Victory for bicycles in Senate ISTEA Bill

The ISTEA (Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act) bill passed by the U.S. Senate recently marked a victory for bicyclists, according to the Bikes Belong campaign.

"Only a year ago, we weren't sure that bikes would even be in the legislation," said Hal Hiemstra, chair of the campaign. "The campaign is by no means over, but we owe our success so far to the strong efforts of the Bikes Belong campaign, to the bicycle industry that supported it, and to bicycle advocates all over the country who have written, phoned and faxed their senators making their interests known."

Funding available for bicycle and pedestrian facilities under the enhancements program would increase to almost $350 million per year under the Senate legislation passed. This is an increase of more than 50% over the $225 million a year available under the original ISTEA, enacted in 1991.

"We've reached the first rest stop, but we can't afford to ease up until we've crossed the finish line," commented Jody Newman, spokesperson for the Bikes Belong campaign. "Cyclists' strong and united voices clearly had an impact in preventing damaging amendments from being added as the bill was debated in the Senate, but now we have to turn our attention to the House."

Senator Brownback (R-KS) withdrew his amendment that would have allowed Enhancements money to be used for highways, and Senator Inhofe (R-OK) withdrew an amendment that would have made highway widening elibible for CMAQ funds. Enhancements and CMAQ are the two major sources under ISTEA for bicycle and pedestrian facilities such as wide lanes and smooth shoulders, bike trails and paths, and bike parking and racks on buses. In addition, a last minute attempt by Brownback to cripple the country's rails-to-trails program was averted.

The battle now moves to the U.S. House, where the present prediction is that the legislation will be reported out of committee and taken up on the floor before the House leaves for Easter recess on April 2.