Volunteer Night Rescheduled To Wednesday February 15th

As many of you know, every month on the 2nd Tuesdaywe invite our members to the MassBike office to help us with our mailings and to meet some other like-minded cyclists. As an added incentive we always supply pizza and beverages for everyone in attendance. We highly recommend coming by to check this event out as it is always fun way to spend a Tuesday night, helping support local advocacy and enjoying some free pizza!

This month because Valentine's day falls on the second Tuesday of the month we will be pushing volunteer night back one night to Wednesday the 15th. I hope we see one and all at this great, bike friendly event. If interested in attending please RSVP by emailing austin@massbike.org. Thanks and I will see you next week!

Federal Transportation Crisis Continues

Things have gone from bad to worse. On the House side, there has been an all-out assault not only on bike funding, but also transit, environmental review, and basically anything other than highways and bridges. The House Bill (H.R. 7) is one of the most extreme examples of slash and burn politics, described as "uniquely terrible," (NY Times) "disastrous," (Rep. Nadler) and "The worst transportation bill I've ever seen." (Sec. LaHood) Because the Petri Amendment failed, the consensus among a wide variety of groups is that the best hope for biking and walking is to kill the House Bill entirely and start over. Transportation for America, a national transportation advocacy group, notes,
"More than 75 national organizations signed the letter [of opposition to H.R. 7] — including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, AARP, the American Public Transportation Association, the National Rural Assembly, American Society of Civil Engineers, LOCUS (real estate developers), National Association of Counties— and a huge list of other individuals and state & local groups, including the governors of Oregon and Washington, several state DOTs, state and local Chambers of Commerce, and hundreds of state and local organizations nationwide."

You may be seeing Action Alerts from national organizations asking you to contact your Representatives to ask them to vote against the bill. Here in Massachusetts, MassBike and our T4MA partners are contacting all our Representatives, who we expect will all strongly oppose the bill.

With an incredibly diverse array of groups (including the Tea Party!) aligned in opposition to the House Bill, MassBike and our partners are concentrating on what's happening in the Senate. You may remember our post several weeks ago about MAP-21, the senate's version of the transportation bill. Amendments are still possible in the Senate Bill, including one expected to be filed by Senator Cardin. There may be new amendments by tomorrow or Monday, and we want to have everything on the table before you spend time getting in touch with Senators Brown and Kerry.

We are working hard with our organizational partners to make sure that the votes are there to kill the House Bill and to improve the Senate Bill. (In fact, Executive Director David Watson is at a Rails to Trails Conservancy meeting in Philadelphia right now to coordinate the national campaign.) Because the Massachusetts delegation has consistently supported biking in this process so far, and we are contacting them on your behalf, we aren't asking you to engage your Representative now. And the situation in the Senate is still very fluid, so we want to be sure that the time is right before we call on you to contact our Senators.

We are expecting to issue an Action Alert by Monday as things become more clear in the Senate, so stay tuned! When we do send out the Alert, we will need you to take action immediately.

Making Democracy Work!

Have you ever walked the halls of the State House? Or met your state representative or senator? Do you want to?

We are in the very early stages of planning a state advocacy summit at the State House in May. A critical part to a state summit, though, is having people from around the state participate! (Democracy doesn't work without citizen involvement, ya know?) This includes not only knocking on your legislators' doors, but also potentially having an information table about local bike advocacy going on in your part of the state.

To that end, we are trying to get a sense of whether those in the bike community (that means you) would be willing to come to Boston for a weekday, morning time event on Thursday, May 17. A rough sketch of the event is as follows:

  • You would set up a meeting with your representative or senator ahead of time.

  • The event would start around 10 AM, at which point you would pick up an information packet for yourself and your legislators.

  • We would give talking points and other tips on specific pieces of legislation (like our Vulnerable Road Users Bill) before your meeting.

  • Come back to the main room, let us know how things went and eat some lunch.

So our questions for you are:

(1 = not at all, 10 = count me in)

  1. On a scale of 1 – 10, are you interested in participating?

  2. On a scale of 1 – 10, are you interested in having an information table for your local bike group?

Please send responses to annie@massbike.org. Thanks so much for the interest!

Amendment To Save Biking Defeated

We just learned that the Petri/Johnson/Lipinski Amendment, which would have funded for biking and walking programs in the House Transportation Bill, was defeated by a close vote of 29 - 27. We want to give a huge thanks to Representative Michael Capuano, who voted in favor of the amendment, and to all of you who asked him to support it. We lost this battle, but the fight isn't over. For a full listing of how the committee members voted, click here.

The good news is that because the vote was so close and had bipartisan support, there is a chance that we will be able to get the funding put back in later in the legislative process. However, this is by no means a certainty. We are almost definitely going to be calling on you again soon to voice your support to your member of Congress. In the meantime, we will be working hard with our national partners to form a strategy to continue funding for biking and walking.

We got an overwhelming response from our supporters in Mr. Capuano's district, many of whom reported that they had contacted his office. This highlights how much we depend on our members and stakeholders to be effective in our advocacy. We need your help to continue the fight for biking, so please consider joining or making a donation to MassBike. (Our online store is undergoing maintenance, so please give us a call at 617-542-2453.)

Thanks so much for your support, and stay tuned!

Push The Legislature To Help The MBTA

You hopefully saw our first report on the MBTA fare increase and service cut proposals, which will have a negative impact on anyone who uses public transportation, bicyclists included. But in addition to hurting bicyclists who use transit for part of their bike trip, all other bicyclists will also be affected. With fewer transit options, there will be more cars on the street. With more cars on the street, bicyclists (and everyone else) will have to deal with more traffic and more frustrated drivers. More traffic means more exhaust and reduced air quality that we breathe while riding. The MBTA has already conceded these points. Basically, this is a bad deal for all users of the road.

[caption id="attachment_7039" align="aligncenter" width="500" caption="MBTA riders gathered outside the State House for a rally."][/caption]

We have been hard at work with MassDOT's Transportation Advisory Committee, Transportation for Massachusetts, and our fellow advocacy groups to try to find a better solution. In a recent meeting, the choice was framed in the following way:

  1. Massive service cuts, substantial fare increase; or

  2. Massive fare increase, fewer service cuts

But this is a false choice, because neither option will solve the MBTA's underlying financial problems, and both will have unacceptable impacts on transit riders and everyone else. Without a more comprehensive solution, within a year we will be back discussing further fare increases and service cuts.

The public meetings so far have been totally packed, and also full of anger directed toward the MBTA. The reality, however, is that the T's options are limited; it can only raise fares or cut service to balance its budget. If you don't like either proposal, the real audience is the Legislature, because they are the only ones who can allocate more funding to the T.

What You Can Do To Help

1. Contact your state representative and senator and let them know that you want them to find a permanent solution for the MBTA and transportation funding.

2. Go to one of the ongoing MBTA public meetings to demonstrate to the T and to legislators that there is a widespread call for a real solution to this problem.

Save Cycling At The 12th Annual National Bike Summit

With the current threats to federal bike funding it is more important than ever to show your support for bicycling. On March 20 - 22, the 12th annual National Bike Summit will take place in Washington D.C. and bring together advocates and government official from across the country to talk about biking in America. This is a critical year for the National Bike Summit as it comes in the midst of a major vote regarding federal bike funding.

We've coordinated the Massachusetts delegation to the Summit for many years, and we're looking forward to doing so again in this critical year. We typically have good representation from the Boston Metro area, but need widespread support from around the state. We hope local advocates, particularly from outside the Metro Boston area, will join us in DC to meet with their Representatives. Be sure to register before the early bird discount ends on February 3! Please follow the link to sign up for this important event.http://www.youtube.com/embed/likinty_d_g

Situation Worsens In House

We reported last week that the House of Representatives was moving to eliminate critical federal funding for biking and walking. The situation in the House is even more dire than we thought.

Today, the House releases its transportation bill, the American Energy and Infrastructure Act. The Transportation and Infrastructure Committee will vote on the bill this Thursday. Last week, we knew the bill would be bad news for biking and walking. But we didn’t think it would go so far as to completely cut bicycling and walking out of federal transportation policy.

We now know that the bill would do much more damage than initially thought, including:

  • Destroys Transportation Enhancements by making the program optional

  • Repeals the Safe Routes to School program, reversing years of progress in creating safe ways for kids to walk and ride bicycles to school

  • Allows states to build bridges without safe access for pedestrians and bicycles

  • Eliminates bicycle and pedestrian coordinators in state DOTs

  • Eliminates language requiring that rumble strips “do not adversely affect the safety or mobility of bicyclists, pedestrians or the disabled”

But there is still hope. Representative Petri (R-WI) will stand up for bicycling and walking by offering an amendment that restores dedicated funding for Transportation Enhancements and Safe Routes to School, and hopefully goes even further to address the other problems. One of our own Representatives, Michael Capuano, is a leading member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and we have already directly contacted those of you who live in his district to take action now. (If you are a Capuano constituent and did not receive our direct Action Alert, please ask him to support the Petri amendment right now - his number is (202) 225-5111, or you can email him by clicking here.)

In a couple of weeks, when the bill reaches the floor of the House, we will be asking all bicyclists in Massachusetts to contact their representatives.

This is as urgent as it gets. Even if we do win this amendment, there will be a long road ahead. But if we lose here, we risk losing decades of progress.

We know we are asking a lot of you and we thank you for all you’re doing to preserve biking and walking.

Win a Vintage MassBike T-Shirt and Help Us Continue To Do Quality Work!

You could win this vintage t-shirt!

A couple of weeks ago we posted about a really important survey that we would like our organization's stakeholders to fill out. As we plan for 2012 and beyond, we are looking for your input about our advocacy priorities and some information on who you are. To make the deal even sweeter, we increased the number of t-shirts we're giving away to 25! Please take five minutes and fill out the survey for a chance to win one of 25 awesome 30th anniversary MassBike T-shirts (pictured left). In order to be eligible for the drawing, you need to take the survey by Tuesday, February 14th.

Thanks so much for your input!

Action Alert: House Moves To Eliminate Bike Funding

Last Fall, you helped us defeat Senate attacks on biking and walking. But now the House of Representatives is launching its own attack. Next Thursday, February 2nd, we can expect the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee to vote on its version of the surface transportation bill, called "The American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act." Alarms went off when we learned that the two primary sources of federal bike funding, Transportation Enhancements and Safe Routes to School, will be eliminated.

The legislation will be open for amendments for only a short time in the T&I Committee. If you live in Representative Michael Capuano's district, a high-ranking member of the committee, we need your help. During Thursday's vote, he could be the key to making sure that a pro-biking amendment passes. Will you ask him today to vote to preserve funding for biking and walking in the transportation bill?

Let him know that in his district alone:

  • Nearly $2 million in Safe Routes to School funding has gone to making the streets safer for children trying to walk or bike to school;

  • Transportation Enhancements has supported over $34 million in bike and pedestrian infrastructure, improving the experience for all users of the road;

  • Biking and walking make up 12 percent of all trips, but only 1.5 percent of federal funding.

Representative Capuano's office phone number is (202) 225-5111, or you can email him by clicking here. Please take action today:

1. Call and/or email Representative Capuano TODAY, tell him why bicycling is important to you, and ask him to do two things:

  • OPPOSE any move to eliminate the Transportation Enhancements or Safe Routes to School Program

  • SUPPORT an amendment to maintain the funding to bike and pedestrian programs

2. Email action@massbike.org and let us know you contacted him!

If you don't have time to call or email, then you can fill out an automated form here, though personalized messages are always preferable. Don't know who your representative is?  Find out here.

Even if you don't live in District 8, feel free to contact your representative. While he won't be able to act on this legislation until it hits the floor in February, it can't hurt to let him know that biking is important to you. Thanks for your support, and for helping us work toward a better state (and country) for biking.

Why Bicyclists Should Care About The T's Financial Crisis

MassBike exists to serve the bicycling community, and that is our focus. But we also take a broad view of our transportation system and how bicycling fits into it. To advance those efforts, in 2011 MassBike joined a new coalition of transportation-related organizations, Transportation for Massachusetts (T4MA), working for an environmentally sustainable, reliable and affordable transportation system. MassBike's participation will strengthen the coalition's efforts around active and sustainable transportation, and the diverse viewpoints within T4MA will inform our own work for better bicycling.

The first major challenge faced by T4MA is the recently announced MBTA proposal to both increase fares and cut service. The MBTA projects that its revenues this year cannot support service at its current levels. T4MA opposes the proposal, and MassBike agrees that the MBTA's proposal would not be good for bicyclists. In our view, the T's proposal would significantly reduce existing opportunities for bicyclists to use bicycles in combination with public transportation, creating a barrier to biking.

You only need to look at the hundreds of bicycles parked at MBTA stations, even on frigid days like today, to see that many bicyclists are transit users and many people use bicycles to access the T. Some bicyclists, like other transit users, may simply be unable to afford a fare increase. Others will be affected if the trains, buses, or boats they rely on are eliminated. For example, we have analyzed the two bus service cut scenarios put forth by the T, the second of which would impact over 70% of bus routes that are currently equipped with bicycle racks. The MBTA has been a strong partner in improving bike access on its system, and MassBike has been working with them for many years to fully equip the bus fleet with bike racks. This project was expected to be completed this year, and the elimination of so many routes that are already accessible to bicyclists is an unacceptable leap backward.

Public meetings on the proposed fare increases and service cuts begin tonight in Newton and Worcester, tomorrow in Chelsea, and Thursday in Roxbury. More meetings continue in the following weeks all over the MBTA service region - see the calendar on our homepage for details. If you are a bicyclist whose mobility would be affected by MBTA fare increases or service cuts, please attend a public meeting or send your written comments to fareproposal@mbta.com. Make your voice heard! MassBike will continue to work with T4MA and the MBTA to find an acceptable way forward.

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