by Sarah Hodgdon, Sierra Club Director of Conservation
© Ben Houdek, Sierra Club
Bicyclists ride in the Sierra Club North Star Chapter’s annual bicycle “conference on wheels,” highlighting Complete Streets projects in the Twin Cities.
Transportation activists nationwide are working hard on projects to increase transportation options in their communities, including more public transit and as well as making their neighborhoods more bikeable and walkable. Unfortunately this week they’re left throwing their hands up once again as Republicans in the House of Representatives continue to push through bills that are sweetheart deals for Big Oil.
The GOP clearly wants to keep our nation addicted oil
– how else can you explain their latest bill that pushes for more oil drilling in sensitive areas, approval of the Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline, gutting environmental review and public input, and cutting funding for transportation projects that aren’t highways?
Sierra Club North Star Chapter’s Joshua Houdek in Minneapolis says these moves are pushing our nation backwards. Joshua and his team of activists are helping implement “Complete Streets” in the Twin Cities.
“These are roads that are designed to be safe and accessible to all users – people on bicycles, walking, riding transit, or driving – of all abilities and ages,” says Joshua. “Specifically right now, we want to make Snelling Avenue in St. Paul, Minnesota, friendlier to people who choose to ride, walk, or take transit.”
And it’s not just about reducing our dependence on oil, either, he says. “This is about the safety of our children, the elderly, and those who cannot or choose not to drive. The added bonus is that it improves the health and wellness of community members who choose active transportation. Even better – fewer drivers means less carbon pollution and cleaner air for everyone!”
Charles Winterwood is working on the same issue in Dubuque, Iowa. Charles, Chair of the Sierra Club’s White Pine Group, and his group helped get a complete streets policy passed in the city, but there is still much work to do.
“We’re trying to get named as a bicycle and pedestrian-friendly community,” says Charles, who added that their work has helped get the City of Dubuque to adopt transportation options as one of its sustainability goals.
The work’s been hard in Minnesota; Houdek says that while the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MNDOT) agreed to add and improve many pedestrian crosswalks near a local university, the agency still refuses to implement other safety features into the project, such as bike lanes, additional crosswalks near a high school, and other traffic calming changes such as narrowing lane widths.
Yet if the proposed House transportation bill goes through, instead of just pushing state and local governments, Joshua, Charles, and other transportation activists across the U.S. won’t see help from the federal government any time soon.
Last week, House Republicans used a sneaky tactic to try to push their Big Oil sweetheart deal through. Unable to find enough votes to pass their comprehensive “transportation” bill, they split their Big Oil sweetheart proposal into three separate bills in hopes of passing each of them separately and packaging them together without a final vote on the recombined bill.
Charles said if these bills pass, states will have the option to prevent federal transportation dollars from funding important bicycle and pedestrian projects. Plans for passenger rail service or increased local bus service would also be subject to the funding whimsy of those in Congress who love Big Oil.
Now is not the time for games that play with our country’s energy independence. We need a bill that supports public transit and creating walkable, bikeable communities. Call your Representative today and tell them to vote against this sweetheart deal for Big Oil.