Late in the evening of June 9, as part of the House consideration of the transportation appropriations bill, Rep. Emmer (R-MN) offered an amendment that would have banned federal dollars from being used to put in sidewalks, bike racks and lighting as part of new transit projects. This amendment was a shortsighted attempt to prevent local jurisdictions from creating safe routes to transit.
The amendment would have affected a program called New Starts, which provides federal funds to create or expand transit projects, by limiting New Starts funds only to the transit project itself and prohibiting any federal funds from being used to create bicycle or pedestrian access to the project. In offering the amendment, Rep. Emmer described sidewalks, bike racks and other bicycle and pedestrian safety infrastructure as "niceties not necessities" and as playing a role in "crippling America's transportation system" due to the cost of these improvements. Rep. Price (D-NC) led the opposition, speaking eloquently about how the amendment would make it more dangerous for people walking and bicycling.
The Emmer amendment would have made transit projects less cost-effective and accessible by making it difficult for people on foot and bike to access new transit stops and stations. It would have exacerbated the safety risks that bicyclists and pedestrians face on their trips to home, work and school. It would have also taken away local decision-making and planning authority about how to effectively design local transportation systems.
Fortunately, in a very close vote, the House rejected the Emmer amendment on a vote of 212 in favor and 214 opposed. A total of 32 Republicans joined 182 Democrats to oppose the amendment, ensuring its defeat. This was the first House floor vote on bicycling in walking in many years--so it gives us a better understanding of which Representatives are supportive, and which we need to continue to talk with to gain future support.
Please thank or share your concern with your Member of Congress for their vote on this amendment. Hearing from their constituents will help us do even better in future votes on bicycle and pedestrian safety and access. It just takes a few minutes; our online system will tailor your letter automatically based on your Representative's vote. Please reach out today!