February 23, 2011
Thoughts from the Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Meeting 2/19
The Listening Session with the US House of Representatives Transportation and Infrastructure committee was this past Saturday afternoon at the Indianapolis City County Building. A group of cyclists met at the City Market at 3pm to show their support for bicycling by entering the building en masse. Though everyone was allowed through security, only those who were originally on the registration were permitted in the courtroom. Friends from AARP, Bicycle Indiana, Health by Design, Hoosier Environmental Council, IndyGo, and many others were in the room, as well as a number of concerned citizens. Many were standing and those not registered or connected to an organization remained outside or were asked to leave. After an introduction by Chairman Mica (R-FL), the panel proceeded to give their ideas on how to shape transportation and infrastructure policy for the next 6 years. Mayor Ballard spoke first on the Rebuild Indy project and the importance of maintaining infrastructure that supports walkable, bike-able cities. He mentioned the regional mass transit plan, IndyConnect, and the bike plan included in that. INDYCOG would like to extend our sincerest thanks to our Mayor for being a great advocate for cyclists in Indianapolis. The next hour-plus of the panel's comments were centered on building and maintaining roads and interstates. INDOT, a trucking company, the MPO, congressmen, and others were allowed to voice their support of road improvements and building new roads. IndyConnect was mentioned a few times, but public transit was ignored entirely, even though the CEO of IndyGo was present. Congestion and gas taxes were brought up a few times as funding solutions (though Chairman Mica dismissed them as impossible in this congressional session), as well as changing the relationship between Metropolitan Planning Organizations and the federal government in city planning decisions. Public-Private Partnerships (or P3s) were discussed a number of times as means for funding further road improvements. Up to this point, Mayor Ballard was the only one who even mentioned the word bicycle. Thankfully, there was a little remaining time for the audience to make comments. Kim Irwin with Health by Design advocated for complete streets- not just roads for cars, but walkable, bikeable cities and communities. Nancy Tibbett from Bicycle Indiana spoke about the economic development benefits of bicycling infrastructure. At this point, a few of the panelists were starting to notice that other modes of transportation needed to be addressed (!) and the Indiana Representative on the panel, Rep. Buschon (R-IN), made sure to say that he thought federal tax dollars should not be spent on bike-ped projects. Another panelist, Jeff Mulzer, was bold enough to suggest that cyclists create a licensing system like that of hunters and fishermen to fund their "hobby," though it was clear that he was not inclined to see cycling as anything more important than recreation. Irene Wegner from AARP discussed how pedestrian and bicycling networks serve senior and low-income communities, and Jamison from INDYCOG spoke on the importance of pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure for those who cannot access jobs and other services via car. Curt Ailes from Urban Indy and others drove the discussion further to show that rail, urban planning, and rural development were all better served by multi-modal rather than roads-only legislation. While it was encouraging to be surrounded by so many bicycling advocates and supporters, it was disappointing to see that so many of our elected officials still live in a world dominated by cars and car culture. Choosing not to consider the needs of citizens who can't or don't drive ignores an entire portion of our community, including those our political leaders have been elected to serve. As bicycling advocates, this is exactly the kind of forum where we need to make sure our voices are heard. Make sure to write or call your legislators to let them know you support bicycling in Indiana. As the meeting adjourned, Mayor Ballard invited the crowd back to Tomlinson Tap Room for craft Indiana brews. INDYCOG thanks those in our community who joined in support at the meeting and continue to push for bicycle-friendly legislation.