Keith Laughlin at Flat Branch Park
in Columbia, Mo.
The Partnership for Active Transportation
The actions of the U.S. Congress in the last six months have been enough to make a sane person tear his hair out. While the popularity of trails, walking and bicycling has never been greater, this summer Congress passed a transportation bill that cut funding for walking and biking programs by 30 percent—with deeper cuts possible, depending on how the bill is implemented.
Let me make one thing very clear: These cuts weren't imposed to reduce the federal deficit. Rather, they were intended to increase the 80 percent share of federal transportation spending devoted to highways by slashing the tiny 1.5 percent that supports trails, walking and bicycling.
These cuts in "active transportation" are a perfect example of government being penny-wise and pound-foolish. These relatively small investments in making our communities more walkable, more bikeable and more livable produce significant economic returns by reducing traffic congestion, saving gasoline, avoiding health care costs associated with obesity and improving quality of life.
Why does Congress insist on cutting these popular and cost-effective programs? The simple truth is that trail and bicycle advocates can't compete with the well-funded highway lobby for the ear of lawmakers. We don't have political action committees that can contribute millions of dollars to congressional campaigns.
So what do we do? Giving up is not an option. The promise of active transportation for creating healthier places for healthier people is too great to abandon.
The answer is that we must be smart and strategic about deploying another form of
political influence. We have to develop compelling and unassailable arguments in support of active transportation that are championed by a coalition too broad and too deep for elected officials to ignore.
To build this political clout, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy has been the driving force behind an exciting new coalition: the Partnership for Active Transportation. This coalition is expanding our movement beyond trail, walking and bicycling advocates by enlisting organizations at the national, state and local levels dedicated to furthering the economic health of places and the public health of people through investments in active transportation.
We just launched the partnership this past September, and already more than 100
organizations have signed on to join us. I encourage you to visit us today and learn more about our mission and partners. It's simple: Trails, walking and bicycling are essential ingredients for an active, healthy and prosperous America. And as the coalition grows, so does the strength and breadth of our message—reaching from small towns and counties up through the highest levels of government.