Is this golden bicycle seen at a Bike to School Day press event on Capitol Hill: A) a prime example of the profligate federal spending on bikes, bikers, and bike paths; B) the prize for the Washington DC school that has the most bike riders; or C) gold on the outside/chocolatey in the middle?

This morning I attended an America Bikes press conference on Capitol Hill that was convened to announce new polling results revealing Americans overwhelmingly support maintaining or increasing federal investment in walking and bicycling facilities. It was a legitimate survey: 1,003 adults were surveyed at random, and the walking/biking questions were tagged onto a much larger survey. 

Approval for walking and biking investment averaged 83 percent across age, education, region, income, and political affiliation. The 18-29 year olds approve at 91 percent. Senator Durbin (D-IL), Senator Cardin (D-MD), Congressman Blumenauer (D-OR) and Congressman Petri (R-WI) attended, each highlighting a different benefits: urban mobility; congestion relief; social connections and the environment; and health (respectively).

This press conference takes place as the House and Senate go into conference committee to reconcile their versions of a transportation bill. With 83 percent of the public supporting investment in walking and biking, the conference process should be a no-brainer. Right?

If these political questions interest you, and they should since half of all pedestrian fatalities occur on federally-funded roads, then you will want to take in the session moderated by Caron Whitaker (America Bikes) and Margo Pedroso (SRTS National Partnership).

While those of us who work in Washington, DC on Congressional relations live and breathe the minutiae of Congressional policy concepts, the average bicycling and walking professional does not have the time to delve into these shifts in-depth. Yet, Congressional decisions on funding levels, the mechanics of how those funding levels work, and changes in policies and practice have a direct impact on whether bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure can flourish. 

Caron and Margo will provide the audience with the latest information on the status of the transportation bill in Congress.  They will focus on what bicycle and pedestrian advocates and professionals need to do to prepare for coming changes—such as building new relationships with potential decision-makers and rethinking what types of projects will be competitive in the potential new environment.  This session will help equip the field with the necessary knowledge to ensure that bicycle and pedestrian projects continue to advance even in a new transportation paradigm.

At the other end of the federal funding continuum, Laura Cohen (Rails to Trails Conservancy), Dave Snyder (California Bicycle Coalition), and others will ponder the unponderable: the elimination of federal funding for walking and bicycling infrastructure. Laura and Dave will discuss how your community might prepare:

With federal funding for bike/ped investments threatened, we’re at a strategic crossroads and must be more resourceful than ever in advancing active transportation. We’ll highlight successful multi-faceted strategies that have used research, advocacy and communications to secure significant funding and policies for active transportation at the regional and state level, and discuss how California’s landmark greenhouse gas reduction law can frame bike/ped investment as a solution to climate, public health and economic goals.

For the past two years, we witnessed unending attacks on federal funding for walking/biking. Every extension, every appropriations session–and there have been many–has been seized as an opportunity to eliminate TE, RTP, and SRTS. The programs still stand, and do so in direct opposition to that great Spaceballs axiom:

Still, having a backup plan isn’t a bad idea.

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