There's been a big hubub this week over who or what killed the Idaho Stop Law, I wanted to add in two cents about some bike policy that's maybe more important to the state and maybe also doomed. I blogged yesterday about the Bicycle Transportation Alliance-backed bill to increase state funding for bike/ped infrastructure (bike lanes, sidewalks, etc) from a measly 1 percent of the state budget to 1.5 percent.
Well, yesterday in Salem, I watched the nine legislators engage in an activity lobbyists call "gut and stuff." That sounds like a move out of Savage Love, but, no, I learned, in Salem it entails the salacious act of tearing apart the carcass of a floundering transportation bill (in this case, the Governor's Jobs and Transportation Act) and stuffing the most savory sections into a new, more palatable bill. Rep. Jules Kopel Bailey, who hails from Sunnyside where up to 22 percent of constituents bike to work, sits on the transportation committee and wants to stuff in the bike budget increase.
But Bailey is doubtful the funding will pass. In fact, Bailey says members of the legislature are pushing to cut bike funding down below the one percent mandated back in 1976. WHAT?! "How could smart, small bike funding fail?" I asked.
Rep. Bailey's response is revealing and articulate, so I'm just going to quote him at length and follow up with his stock Blogtown photo.
"There is a sentiment in the building that now is not the time for investing in bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure. There's a perception that cyclists are a small group of people who are sometimes viewed as a privileged class. When the economy turns down and there's high unemployment in the construction trades, the idea is we need big road projects can drive their cars on. It's also caught up in an urban-rural split. People from rural areas don't see bicycles as relevant to their districts. Plus, there's a mental stereotype of cyclists. They don't see cyclists as the mom of dad kissing their kids goodbye in the morning and loading their briefcase on the back of their bike... the argument is that cyclists have enough, they can choose to bike on the back streets."
A privileged class of urban radicals? Ouch. But the sentiment is strong and it's clear that it won't be possible to shove any bike bills through Salem without serious outreach. Bailey recommends mainstreaming the image of cyclists (so that's why politicans agreed to don Spandex yesterday) and "moving the conversation from talking about bicycles to talking about how we support strong communities and local businesses" by creating 20 minute, transit-friendly neighborhoods.