• Bhatt: “We can’t just keep building…roads”

    by  • March 30, 2012 • Cool People • 0 Comments

    To Change Your Community’s Streets, the Action Is in the Statehouse

    by Tanya Snyder, Streetsblog

    At a National Bike Summit panel [March 20] on state-level bike advocacy campaigns, Dan Grunig of Bicycle Colorado spoke about the importance of reforming the agencies that spend the lion’s share of America’s transportation funding. “If you were starting from scratch and you said, ‘Where do I want to put my limited resources, where can I get the biggest bang for the buck?’, the federal piece of the pie is the smallest,” said Grunig, “and the states’ is the biggest.”

    Delaware Secretary of Transportation Shailen Bhatt oversaw the state’s first uses of Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) money for bike/ped projects. He says his counterparts in other state DOTs aren’t so bad. “Lots of secretaries ‘get it’,” he said, pointing to Paula Hammond in Washington and DOT chiefs in Oregon, Tennessee, and Minnesota. But he added that a secretary that “gets it” can only do so much if she or he doesn’t work for a governor that “gets it.”

    Bhatt says he doesn’t act alone. He half-jokingly offered a four-part recipe for advocacy success:

    1. Elect a governor who bikes.

    2. Elect senators who bike.

    3. Elect a congressmember who bikes.

    4. Get them all to show up at all of your events.

    Easier said than done, right? Bhatt put the onus on advocates to close the deal by figuring out what message will speak to officials, some of whom haven’t seen a bicycle since their elementary school days. The desire to increase biking for biking’s sake might not resonate with them. Recreational cycling might not seem to be a cause worth spending scarce state dollars on. But they might listen to arguments about household budgets in times of high gas prices.

    And state budgets are even closer to governors’ hearts. Most states are suffering under tremendous burdens of cutbacks and debt. Bhatt said 36 percent of Delaware’s transportation operating budget goes to debt service.

    And yet, his agency proposed $13 million for bike/ped improvements this year. “We’re not saying that this is a nice thing to have,” he said. “We’re saying this is important. This is an important investment that we’re making into our state’s transportation network. And we’re doing it in the face of all of these rising costs because we can’t just keep building our roads and building our roads and not providing other alternatives.”

    If you can show that there’s a solid return on investment, state DOT leaders will listen, he said.

    Read entire article at Streetsblog HERE>>>


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    James Wilson is the executive director of Bike Delaware. He is a member of the Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals (by whom he was named the 2014 Professional of the Year, Nonprofit Sector), the Institute of Transportation Engineers and the Delaware Bicycle Council. He is the co-chair of the policy committee of the Advisory Council on Walkability and Pedestrian Awareness and serves on the board of directors of the Delaware Valley Smart Growth Alliance. He holds engineering degrees from Yale University and the University of Texas at Austin and is the only registered lobbyist for cycling and walking in Delaware. He helped create, and continues to lead Bike Delaware's participation in, the Walkable Bikeable Delaware campaign. During his tenure as Bike Delaware's executive director, Delaware advanced in the national Bicycle Friendly State rankings for five years in a row, farther and faster than any other state, ever.

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