When Governor Markell signed off on the 2012 state budget passed by the legislature, tucked into that bill was an allocation for $5,000,000 for state bike routes – a tape measure home run for Bike Delaware. Typically, those funds would qualify for a 4x match of federal funds, or an additional $20MM, which would be a grand slam in any park.
How did this happen? Through luck, focus, and hard work. We were lucky to have an extremely supportive and visionary governor. Our focus began in late 2010 when Bike Delaware conducted an extended conversation with its membership about advocacy goals for 2011. We decided to concentrate our very limited resources on two main advocacy campaigns, one being a state funding earmark. In early 2011, we hired our first executive director, James Wilson, who worked tirelessly campaigning first for a General Assembly resolution to seek additional funds for bikeways and then to attach funds to implement the resolution in Delaware’s budget. This resolution passed both houses thanks in large part to Senators Venables and Sokola. More hard work was done by WCBC volunteers Carol Ireland, Gail Robillard, and Frank Warnock to create an executive director space for James to work in.
So, did we win? Hardly. We got a big score in the early innings of what could be an unending game. As politics spin in Washington, matching funds could become a wild pitch. According to the League of American Bicyclists, “Key Congressional leaders are attacking Transportation enhancements, Safe Routes to School, and Recreational trails and are taking steps to cut off dedicated federal funding for bicycling and walking.” Moreover, Senator Inhofe (R-OK), the lead Republican negotiator on the transportation bill, declared that one of his top three priorities for the transportation bill is to eliminate “frivolous spending for bike trails.”
In future articles, we will discuss where we would like to see these new funds applied and other recent signature successes. Meanwhile, we need your support. Bike Delaware’s funding is still precarious. As bicycling enthusiasts, you will be the earliest recipients of an improved bikeable/walkable infrastructure so, please, go to the Bike Delaware website to volunteer and/or make a contribution.