At the National Bike Summit Tuesday in Washington, D.C., Maryland Sen. Ben Cardin was introduced as “a huge champion” of bicycling issues on Capitol Hill by League of American Bicyclists president Andy Clarke.
Sen. Cardin is someone “we owe a real debt of gratitude for his work in the last Congress,” Clarke said.
Specifically, Clarke praised Cardin for rescuing the federal transportation law known as MAP-21 or, the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act. Signed into law last summer by President Barack Obama, the legislation significantly cut funding for specific biking and walking projects much to the dismay of bicycling advocates.
However, Cardin, with Mississippi Republican Sen. Thad Cochran, “saved” the legislation with an amendment that provided local governments direct access to most federal transportation funding — rather than being required to go through various state DOT’s — enabling them to build sidewalks and bike lanes, for example, to encourage and keep bicyclists and pedestrians safe. If the local communities so choose.
”We were up against a tremendous battle,” Cardin said, referring to the initial Map-21 proposals. “The rhetoric coming out of Capitol Hill when we started MAP-21 was ‘not one dime but for roads’ — and there would be no set asides or opportunity at all.”
Cardin, for his part, told the packed ballroom at Marriott’s Renaissance Hotel near D.C.’s Mount Vernon Square, about how much he and his family enjoys Baltimore’s 15-mile Gwynns Falls Trail, built with help from federal funding. “Baltimore’s a great city,” Cardin said.
Cardin also gave a shout-out to the Jones Falls Trail, also utilizing federal transportation dollars, which connects Penn Station to Druid Hill Park. When complete, it will link the Inner Harbor to Mount Washington, paralleling the Jones Falls River, and connect to the Gwynn Falls Trail.
“For those of you who may only have driven around Baltimore,” Cardin told the audience with a smile, “the Jones Falls is not a highway, it’s a river that runs through the city.”
Cardin noted that number of Baltimore City bicycle commuters has increased 40 percent over the past three years.
Cardin also noted that Baltimore was designed with public green space in mind, specifically by the Olmsteads, Frederick Sr. and later his sons, who believed in linking the city’s rivers — the Gwynn Falls, Jones Falls and Herring Run — to parks and making them easily accessible.