Klobuchar & Webb: Dems’ Unlikely Opponents of Bike-Ped Investment

Sen. Tom Coburn’s (R-OK) attempt to curb federal investment in bicycle and pedestrian paths, as well as other "transportation enhancements," was defeated on the Senate floor today — but it managed to pick up two unlikely Democratic supporters in the process.

87913182_Vrns4_M.jpgA college-age Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), with her father. Photo: Klobuchar for Senate

Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Jim Webb (D-VA) voted with Coburn to allow states to opt out of a current mandate to spend 10 percent of federal transportation aid on bike and pedestrian paths, bike-ped safety education, and other programs.

Coburn’s amendment fell short by a vote of 39-59, with three other Democrats, Sens. Russ Feingold (WI), Evan Bayh (IN), and Claire McCaskill (MO), also aligning with the majority of Republicans in favor of the opt-out.

Feingold, Bayh, and McCaskill are fiscal hawks who frequently vote to limit the scope of government spending, making their votes less surprising than Klobuchar and Webb’s — if just as disheartening for clean transportation advocacy groups.

Klobuchar in particular hails from a state where bicycling is a popular element of local culture. She has spoken often of her personal appreciation of biking, hiking, and other outdoor activities, and welcomed a 14-year-old climate activist to Washington after the young girl’s 1,500-mile bike ride.

Klobuchar’s office has not yet responded to an inquiry about her vote on Coburn’s two amendments to the Senate spending bill that funds U.S. DOT for next year. The second Coburn amendment that fell short today was a modified version of his earlier proposal to restrict all "transportation enhancements."

Even when limited to only block funding for transportation museums, however, the second Coburn plan was defeated on a 41-57 vote.

One GOP amendment that did make it into the DOT spending bill was Sen. Roger Wicker’s (R-MS) proposal to allow Amtrak riders to carry guns and ammunition locked in their checked baggage. Twenty-seven Democrats joined all 41 Republicans to approve the proposal.

  • Albert

    “Klobuchar…has spoken often of her personal appreciation of biking, hiking, and other outdoor activities, and welcomed a 14-year-old climate activist to Washington after the young girl’s 1,500-mile bike ride.”

    Reminds me of a contentious community board transportation committee meeting a few months ago, where a fit-looking guy stood up to speak (on the topic of the proposed bike lane) and began with the disclaimer, “This comes from an avid bicyclist.” Next thing out of his mouth was, “Bicycles are not an appropriate form of transportation,” as if this was the 11th commandment. “Live-life-to-the-fullest” bicycling types don’t necessarily understand or agree with “transportation” types, just because they might like to get out in the country and tear around on their studded tires (forgive the generalization).

  • clever-title

    And what’s so bad about letting people check guns & ammunition on Amtrak? Several trains (Adirondack, Ethan Allen, Californis Zephyr, Empire Builder) go to hunting destinations. Without that provision, I’d have to drive or fly (yes, you can check guns on airlines) when I’d much rather take the train.

  • john

    Love it when those who claim to enjoy cycling show up for a group ride with their bike on a back of a large SUV even though they live nearby. There is a major difference between recreational cyclists and bike commuters. Most recreational cyclists I know would never consider using their bikes to get to work or to run errands.

  • Shemp

    Stating that there is “a mandate to spend 10 percent of federal transportation aid on bike and pedestrian paths” dramatically overstates the issue here and plays into the hands of these opponents. If that was true, this country would already be like Denmark or the Netherlands. There is a 10% set aside from one of a handful of major FHWA programs that contains a strong bike/ped eligibility, not a mandate. The states that are doing anything worthwhile with bike/ped in fact use funding from a variety of other programs as well, because this funding source (“Transportation Enhancements”) is not in fact that extensive.

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