Senate Transportation Bill Threatens Biking

A lot of you have heard about the draft transportation bill released by the Senate Committee on the Environment and Public Works, and may have also heard that a lot of bike advocates are unhappy about the funding outlook. We've waited to post on this because there has been a lot of action on this legislation, and things keep changing. While action isn't needed right now, it may be urgently needed in the future - read below for more details, and stay tuned for future posts on this issue.
The bill actually does some really good things, like consolidating seven "core" and 13+ other programs into just five new "core" programs (see graphic below). Most transportation advocates are especially happy to see the National Highway Performance Program, which will create measures to maximize the effectiveness of our infrastructure investments. The legislation also eliminates earmarked projects, which most people seem happy about.

What concerns people in the bike community is that the three main sources of federal bike funding are consolidated into the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Program. This is potentially bad on three fronts:

  • There could be a 20-30% reduction in overall bike/ped funding under this legislation, even though it supposedly "maintains current funding levels."

  • There could be more eligible uses for bike/ped funding, including things like vegetation management and wetland mitigation. This would mean more competition for less money.

  • Since bike/ped funding is no longer in a separate program, it might be easier for DOTs to redirect the funding to other roadway uses, though right now it is unclear what other uses would be eligible. Senator Boxer (D-CA) has already reduced the number of eligible road uses (a major step forward), but the language of the bill is still in flux.

Another issue bicyclists have taken issue with is the "mandatory side path rule" included in the bill. This clause states that on federally owned roads, bicyclists must use a side path if one is present. Especially for those who feel more comfortable traveling on the road, this is a major problem, and the League of American Bicyclists has started a petition for people to sign against this clause. But we need to emphasize that while the side path rule is bad, the overall reduction in funding is a much bigger problem, with ramifications in every community in the United States.

We do have strong allies trying to improve the situation, but their success is uncertain. Senator Merkley (D-OR) has introduced an amendment that would dedicate a 2% minimum of surface transportation funding to biking and walking, and Senator Cardiff (D-MD) introduced and amendment that would strip all road programs from other eligible uses of bike/ped funding. While neither has been adopted, they are part of a larger conversation going on before the bill hits the senate floor for a vote.

We have already called on you to defend bike funding twice over the past several weeks (here and here), and both times the anti-bike amendments were unsuccessful. We may be calling on you yet again to help us defend bike funding, but we're not quite there yet. We are working with our partners to develop a national strategy for defending bike funding, and will let you know just as soon as possible what you can do to help.

Seeking Spring Interns

Have you ever thought about starting a career working in nonprofits? Or do you have an interest in active transportation issues? If so, we're looking for interns for the upcoming Spring Semester, starting in January. Whether you are a student, retiree, or professional looking to learn something new, MassBike is committed to ensuring that our interns take on substantial projects and develop professional skills they'll need in the workplace.

MassBike is the oldest bike advocacy organization in the Bay State and the only one with a statewide focus. We only have two staff members (though are looking for a third), so our interns have the opportunity to take initiative and really add significantly to the organization's mission.

Internships are unpaid, but we are happy to work with students getting academic credit. We want this to be a valuable learning experience, and so take time at the beginning of the internship to discuss interests and then assign appropriate tasks, check in frequently during the course of the term, and then end with an exit interview to see how we could improve the educational experience for future interns.

Time commitments generally range from 8 - 12 hours per week, but we are willing to be flexible based on other time constraints. Obviously, the more time you put into the internship, the more you get out. We currently have two specific internships, with descriptions listed below:

Communications Intern

  • Update the MassBike blog, including researching and composing timely articles

  • Enhance MassBike's Social Media Tools: Twitter and Facebook

  • Update the MassBike Calendar of Events

  • Contribute to the "Quick Release," MassBike's biweekly newsletter

  • Correspond with members who have bike-related issues or concerns

Legislative Intern

  • Compose technical memoranda regarding federal and state transportation funding

  • Prepare fact sheets, packets, and other materials for the 2012 National Bike Summit

  • Coordinate with local bicycle groups or other advocacy organizations around the state for the National Bike Summit

  • Analyze upcoming legislation relevant to bicycling

Qualifications for the internship positions:

  • Strong communication skills, both written and oral

  • Ability to work independently

  • Knowledge of Word Press, Microsoft Suite, Adobe Suite, and/or other relevant software preferred

  • Attention to detail

  • Interest and participation in bicycling strongly preferred

  • Flexibility to pitch in wherever needed in a small organization

To apply, please email a resume and cover letter to In your one-page cover letter briefly explain your interests, prior work experience, and what you would like to get out of an internship with us.

Winter Volunteers Needed!

Even though you might be starting to hang up your bikes for the season (though we hope not), that doesn't mean you can't still work for better biking in Massachusetts! MassBike volunteers help to spread the word about bicycling, directly help out other bicyclists, or help MassBike have the time to do more advocacy. You not only get the good feeling of helping your statewide bicycle advocacy organization, but we like to thank our volunteers who help out with 10 hours or more by providing them with a complimentary MassBike membership.

Check below for some of our upcoming volunteer opportunities, visit our volunteer page, or email for more information or to tell us you’d like to help out.

MassBike Volunteer Night
Tuesday, 11/8
5pm-8pm; 171 Milk Street, Suite 33, Boston

Volunteer nights are a great opportunity to help your statewide bicycle advocacy group, while having a good time and meeting great people. We meet every second Tuesday of the month at the MassBike office (171 Milk Street, Suite 33, Boston) from 5-8pm. Volunteers help MassBike to send out our monthly membership renewal reminders, prepare membership packets, and help out with other activities as they come up. We provide the pizza and drinks. Volunteer night is a great way to meet some other bicyclists.

Going By Bike In Worcester

[caption id="attachment_6385" align="alignleft" width="185" caption="Jerald Nichols, MassBike's Worcester Instructor"][/caption]

I've been reading lately about all the great bike things going on around the state, and I didn't want to leave our second biggest city totally out of the conversation. I'm a MassBike instructor based out of Worcester, and I thought it would be nice to write a little bit about biking here in Central Massachusetts.

In many ways, Worcester has a lot going for it. Two major infrastructure projects - Newton Square and Lincoln Street - have been finished, making cycling in those parts of the city much better now. The Blackstone River Bikeway, which will eventually go from Worcester to Providence, is moving right along. And local bike advocates organized six events here for Bay State Bike Week last year.

However, let’s be honest - there are also some obstacles to biking in Worcester. For one thing, the hills around here are daunting. For me, the only way to consistently go by bike is to just get out there and tackle them. The other major barrier I see is that there are zero bike lanes, except for the ½ mile one next to Lake Park. The hills we can't do very much about, but we can certainly push for more bike lanes and other infrastructure! Seeing what Boston has done for biking, and in such a short period of time, tells me that it can be done in Worcester. If more bikers get out there, the city will notice.

As is, I'm getting a reputation at work because I'm the only one (of 200 employees) who commutes by bike. But that doesn’t bother me, because I had my physical this week. My blood pressure is normal (I had hypertension); I lost eight pounds and 3½ inches from my waist since September; and I'm saving at least $133/month in gas alone to boot! I really believe I have my relationship with MassBike to thank. The skills class and commuter workshop material gave me a lot more confidence on the road and some solid tips that required only minimal changes in my routine.

I'm looking forward to getting more people out there on the streets of Worcester and working with other advocates to push the city on bike infrastructure. If there were better infrastructure and more bike education, then maybe everyone would have a better check-up!

Thank You For Saving Bike Funding (Again)!

[caption id="attachment_6357" align="aligncenter" width="350" caption="Senators Kerry (far left) and Brown (far right)"][/caption]

For the second time in as many months, an outpouring of emails and calls to our senators has saved Transportation Enhancements from being eliminated. Thousands of concerned citizens across the country contacted their senators, and MassBike joined a group of advocates in meeting with Senator Brown's transportation policy advisor to convince the senator to vote against this amendment. These efforts resulted in 60 votes against Senator Paul’s (R-KY) amendment, including from our own two senators. This is a very promising show of bipartisanship in support of biking.

Unfortunately, this does not guarantee that bike funding is secure. In March, Congress will dive into the issue of a new transportation authorization, meaning that ALL surface transportation funding is back on the table. House Republicans have already indicated dramatically scaling back the federal role in transportation funding, probably meaning that little more than interstate highways would receive money.

Bipartisan support is key to our continued success in defending bike funding. We depend on our members and friends of biking to continue contacting members of Congress as these threats emerge. We will keep you posted as things develop in Washington.

MassBike Seeks Development Manager

An essential job for any growing nonprofit like MassBike is developing the membership and funding that support its work. We are currently looking for a Development Manager to continue efforts on corporate sponsorships, working with foundations, and applying to grants so that we can undertake the advocacy and education that make our state better for biking.

While you can read the full job posting here, a few of the qualities we are looking for include:

  • College degree or equivalent relevant work experience,

  • Two or more years of development experience,

  • Excellent communication skills, both written and oral,

  • Flexibility to pitch in wherever needed in a small organization.

Job applications can be sent to, and it's best to send them in by Wednesday November 9th (though we'll take applications until the position is filled). We are looking to hire a qualified applicant as soon as possible, so please spread the word!

Action Alert: Bike Funding Under Attack (Again)

Just one month ago, the bicycling community stood together and defeated Senator Coburn's (R-OK) effort to strip funding for Transportation Enhancements (a major source of funding for biking and walking projects) from the six-month extension that was passed at the last minute to prevent the shutdown of all federally-funded transportation programs.

Now, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) is taking the lead in trying to destroy Transportation Enhancements. On November 1, the Senate will finalize the transportation appropriations bill, which sets funding levels for FY2012. Sen. Paul has offered an amendment to redirect all funding for Transportation Enhancements to bridge repair.

We must turn back any amendment to strip Transportation Enhancements. Here is how you can help:

1. Call and/or email Senator Kerry and Senator Brown to ask them to vote against the Paul amendment (SA-821) to eliminate Transportation Enhancements.

  • Senator John Kerry: (202) 224-2742, Email (select “Transportation” as Topic)

  • Senator Scott Brown: (202) 224-4543, Email (select “Transportation” as Topic)

Key Talking Points:

  • Attacks on Transportation Enhancements are a political stunt, not a solution to our transportation problems

  • Shifting every dollar of Transportation Enhancements to bridge repair would be ineffective - it would still take 80 years to repair all the bridges

  • And doing so would eliminate popular and effective programs right now that are saving thousands of bicyclist and pedestrian lives, combating obesity, protecting our environment, and creating economic opportunities

  • States returned $530 million in unspent bridge repair funds back to Washington last year - that money should be used before cutting other programs

  • Funding for biking and walking should be part of the overall debate of long-term transportation funding starting November 9

Don’t have time to write your own email? Click here to send a pre-written email message to both Senators.

2. Email and let us know you contacted them!

Every single call or email matters, so please act today! Read below for even more detail.

We agree on the need to keep our bridges safe, but the lives of pedestrians and cyclists are important too. Thirteen people died when the Minneapolis bridge collapsed in 2007. Since then, close to 20,000 pedestrians and 2,800 cyclists have died on our nation’s highways, largely as a result of poor highway design and a lack of safe non-motorized infrastructure – exactly what the Enhancements program was created to fix.

If Sen. Paul’s amendment is successful, it would eliminate approximately $700 million in federal funding for FY2012 that is used to construct sidewalks, bike lanes, bike paths, trails and other infrastructure that makes it safe for bicyclists and pedestrians to get around. Even if every penny of these funds is diverted to bridge repairs, Senator Paul’s plan will still take 80 years to fix the backlog of bridge repairs we have today.

Even though TE represents less than 2% of federal transportation funding, it has built about $100 million in projects in Massachusetts since 1992, and the Safe Routes to School program has provided millions more to help thousands of MA children bike or walk to school. These programs help alleviate traffic congestion, improve safety, get people active, and and create more jobs per dollar than highway-only projects. We cannot allow Transportation Enhancements to fall victim to partisan political grandstanding. If we cannot save Transportation Enhancements, then Safe Routes to School, the Recreational Trails Program, and other vital sources of funding for biking and walking will not be far behind.

Last year, states sent back to Washington $530 million of unspent bridge funds in rescissions. The states are leaving bridge repair funds on the table, unspent, year after year. They should at least spend these funds first.

If the Paul amendment succeeds, it will make it much more challenging to sustain funding for Transportation Enhancements, Safe Routes to School, and Recreational Trails in the long-term transportation bill that the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee starts debating on November 9.

MassBike And MassDOT, Moving Together

[caption id="attachment_6298" align="aligncenter" width="343" caption="Moving Together 2011"][/caption]

Last Wednesday, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation hosted the Moving Together Conference, which is an annual conference bringing together bike and pedestrian advocates with state and municipal officials to discuss active transportation in the Bay State. This year's theme was "Advancing Healthy Transportation with GreenDOT," GreenDot being MassDOT's comprehensive sustainability policy. We were especially excited when Secretary Rich Davey gave the Keynote Address and mentioned at least four joint initiatives in which MassBike played a major role!

This year's conference was a particularly fruitful one for MassBike, as a few significant opportunities presented themselves to Executive Director David Watson while he was meeting with other advocates and public officials. The first was during the Q&A session with Secretary Davey when David brought up the many excellent programs the MBTA has rolled out, including better access for bikes, expanded bike parking and Pedal & Park locations, and bike-specific bus driver training. At David's request, Sec. Davey was receptive to working on sharing these programs with the Regional Transit Authorities around the state, which often lack the resources to implement such programs on their own.

David spoke on a panel about educating roadway users, and the other panelists were from the MBTA and the RMV. So David took the opportunity to suggest incorporating some of the MBTA bus driver training material into the Commercial Driver's License program run by the RMV. This would be a great step forward for bicyclist safety everywhere, because of the similar danger when bicyclists interact with buses and commercial trucks.

Finally, opportunity came knocking when David spoke with MassDOT staffers responsible for traffic management around construction zones. With all the work going on around the state due to the Accelerated Bridge Program and general road construction, narrow lanes, obstructed bike paths, and other obstacles around construction zones can make it frustrating and dangerous to bike in those areas. After his conversation, the ball has gotten rolling to revise the construction traffic management design standards to better accommodate bicyclists.

We're looking forward to continuing work with MassDOT and other agency partners to improve biking conditions around the state. While these were preliminary conversations about some great changes, asking the question is often the most important step.

State Plans To Improve Charles River Path

Tree-covered with spectacular views of Boston and Cambridge's skylines, the Charles River pathway system provides a refuge for runners, walkers, bicyclists, and inline skaters alike from all of the pollution and noise of streets. But even though this public amenity is excellent, there is a lot of room for improvement. Fortunately, staff from Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) and the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) agree, and have released a study on how to improve several hairy intersections and other major sections of the path.

On Tuesday, a public meeting was held to discuss the status of the Charles River Basin (CRB) Connectivity Study and gather comments from the public. You might remember that David Watson already biked the path with fellow advocates, MassDOT and DCR; he was also at the meeting representing MassBike to give comments on the plan.  MassDOT and DCR's Planning Office implemented the study in the Fall of 2009 as part of the Accelerated Bridge Program, which will provide over $400 million to improve six structurally unsound bridges along the Charles. Because so many people use the Charles River Path, part of the funding will go toward improving the safety of the pathway, especially where it intersects with the bridges.

As part of the study, MassDOT’s design consultants from Halvorson Design, HDR Engineering, and Alta Planning + Design analyzed the existing conditions of the Charles River Pathway system for pedestrians and bicyclists. The study’s project area spans from the Galen Street Bridge in Watertown Square to the Craigie Dam Drawbridge in Charlestown. Some of the particularly poor areas highlighted are:

  • Elliot Bridge, Cambridge Side

  • Hawthorne Street crosswalk

  • Allston: access is limited

  • Boston University Bridge: no access to path from Boston Side

  • Charlesgate: no access to the Emerald Necklace Park System

  • Longfellow Bridge: poor connections

In addition to specific connectivity issues, other problems include overgrown plants, goat paths, and broken/missing pavement along the trails. Notable public feedback included encouraging the design team to plan for bicyclists of all abilities (namely, children), improving lighting structures, widening the path when possible, and enforcing no vehicular right turns on red lights. The design consultants are set to finish drafting recommendations for improving the overall pedestrian and bicycling facilities by Spring 2012, when another round of public meetings will be held to provide feedback for the recommended bike/ped facilities. For more information, contact Stephanie Boundy at 617-973-8049 or

Bicycling at Night? Use Lights and Reflectors!

With the days already growing shorter and Daylight Savings Time set to end on November 6, it’s time to prepare for riding in the dark. So, without further ado, here is 2011’s edition of the “Light Up Your Ride” blog post series.

The key to riding safely in low-light situations (such as foggy or rainy conditions or at dusk or night) is to see and, more importantly, be seen. Installing both a front and rear light is a great first-step (and required by MA law). But why stop there? It’s equally important to be visible from the sides and most light systems are not equipped to do so.

Here are some additional solutions to further light up your ride and avoid the dangerous ninja look:

Reflective or lighted ankle straps or pedal reflectors: Some pedals come with reflectors. While both types of ankle straps do double duty by keeping your pants away from your dirty chain, lighted ones provide incredible visibility.

Reflective Clothing: Examples include bicycling-specific jackets with day-glo accents and or a construction worker-styled vest. Both will provide the necessary sideways visibility with their neon colors and/or reflective striping.

Other Reflective Accessories: Wheel reflectors, reflective tires, and reflective tape and stickers that can go on almost any part of your bicycle are other options, especially for those known to forget a vest or jacket at home.

Remember, if you don’t already own a front, white light and a rear, red light, it’s time to purchase some now!  Your local bicycle store is well-equipped with lights and other safety gear so stop by and get equipped today.

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