First Republican Signs on to Federal Complete Streets Bill!

By Carolyn S on September 28, 2010

imageThanks, in part, to some dedicated advocates in Cleveland, the federal Complete Streets Act is now a bipartisan bill.

For many, the name Steve LaTourette is familiar. This spring, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood made headlines when he jumped on a table at the National Bike Summit in animated support for bicycling and walking. LaTourette caught some media attention too, when he jokingly quipped that LaHood must be on drugs to suggest cycling deserved significant federal funding.

While that off-the-cuff comment went viral on the internet, LaTourette quickly wrote a public clarification, noting his “ardent support” for bike facilities. Now, another story is spreading across the country. The Ohio Congressman is getting some deserved attention for putting that “ardent support” into action, leading his conservative colleagues and proving that complete streets is a concept that transcends politics.

Last week, LaTourette 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 bicyclists, public transit users and pedestrians. Because of his position on the prestigious House Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, LaTourette’s opinions on transportation policy and infrastructure spending are critical. Not to mention, the Congressman is the first Republican to join the growing ranks of lawmakers who support complete streets.

So what nudged LaTourette to add his name? Action from advocates at Walk+Roll Cleveland and local bike shop owners.

First, the Ohio advocates kickstarted communications and meetings between LaTourette and national organizations like Bikes Belong, the Alliance, the League of American Bicyclists and the National Complete Streets Coalition.

Next, they showed LaTourette the numbers. Walk+Roll’s founder, Lois Moss, and owners of Eddy’s Bike Shops and Solon Bicycle met personally with the Congressman’s staffers. They came prepared with copies of Minnesota Business magazine, which reported that bicycling has added millions to the state economy and that many thousands of Minnesotans use bicycles for transportation, despite the chilly climate. They also cited stats from the Outdoor Industry Association that show bicycle facilities create jobs — in fact, generating more jobs per million dollars spent than massive highway and bridge reconstruction projects.

Then, they rallied the community. On September 17th, more than 1,000 residents walked, rolled and bused to Cleveland’s Progressive Field for an “Access for All Party,” a festive event promoting complete streets. Lo and behold, a few days later, LaTourette was signing on as a Complete Streets co-sponsor.

“Congressman LaTourette has historically been generally supportive of recreational bicycling,” Moss said in today’s press release. “Agreeing to co-sponsor Complete Streets demonstrates an understanding that bicycling and walking can also be transportation.”

Check out the National Complete Streets Coalition to learn more about the federal bill.

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