Re: Follow the money
>Bike Trails' roadblock[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
>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