New state budget hits bicycle riders where it hurts | Freewheel! (a bike blog)

New state budget hits bicycle riders where it hurts | Freewheel! (a bike blog)

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Being an urban bike rider is a difficult path under ordinary circumstances (let alone in a Wisconsin winter). Despite the many benefits, challenges are many.

For me, the biggest battle is staying safe on streets teeming with cars. I'm not sure many routes would be as navigable as they are without bike lanes.

It's also great to have alternate routes and paths dedicated to slower modes of movement, like pedestrians and bikers. Unfortunately, it looks like the future may have some unsettling changes in store for regular riders, occasional cyclists, nature-lovers and pedestrians alike…

No matter what your politics are, it's clear that the new budget proposal for the State of Wisconsin is a blow against bicycling. And when you look into the three provisions of the bill that affect bicycling in Wisconsin, it becomes clear they will impact pedestrians as well.

Gov Scott Walker's budget proposal (Senate Bill 21), despite assurances made to not do so, will hurt cyclists:

 

  • By gutting the The Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Fund (named for iconic Republican Governor Warren Knowles and Democratic Governor and Senator Gaylord Nelson), which works to purchase and protect land for future generations. Funds for buying the land needed for bike and pedestrian trails are included in this plan and the Governor would stop purchases for the next decade[!]  

 

  • By cutting the State's funding of the Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP), leaving the federal government as the sole funding source for pro-bike initiatives. Further, ending state spending on this program means the $2 million Wisconsin currently spends will no longer be matched with federal money, thereby essentially ending funding for creating new recreational trails in Wisconsin.   

 

  • By repealing Wisconsin's Complete Streets Law. The law, which has by and large been successful, requires bicyclists' and pedestrians' needs be taken into account whenever a new road funded with State or Federal funds is built or reconstructed (think bike lanes and sidewalks).

 

The thing that irks me most is that the budget is gonna have to pass. In the process, it seems the Governor is skirting debate about whether we (the people) want to repeal these laws. It's especially frustrating because the laws have largely been successful. The downside is the potential for more people to be hurt, and for Wisconsin to become less friendly toward other forms of transportation.

By burying this legislation in a sea of other important issues and cuts, it's very likely to be overlooked and won't get the attention I feel it deserves.  By not opening the repeal to intelligent debate, it seems likely that a law the people wouldn't agree to repeal on its own merit will pass. This, to me, is bad policy.

Just wanted you all to be aware of what's happening and invite any and all who care to do something about it. If that's you, please contact your state representative and let him or her know where you stand and how you roll.

88Nine Radio Milwaukee