House Committee Narrowly Votes Against Safe Routes to School; the Senate is Up Next

Your Help Will Be Needed Again Very Soon!

A Statement by the Safe Routes Partnership

On Thursday, February 2, 2012 the House Transportation Committee took up consideration of the transportation title of the American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act. The bill unfortunately proposes to repeal the Safe Routes to School program, eliminates funding for Transportation Enhancements, and makes a host of other policy changes that are devastating to bicycling and walking.

Two hours into the markup, the House Transportation Committee narrowly voted against reinstating the Safe Routes to School program and funding for Transportation Enhancements. During the contentious vote, 27 Committee members supported the bipartisan Petri-Johnson-Lipinski amendment, coming just two votes shy of a victory.

We’ll start with the good news: thanks to your support, we gained bipartisan support for the amendment and showed Congress that we mean business. Advocates across the country created a strong groundswell in support of the Petri-Johnson amendment. Many of you contacted Congress and cajoled your fellow Safe Routes to School supporters into action. Dozens and dozens of organizations signaled their commitment to walking and bicycling. As a result, members of the Transportation Committee received tens of thousands of calls and emails urging them to vote yes for Safe Routes to School and Transportation Enhancements in less than two days.

In terms of the vote, all committee Democrats in attendance plus Representatives Tom Petri (R-WI), Tim Johnson (R-IL), and Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ) voted in favor of the amendment. These three Republican lawmakers deserve special thanks from the field, because they chose to champion safety for all road users despite intense pressure from House leadership to oppose basic safety funding for pedestrians and bicyclists. If your Representative voted yes, please send him or her a thank you.

Thanks to your help, we definitely got House leadership’s attention. The amendment sparked heated remarks from both sides, including an impassioned defense of Safe Routes to School by Representative DeFazio, ranking member of the Highways Subcommittee, from Eugene, OR. DeFazio challenged Members of Congress to look parents and kids in the eye and say that we can’t afford to provide children a safe way to school. But, with the defeat of the Petri-Johnson amendment to restore dedicated bike/ped funding, the American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act is bad news bicyclists and pedestrians.

So, what’s next?

Believe it or not, the Senate is next and we do not get to take a breather. Indications are that the Senate may quickly pivot to restart consideration of its transportation bill on the floor in the next week. We will have to work together again and rally other supporters to show our Senators that dedicated funding for bicycling and walking is worth two pennies on the transportation dollar. You will soon be hearing more about our efforts to push a Senate amendment to improve the Senate’s provisions on Safe Routes to School, bicycling and walking. Please stand together with us to act again when we call you to action soon for the Senate floor vote.

And, the House will need to pass its bill on the floor too. Securing the votes for passage will be challenging, but we will continue to fight. In addition to the devastating cuts to bicycling and walking funding, Transportation for America and the American Public Transit Association are alarmed about how the bill puts public transit funding in jeopardy. The conservative Club for Growth opposes the bill due to concerns about uncertain long-term funding sources. Plus a coalition of environmental organizations strongly objects to how the bill short-circuits environmental review and increases oil and gas drilling throughout the U.S.

Stay tuned—these are busy times, and we need your help. But if our movement keeps the faith and acts together, Safe Routes to School will prevail. Thank you for standing together with us, and standing up for kids and our future.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead