Rep. Paul Curtman may not have anything against bicyclists but some of them really don’t like him.
The conservative state representative from Franklin County triggered a backlash of criticism from an usually docile constituency after he proposed an amendment to a state transportation bill last week.
On its face, Curtman’s amendment appeared benign. He wanted the word “bicycle” removed from the list of potential transportation infrastructure funding projects in a bill that would allow the state’s voters to decide whether they wanted to impose a 1-cent transportation sales tax on themselves for 10 years.
“The proper role of government isn’t to fund bicycle paths,” Curtman said last week. He added that he doesn’t believe that roads and bridges should have to compete with bike trails in parks, etc., for repairs and other maintenance.
He pointed out that Franklin County has bridges that desperately need work and/or are in danger of being closed and that he didn’t think it was a good idea to codify in the state Constitution that the proper role of Missouri government is the maintenance of local bike trails scattered throughout the state.
That didn’t sit too well with bicycling enthusiasts who launched a grassroots campaign against the amendment. They argued the state should be supporting environmentally friendly transportation, like biking. Some of Curtman’s critics got personal.
A number of House Democrats spoke against the amendment including one of the transportation bill’s top supporters, Rep. Chris Kelly, D-Columbia, who said he would oppose the entire measure if the amendment were added.
Perhaps the pro-bicyclists feel picked on this session. Earlier this year, Rep. Bart Korman of High Hill introduced a bill calling for bicycles to be banned on state roads when there is a state-owned path or trail within two miles.
Curtman said this week that he isn’t anti-bicyclist and offered the amendment after some of his constituents expressed concerns that transportation dollars could be diverted from fixing roads and bridges like Bend Bridge to funding bike paths.
He said he has met with some of the groups who are concerned about his amendment in an effort to understand their position and find a reasonable solution that would allow him to support the transportation bill.
We take him on his word that he is not trying to kill this critical bill with a poison pill dealing with bicycles. We’re confident that if the sales tax bill is passed, the money will be used for appropriate projects both on the state and local levels.
Our hope is that a solution can be found. Our state’s transportation infrastructure desperately needs a new funding source. The bill that is pending in the Legislature needs to be approved so the people of the state can decide the issue. It was perfected on Tuesday.
A final vote could come later this week.
It doesn’t need to be derailed over bike paths.