Making the Rounds, Congressional Style

The Palmetto Cycling Coalition, along with some other state representatives, spent the last week making the rounds with three members of our South Carolina delegation in Congress: Tim Scott, Joe Wilson and Jim Clyburn. Although we weren’t able to meet with Scott and Clyburn in person due to last minute schedule changes, we were able to visit with their senior staff at district offices.

The purpose of the meetings were to engage the members in important bicycle and pedestrian activities happening locally and statewide. We served as a friendly reminder about how essential continued federal transportation investments in biking and walking are to communities around the state. As you likely already know if you’re reading this blog, bicycling and walking boost our economy, help individuals and government agencies save money, and directly address key societal challenges such as obesity and road congestion. These are not just localized issues–they’re also national issues of importance, and bicycling and walking programs offer solutions to these, and many other, issues and problems. It’s a pretty good bang for the buck.

Our fear is that in a few weeks there will be efforts to strip federal funding for biking and walking in Congress, either by eliminating the funding for programs such as Transportation Enhancements (which is the largest single source of federal funding for bike/ped) or Safe Routes to School. Another possibility is that Congress will make funding for these programs optional for states; in this case, absent a federal incentive, we feel sure that our Department of Transportation will not prioritize these smaller projects. For this reason, with each member that we met, we asked for their support of continuing dedicated funding for both programs.

L to R: Steve Hawley, Derrick Boatwright (both of Hawley); Gail Kinard, Eat Smart Move More SC; Congressman Joe Wilson; Rachael Kefalos, PCC; Chuck Schults, Carolina Cyclers.

Of the three offices that we met with, we received a guarantee of support for such programs from only one member–James Clyburn’s senior staff of the sixth district. Although all of the other offices and members assured us of their support of bicycle and pedestrian projects, none offered the firm commitment that we received from Clyburn’s office.

Nonetheless, we leave this experience feeling positive and confident in the conversations that were shared. We look forward to seeing these familiar faces in just a few weeks while we’re visiting their Capitol Hill offices during Bike Summit to remind them of the importance of a bicycle friendly South Carolina.

Finally, a big thanks to all of the willing partners that joined us in making these meetings happen.

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