Tennessee bicyclists, take note: a bill being considered by your lawmakers could wipe out funding for biking and bike facilities.
The bill with the potential to cause the most damage is HB 1650. (A related Senate bill is SB 1760.) The House Transportation Subcommittee has it scheduled for consideration this Wednesday (Feb. 17).
What is the big problem with bill? It spells out how gas tax money must be used by counties, cities and the highway fund. The bottom line under the bill: NONE of that tax money could be earmarked for bike facilities.
HB 1650, subsection 2, reads:
“No revenues from the gasoline tax distributed to the counties, cities, and highway fund pursuant to subsection (b) shall be used for the construction, improvement, or maintenance of a right-of-way or other facility that is open to the use of the public for non-vehicular travel, such as pedestrian and bicycle trails, lanes, and paths; sidewalks; parks; and greenways.”
Here’s What’s Wrong With This Proposal
Here are a few other things that are wrong with this short-sighted proposal:
- This bill would restrict use of gas tax funds for construction, improvement, or maintenance of existing bicycle facilities.
- It would make it impossible to implement the complete streets policies so many Tennessee municipalities have recently adopted.
- It would make it impossible to follow the TDOT long term transportation plan.
- It would negatively impact tourism and commerce.
- It would prohibit the development of safer streets for cyclists and motorists alike.
- The proposal would prevent local communities from developing bike facilities as they see fit.
- This bill would not encourage healthy lifestyles.
TDOT Opposition — Millions of Dollars At Risk
Guess what? The Tennessee Department of Transportation doesn’t like the proposal. The agency issued a fiscal note which made it clear that this would likely violate the ADA, putting millions of dollars of federal highway funding at risk.
So what was the bill sponsor’s response? Rather than reevaluating the motives behind the bill and considering the bigger picture, he doubled down. He is attempting to make the bill ADA compliant by only targeting bicycle facilities.
There is a real concern among bike advocates that this bill could move forward. The governor of Tennessee has proposed an increase to the gas tax which has not been well received, and so the atmosphere is ripe for HB 1650 to pass.
Bike Walk TN Leading The Charge
As a board member of Bike Walk Tennessee, I have been a part of the initial outreach to the members of the transportation subcommittee. The members of the subcommittee are aware of Bike Walk Tennessee’s opposition to the bill, and the reasons why.
Bike Walk Tennessee, with help from People for Bikes, has also sent letters to the transportation subcommittee with the names of businesses and other organizations that oppose the bill.
What is impressive is the number of people and organizations who have already reached out to the members of the transportation subcommittee to voice their opposition. Among them are Chief David Rausch of the Knoxville Police Department, the hundreds of individuals who have signed Walk Bike Nashville’s petition, and the owners of local businesses who have signed onto letters of opposition, which have been sent to the members of the transportation subcommittee.
Let Your Voice Be Heard
Tennessee cyclists, please join these individuals and groups and voice your opposition to Tennessee lawmakers.
What can you do to help prevent this bill from passing?
- First, sign Bike Walk Tennessee’s petition.
- Next, copy and paste Bike Walk Tennessee’s prepared letter, asking the transportation subcommittee to oppose the bill, and also send the letter to the members of the transportation subcommittee, whose email addresses are provided in the link to the letter.
- MOST IMPORTANTLY, share this news with any Tennessean you know who might have a vested interest in opposing this bill, whether or not they are a cyclist. Think about your local bicycle friendly businesses, or organizations devoted to promoting active and healthy lifestyles. Think about your favorite post-ride watering hole and ask for their signature on the petition. Reach out to any sponsors of your local clubs or rides. Get the word out.