Funding Fight Trips Up Bike Path Projects More cities nationwide are investing in ways bikes and pedestrians can share the road with cars. Still, the projects have been slow to catch on in other places, most notably in Congress, where some lawmakers feel these and other "transportation enhancements" are not an appropriate use of federal dollars.
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Bike Infrastructure Hits Congressional Speed Bumps

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Bike Infrastructure Hits Congressional Speed Bumps

Bike Infrastructure Hits Congressional Speed Bumps

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MICHELE NORRIS, Host:

NPR's Brian Naylor took a ride in Washington, D.C., to see how some of that money has been spent.

BRIAN NAYLOR: Fifteenth and K Street is as busy a street corner as you'll find in Washington. Buses, trucks, cars, and taxis zip by. And there are pedestrians and increasingly, bikes. I rode one alongside Andy Clarke, president of the League of American Bicyclists.

ANDY CLARKE: You good?

NAYLOR: With a microphone in my hand, we cycled up 15th Street in bike lanes sectioned off from the other traffic.

CLARKE: If we were in Portland or Amsterdam, there would be - we'd have our own set of traffic signals. And there'd be a little more space here. But, you know, these are early days and we're not Amsterdam yet. We don't have quite that many cyclists but it's certainly noticeable the increase in the last year or two, as the infrastructure has gone in.

NAYLOR: It's kind of a departure from the notion that streets are solely for cars, that's always been sort of the norm in...

CLARKE: Yeah.

NAYLOR: ...most of America.

CLARKE: Well, we see it as actually opening up the street to a lot more users. And I think one of the things that were so challenging about the issue in Congress last week was that, you know, at a time when cities across the country are doing this and they're choosing to invest not only federal and state money, but their own money in this kind of improvement, it seems just bizarre to be stopping it and discouraging it, when it's got so many benefits.

NAYLOR: Republican Senator Tom Coburn tried to strip the program from a temporary highway bill last week. His GOP colleague Rand Paul of Kentucky joined him in speaking out against bike trails.

NORRIS: Look, I'm a bicyclist and I like bike paths as much as anybody. But when bridges are falling into the river, when a major metropolitan area like Louisville, Kentucky, has one-third of their bridge capacity closed down because the bridge is dangerous to travel on - these are emergency problems.

NAYLOR: David Goldberg, of the advocacy group Transportation For America, calls this a watershed moment, as communities revert to a earlier time when roads weren't owned by cars.

DAVID GOLDBERG: We stripped it down to be essentially sewers for cars. And for years, we just thought through-put of vehicles was the be all and end all. And there's been a significant change in recent years, where cities, towns, large and small, are taking a very different approach and they're going back and reclaiming a little bit of that landscape.

NAYLOR: Its not just bike lanes that are funded by the transportation enhancements program. Pedestrian improvements such as sidewalks and better marked crosswalks are also funded. In part, Goldberg says, the money is being spent to reduce pedestrian deaths, most of which occur on roads built to earlier federal guidelines without proper crosswalks, for example, that are unsafe for pedestrians and other users.

GOLDBERG: This is a national issue of having created safety problems in community after community, where we need to go back and give people safe ways to get out there, to be active, to get where they need to go. And this is not a frill. This is a very critical piece of our infrastructure.

NAYLOR: Brian Naylor, NPR News, Washington.

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