Obama's transport bill challenged by bike-friendly congressman

Crunch-time approaching for the future of US transport

A US politician has proposed a more cycle-friendly alternative to president Barack Obama's proposed multi-billion dollar transport bill.   

Congressman James Oberstar, chairman of the US government's Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, wants to "thread the language of bicycles into the federal transportation bill."

Despite opposition from the US Transportation Secretary he would like to ditch the current bill and replace it with one which has such cycling highlights as the establishment of a US bicycle route system - 50,000 miles of it if a plan from October last year was to be used.

Oberstar's proposed new bill would put huge investment into highway construction, public transport and a nationwide high-speed rail system but with a strong focus on livability and climate change goals.

An Office of Livability would "establish a focal point ... to advance environmentally sustainable modes of transportation, including transit walking, and bicycling."

It would aim to improve the information available by overseeing research into the volume of trips by different modes of transport, as well as assessing the benefits of sustainable modes of transport.

A study into the rights of cyclists and pedestrians would also be a job for the Office of Livability, in order to ensure that cyclists and pedestrians are not at a disadvantage compared to motorists in having access to the transport system and in other ways, such as the ability to recover damages for injuries suffered in collisions.

The worry is that the 18 month extension of the current bill proposed by the administration would turn into a much longer period. Oberstar and his allies want to see their more radical proposals clearing the House of Representatives by September.

Congressman Oberstar is a keen cyclist himself but as an advocate for cycling has been involved with Rails-to-Trails, an organisation whose mission is to create a national network of trails from former railway lines and connecting corridors. He was also involved in the creation of Safe Routes to Schools and has ensured that every state has a bike co-ordinator and a bike plan....

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