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Re: Follow the money

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  • Dennis Crowley
    ... [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 7, 2003
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      >Bike Trails' roadblock
      >By Derrick Z. Jackson
      >Boston Globe, July 30, 2003
      >WHEN HE WAS merely the three-time winner of the Tour de France,
      >Lance Armstrong came to the White House. President Bush said,
      >''Lance Armstrong is a vivid reminder that the great achievements of
      >life are often won or lost in the mountains, when the climb is
      >steepest, when the heart is tested.''
      >After his fourth straight victory, Armstrong returned to the White
      >House when Bush announced new funds for cancer research. Armstrong
      >is a celebrated cancer survivor. Bush said: ''Regular exercise is
      >another way to prevent illness and add years to your life....
      >Exercise is a really important part of my life. And I urge all
      >Americans to make it an important part of your life, as well.''
      >Armstrong has now won the Tour de France for the fifth time. Tyler
      >Hamilton of Marblehead finished in fourth place despite a broken
      >collarbone. ''When you worked that hard, you don't give up too
      >easy,'' Hamilton said.
      >Even as we praise the heart of Armstrong and the grit of Hamilton,
      >even as Bush tells us to exercise, Bush's allies are making it
      >harder for average Americans to get out their own cycles, strollers,
      >rollerblades, and jogging shoes. Last Thursday, as Armstrong knocked
      >off 112 miles to get to Bordeaux, a House subcommittee knocked out
      >funding for bike paths and pedestrian trails.
      >The Transportation and Treasury subcommittee, chaired by Republican
      >Ernest Istook of Oklahoma, voted practically to kill a decade-old
      >program that required states to set aside 10 percent of US
      >transportation funds for ''enhancement'' projects such as exercise
      >and historic preservation. The program has given out $5 billion, $77
      >million to Massachusetts.
      >Those funds have helped states convert abandoned, unsightly railbeds
      >into scenic paths. In Washington, D.C., and Boston, bike trails are
      >a new source of commuting. On warm weekend days, the paths are a
      >strip park of parents and grandparents pushing infants, small
      >children trying out training wheels, teens rollerblading, and adults
      >running, cycling, and conversing while walking.
      >In an obesity epidemic, it would seem obvious that bike trails are
      >an important way to inspire Americans to get up from the couch or
      >get out of the car. Trails offer a safe way for small children and
      >seniors to enjoy cycling in metropolitan areas like Boston where
      >drivers show no mercy even if the cyclist resembles Mother Teresa.
      >The national Rails-to-Trails Conservancy says there are about 1,200
      >trails totaling 12,500 miles. There are plans that would give the
      >nation close to 30,000 miles of trails. Those plans are in jeopardy
      >because of Istook.
      >Istook is such a huge supporter of highways that a quarter of his
      >2001-02 political contributions came from transportation and
      >petroleum interests. He also gets contributions from interests that
      >benefit from massive concentrations of cars, such as Wal-Mart and
      >Home Depot. In the current $90 billion spending plan, Istook would
      >boost highway spending to $33.8 billion, $4.5 billion more than even
      >President Bush wants.
      >Conversely, he is such a critic of Amtrak that he tried to slash
      >funding over the last few months to $580 million, only a third of
      >what Amtrak says it needs to keep up its infrastructure and
      >two-thirds of what even Bush was willing to provide.
      >Istook originally wanted to kill outright the 10 percent rule for
      >enhancements. After an outcry by rails-to-trails proponents, Istook
      >he would leave the 10 percent up to the states. John Olver of
      >Massachusetts, the ranking Democrat on Istook's subcommittee,
      >proposed an amendment to preserve the 10 percent. The amendment
      >narrowly lost before the full Appropriations Committee.
      >Olver said he will try again to save the program in September. Micah
      >Swafford, Istook's press secretary, said Monday on the telephone
      >that the cut was necessary during the national budget crunch and at
      >a time when roads and bridges badly need repairing. Nicole
      >Letourneau, Olver's press secretary, dismissed that rationale,
      >saying that Istook ''wants to pave the world with concrete.''
      >Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson recently noted
      >that obesity costs the United States $117 billion a year. He said,
      >''The best way to be healthy is to exercise and to watch what you
      >eat and to lose some weight and stop smoking.'' But at a time when
      >states are raiding tobacco settlements for basic services, giving
      >states the option to spend on bike trails and other transportation
      >enhancements effectively ends the program.
      >Lance Armstrong cheated death and now has five Tour de France
      >victories. For many Americans a bike path offers a way to cheat
      >death every day. Perhaps the advocates of rail trails should get
      >Armstrong to appear on their behalf. Armstrong once gave Bush a bike
      >and said, ''We expect him to ride it.'' An Armstrong who expects
      >Congress to get behind cycling paths for average Americans just
      >might force Istook to come along for the ride.
      >Derrick Z. Jackson's e-mail address is

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