considered when talking about infrastructure design and use, but too many of these do not consider what the roads and highways are designed for. They are designed for cars and trucks. If the bicycles expect to use the roads then they should be expected to pay their fair share of the costs of designed and maintaining the roadways. Too many taxpayers pay too much money to give 1% of the population preferential treatment.

  • Robert Frazier

    I wanted to add that if any government agency decides to increase the costs of processing FOI requests because of multiple or frivilous requests by one person or group of people, the rest of the population of that area is penalized by the actions of an extreme small minority. Increased costs under such circumstances is not fair but somebody has to pay the increased costs associated with the misuse of government employees.

  • Rich Wilson

    “Bicyclist account for about 1% of all travel in the US and they do not pay taxes to maintain the roads”

    Sigh. That is so old, and so wrong.
    Most cyclists also own a car. Those few who don’t actually SUBSIDIZE the roads for everyone else. Yes, that’s right. NON drivers pay for the roads they don’t use through sales, property and income taxes.

    Google will give you lots of references, but this is one of the better ones:
    http://www.grist.org/article/2010-09-27-why-an-additional-road-tax-for-bicyclists-would-be-unfair

    “Too many taxpayers pay too much money to give 1% of the population preferential treatment.”

    Time for a sidewalk tax?

  • Robert Frazier

    I did not intend to imply that people who ride bicycles do not pay some taxes. What I intended is that if you took all the cars and trucks off the road, there would not be enough money from taxes to pay for the roads. But if you took all the bicycles off the road there would be very little effect on the money available for the roads.

  • Spokker

    “What I intended is that if you took all the cars and trucks off the road, there would not be enough money from taxes to pay for the roads”

    If you took all the cars off the road there would be a need for such huge roads, then perhaps it would not be such a burden to pay for roads out of general funds.

    Also, the gas tax doesn’t pay all the costs of building and maintaining roadways. http://subsidyscope.org/transportation/highways/funding/

    Also, bicycles do such little damage to the roadway that their tax wouldn’t be all the high anyway. Perhaps if cycling does become mainstream, license and registration would be productive, but we’re not at that point yet.

  • Spokker

    edit: Rather, there wouldn’t be a need for such huge, wide roads.

  • Robert Frazier

    Spoker,
    You said: “Perhaps if cycling does become mainstream, license and registration would be productive, but we’re not at that point yet.”

    You are correct that license and registration would be productive, and we should be at that point already.

  • Toni Swiger

    You both are totally correct.
    The bicycle on the road should be required to pay license and registration fee and maybe required to carry Michigan No-Fault insurance.

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