In addition to having had the honor of representing more than 150 injured or killed cyclists over the past 25 years or so, I have also been actively involved in the “politics of cycling.” These political battles have increased in intensity recently and in this article I’m going to show you how YOU can become involved in “bike politics” TODAY, within two minutes after reading this article!
HOT ISSUES AT THE STATE LEVEL
On Tuesday, May 23, 2006, I rode my motorcycle to Columbus, Ohio and watched a most raucous day of political wrangling on the floor of the Ohio Senate. The GOP/DEM fights were partisan and intense, with the speaker actually ordering the microphone of one of the state senators turned OFF during debate! I was there to provide testimony to the Transportation Committee supporting passage of the “Bike Bill” which the Ohio Bike Federation and others have been pushing for quite a long time. Our 2:30 pm Conference Committee hearing didn’t start until almost 7:00 pm Tuesday night due to the “politickin” going on!
When the Committee finally met, the chair, Senator Armbrustor, put our bill to the front of the agenda. We had been led to believe that this was a “shoo in” – and that the bill could be favorably voted on by the Committee that evening.
A few of us offered very brief testimony due to the lateness of the hour. Suddenly, things changed. The minority senators offered up a surprise amendment – a Mandatory Helmet Law! This took us by surprise, to say the least. Fortunately, this was on issue on which I have done considerable research and when a question arose over the definition of the word “roadway” in the bill, I was able to provide that information on the spot as well as set forth arguments as to why such an amendment would be unwise. After some snarly debate, the amendment was killed by a partisan vote and the bill was unanimously adopted by the committee. As of this writing [8:00 am, Thursday, May 24] I can report that the bill was voted on by the entire Ohio Senate yesterday and passed there as well. Since the bill has already passed the Ohio House, it will now go to Governor Taft’s desk for signature!
You can read about this important bill and the changes it implements to make life better for cyclists at www.ohiobike.org. The Ohio Bike Federation is also pushing for passage of another bill – SB 158. We are part of a coalition of cycling and motorcycling groups urging the state to pass this bill. The bill would increase penalties for motorists involved in “minor” traffic accidents relative to the injuries those “minor” crashes cause. YOU can get involved TODAY by emailing the Senators on the Transportation Committee and thanking them for supporting bicycling in Ohio. You can ask for their support on SB 158 as well! You can get information from the OBF website or go to the legislature’s website which provides a very easy search program to find bills, YOUR representatives and Committee members.
THE NATIONAL BIKE SUMMIT
For the past several years the League of American Bicyclists has sponsored the National Bike Summit. Bicycle advocates from all over the country converge on Washington, D.C. for a Wednesday, Thursday and Friday filled with conferences, lobbying, networking and fun.
Wednesday sessions are intense at times – multiple sessions are offered where you can observe the movers and shakers in the bicycling world talking about their pet projects, successes and failures. At the end of the day, all advocates are brought up to speed on the “hot button” national cycling issues in preparation for the next day’s of lobbying.
Thursday is “Bike Day” on Capitol Hill. Meetings are scheduled with members of virtually every Senator’s “transportation people” as well as House representatives. Our 300+ contingent of cycling advocate each wears a brightly colored cycling pin. We visited almost all of Ohio’s representatives, meeting personally with several. Our agenda was well-liked by ALL!
In March 2005, we pushed the Transportation Bill. In August 2005, President Bush signed “SAFETEA-LU,” which includes over FIVE BILLION dollars for cycling. In March 2006, we pushed for passage of a Bicycle Commuter Act that would amend the tax code to provide commuting fringe benefits for cyclists! That bill was introduced in May, 2006.
YOU can participate. Go to www.bikeleague.org. Read the stuff we’re working on. Get email addresses for your local Senator and representative’s. Send them a note urging them to support the bills! Better yet, GO to Washington with us next March. It’s a great time to be there! Bring a bike. Learn how to lobby. Ride the Rock Creek Parkway and be part of your government!
2009 is going to be a HUGE and critically important year for bicycling. We’ll have a new President and the Transportation Bill will be hotly debated. Why don’t YOU make it a point to start getting involved NOW~!
LOCAL POLITICS – ACT NOW TO PROTECT YOUR RIGHT TO RIDE YOUR FAVORITE ROADS
I was very surprised to see the front page headline “Round Bottom Road Rough For Truckers, Bikes” in a recent Forest Hills Journal article. The article went on to describe another raucous political session – this time an Anderson Township Trustees meeting where bike rides were chastised by a business owner.
Round Bottom Road is a mile or so from my house and is an extremely popular route for cyclists due to a lack of traffic, a country setting and nice long, rolling stretches. You don’t see a lot of kids, mostly experienced cyclists riding for fitness or fun. However, Doug Evans, owner of Evans Landscaping, has his business on Round Bottom and every spring his huge dump trucks roll out, providing much of suburban Hamilton County with mulch, topsoil, gravel, boulders, sod and more. Mr. Evans decided to go to the Trustees meeting to complain about those pesky bikers.
Mr. Evans’ remarks were, at best, callous as he took the “This road ain’t big enough for both of us” approach of a Texas gunslinger. He complained that “something” has to be done about these bikes on the road before some car or truck wipes out “not 2 or 3 but 10” bike riders. His key point seemed to be that HE and his business “paid taxes” and bike operators do not.
The key issue here is NOT taxes. However, bicycle riders DO pay taxes – lots of them. Fuel taxes and licensing fees are paid by ALL motorists. Plus we pay income taxes [federal, local & state], real estate taxes, sales taxes and more! Indeed, those of us who buy mulch and other products from Mr. Evans are paying HIS taxes.
Taxes are not the issue, however. Roadways in this country are open to ALL vehicles – cars, trucks, busses, bicycles, slow moving farm equipment, Amish buggies and more. Freedom of travel is a cherished fundamental right that goes to the very essence of the “freedom.” This right has been recognized for thousands of years. This notion that big trucks rule the roads runs counter to the concept expressed in numerous U.S. Supreme Court decisions that “.the right to travel is a part of the ‘liberty’ of which a citizen cannot be deprived without due process.”
In Ohio, the right to travel by bicycle has always been recognized in the law and Ohio Senate, just last week, passed a bill which reaffirms this right! Mr. Evans’ knee-jerk reaction to his company’s legal obligation to “Share The Road” with cyclists is misguided, at best, and downright dangerous at worst!
I sent a letter directly to Mr. Evans complaining of his comments, but also offering to assist as a liaison between him and the cycling community rather than play the Rhetoric Game in the papers. I advised him that he and his good will would LOSE any such game since cycling has such a strong grass roots appeal! To date, there has been no response.
YOU can become involved in this or other local issues MUCH more quickly. Stay aware of articles and local issues.Send a note supporting cycling to the author of the article or to the paper or to your OWN paper! Keep the pressure on our elected officials. They work for YOU and need to know what YOU think is important! Keep track of local cycling debates – Get Involved – Make your voice known. If you are not sure WHAT to say, send me a note or contact your local cycling club or the Ohio Bike Federation [www.ohiobike.org] and I’m sure you will receive a warm response!
In TWO minutes, YOU can become an aggressive, active and educated advocate for cycling at the national, state or local levels! WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR? Crank up the computer and let’s goooooooo!
Good Luck & Good Riding