Bikes earn Colorado big bucks in omnibus spending bill

Tina Korbe Contributor
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Apparently, biking is big in Colorado — $750,000 big. In the nearly 2,000-page omnibus appropriations bill introduced by Senate Democrats, Congress rewarded Coloradans’ commitment to biking with $750,000 worth of earmarks for the state’s bike-sharing programs.

Bike sharing? “It’s a new way of getting around,” according to the Denver Bike Sharing website. Participants pick up bikes at local stations and drop them off when they’re done. “It’s simple, clean and affordable,” the website says.

Simple and clean bike sharing might be, but affordable it most certainly is not — at least not for the distant taxpayers who subsidize Colorado’s programs but live too far away to borrow a bike.

The Denver Bike Sharing program, for example, will cost taxpayers $500,000, thanks to an earmark requested by Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) and Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.). The Boulder Bikes to Business project will cost citizens another $250,000. That’s the doing of Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.).

But the rest of the country is not nearly so keen on bicycling as Coloradans. According to the 2008 American Community Survey, nearly 10 percent of Boulder residents bike to work — 18 times the national average. To require Americans to pay for the bike habits of Boulder residents just doesn’t make sense.

Ironically, Udall has said as much. Last month, he was one of four co-sponsors of an earmark ban that failed to pass the Senate. At that time, he wrote, “We’ve become so focused on pet projects that holding government accountable and being good stewards of the public dollar seem to be an afterthought.”

Udall now faces the choice of supporting a spending bill chock full of earmarks or voting against the very pet projects he requested.

Tina Korbe is a reporter in the Center for Media and Public Policy, an investigative journalism operation at The Heritage Foundation.