By: Dorian Grilley, Executive Director of BikeMN
Things started moving at the Minnesota Capitol with the House Transportation Committee hearing the e-bike rules and regulations update bill, which was introduced by Representative Steve Elkins of Bloomington, on February 11th. I was also very happy to testify on February 25th in favor of the $10 million for safe routes to school infrastructure bonding bill introduced by Representative Mary Murphy of Hermantown. The Omnibus Active Transportation Improvements Bill was introduced by Representative Bernardy of New Brighton on March 25th and the operation of and passing a bicycle policy changes were introduced by Representative Leon Lillie of North St. Paul on March 4th. March started Zooming along right away with 1,100 people from around the country, including several BikeMN staff, attending the National Bike Summit. I coordinated and hosted virtual meetings with staff from all ten of the Minnesota congressional delegation’s offices on Wednesday, March 3rd. Thanks to the many of you from around the state that participated in those virtual meetings. You made a difference.
Senator Scott Dibble of Minneapolis introduced the e-bike bill in the Senate and it was heard on March 25th, passed unanimously following testimony from Erik Saltvold of Erik’s Bike Shop, Matt Moore of QBP, and Alex Logemannfrom People for Bikes. The bill was sent to the environment committees in both the House and Senate because it will have a small cost to replace rule signs along our trail systems. Senator Dave Senjem of Rochester will be the author of the safe routes bonding bill in the Senate.
Erik Saltvold had also testified earlier in February during a transportation overview hearing in the House Transportation Committee. Many thanks to Chair Hornstein of Minneapolis for inviting Erik to testify about the scale and growth of bicycling and for his commitment to including active transportation in the transportation funding and policy bills he intends to pass this year. The challenge will be for those bills, especially funding, to be agreed upon during these financially strapped times and to pass the Senate.
The Omnibus Active Transportation bill is basically a catch-all bill that includes most of the policy and funding proposals we’ve tossed out there in past years. It will soon be introduced by Senator Dibble. It includes the operation of bicycle and e-bike policy language, a safe routes to school bonding appropriation, and other funding ideas including language that would require 10% of a metro sales tax for transit and active transportation to be dedicated to pedestrian and bike programs and infrastructure. Some of the funding ideas are likely to be included in the House transportation finance bill but are not likely to be passed by the Legislature in these fiscally challenging times. But we need to keep trying.
It has been a busy four weeks but most certainly worth it. For me, the highlight was certainly the National Bike Summit’s Bike Side Chat with the new USDOT Secretary Pete Buttigieg. Having a leader of the USDOT that recognizes, at that level, how important safe biking and walking are to creating and sustaining healthy communities, boosting economies, helping address climate change, and building an equitable future is reassuring. It is so helpful to have someone pushing from the top down. We just have to remember to push even harder from the grassroots up. I’m so glad he and you, our supporters, are along for the ride.