Last week, Congressman Steve LaTourette of Ohio added his name to a growing number of elected officials who support complete streets. The Congressman signed on to the Complete Streets Act – a bill now in Congress that would ensure that communities across America design, build and operate their roadways with all users in mind – including motorists as well as bicyclists, public transit users and pedestrians.
This spring, Congressman LaTourette (R-OH 14) made off-the-cuff remarks jokingly suggesting that Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood was on drugs for thinking bicycle projects should receive substantial funding and also reportedly said “What job is going to be created by having a bike lane?” The bicycle community reacted quickly with hundreds of phone calls and e-mails to let him know how important cycling and walking are to his community and communities all over the country.
After meetings with bicycle and pedestrian advocates in Washington DC and in his northeast Ohio district, Congressman LaTourette recently agreed to become a co-sponsor of the Federal Complete Streets Act. Because he is on the prestigious House Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, his opinions regarding transportation policy and infrastructure spending are important. “Congressman LaTourette has historically been generally supportive of bicycling for recreation; agreeing to co-sponsor Complete Streets demonstrates an understanding that bicycling and walking can also be transportation” said Lois Moss, founder of Walk+Roll Cleveland.
The local non-profit, Walk+Roll Cleveland, helped orchestrate communications and meetings that included national organizations such as Bikes Belong, Alliance for Biking & Walking, League of American Bicyclists, National Complete Streets Coalition, Rail-to-Trails Conservancy and Transportation for America. Locally, Diane Lees of HubBub Custom Bicycles featured the issue on her weekly WJCU radio show The Outspoken Cyclist. Additionally, Ms. Moss and the owners of Eddy’s Bike Shops and Solon Bicycle met with congressional staffers and showed them Minnesota Business Magazine which reported that bicycling added many hundreds of millions to the Minneapolis economy and that many thousands of Minnesotans use bicycles for transportation even though their climate is one of the coldest and snowiest in the U.S.
According to the Outdoor Industry Association, the U.S. bicycling industry supports 1.1 million jobs and generates $17.7 billion in tax revenue each year. Building better biking and walking infrastructure provides construction jobs – and because these projects tend to be small, labor-intensive and quick to get off the ground, they are estimated to generate more jobs per million dollars spent than massive highway and bridge reconstruction projects. A study in Oregon found that for every $1 million invested in bicycle infrastructure, the local economy gained 65 jobs. Additionally, once bicycle and pedestrian projects are completed, they boost the local economy by attracting visitors, improving business districts, creating communities where people choose to live, and providing low-cost and healthy transportation options.
The Congressman’s decision to co-sponsor the Federal Complete Streets Act came shortly after a local Complete Streets party in Cleveland that drew nearly 1,000 participants. The event brought together numerous grassroots bicycle and pedestrian advocacy organizations that are working together to make northeast Ohio a better community by increasing bicycling and walking.