As a member of the Bicycle Caucus in the U.S. House of Representatives, I recently took a ride with members of the Spokane Bicycle Club and the Bike Alliance of Washington. The ride gave me the opportunity to hear the concerns and priorities of group members regarding city roadways.
The ride route chosen by the group allowed me to see the positive impact that federal funds have had on our roadways, while also highlighting spots where improvements are greatly needed. Areas of particular concern to me are those roadways frequented by children making their way to and from school. Too many of our city streets are without designated shoulder areas and lack sufficient space for bicyclists and pedestrians. While a combination of alert and responsible drivers along with safety-trained cyclists can help to avoid a great deal of accidents, improving our roadways to better accommodate all modes of transportation is imperative.
Bicycle and pedestrian programs are currently eligible for federal funding under the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21). This legislation, enacted in 1998, will be up for reauthorization this year in Congress. Money delegated under this act has made significant contributions to the improvement of our roadways in Spokane. I believe this legislation is necessary and beneficial, and I will support TEA-21 reauthorization.
A new program now being adopted by other states is that of the Safe Routes to School initiatives. The overriding purpose of Safe Routes to School is to decrease traffic and pollution and increase the health of children and the community by promoting cycling and walking while creating an environment more conducive to those activities.
The merits of cycling and walking are well known, and yet their potential to improve our community is often overlooked. It is in our best interest to promote transportation modes that are low cost and cause the least possible negative environmental impact. I encourage people to employ alternative modes of transportation like cycling, and I will continue to work to make our roads safer for cyclists here in Washington's 5th District.
George Nethercutt Congressman, 5th District of Washington
New Location Needed
I read the letter from Elizabeth Theis, regarding the Glass on the Grass event at Arbor Crest with interest. My children and I also had a miserable experience there last year, when we were turned away from the show. My children, who were 10 and 11 years old, had actually been to this wonderful event the year before, and I had promised my daughter that she could choose a glass piece from the show for her birthday present. But we were blocked from entering.
There are too few unique artistic events of this caliber in Spokane to limit the participation to those over 21. I am sure there have been many other families disappointed by the strict exclusion of young people. I wonder how much business these extraordinary artists lost as a result. It is time for the organizers of the Glass on the Grass to find a more hospitable venue that will better serve the community.
Sunni Mace Spokane, Wash.
Preserve Roadless Areas
The future of the roadless areas in the National Forest system in Eastern Washington is currently being discussed by the Forest Service. We live near the Quartzite roadless forest east of Chewelah, Wash., and I am convinced that the pristine nature of these forests must be preserved for present and future generations. Such wilderness forests are our local heritage and are unique historical treasures in our midst. Once gone, they cannot be reclaimed.
Children will continue to face formidable challenges in our man-made world. It is imperative that we provide them access to the "one true thing" -- the natural world. Experiencing the wilderness connects us to our source.
The wilderness forests provide us with many goodies - clean water, healthy habitat for wildlife, untrammeled beauty and economic opportunity. As natural resource-based economies in rural communities dwindle, it is essential to court tourist dollars. Wilderness forests provide ample opportunities for fishing, hunting, backpacking, hiking and horseback riding.
The Bush administration is attempting to roll back the national environmental policy act, which protects our National Forests. The ability of "environmental groups, citizens and forest service employees" to challenge proposed actions in the forest would be weakened if this happens. In effect, the public would lose control over the public forests. We are at a decisive moment for the roadless forests of Eastern Washington.
Ellen Breiter Valley, Wash.
Burning NOT Banned
In the Aug. 15-21 edition of The Inlander, there was a brief regarding grass field burning. It read: "stubble burning was outlawed last year largely because of the efforts of the grassroots group Save Our Summers." Grass field burning was banned in Washington in 1998, with some exceptions, when mechanical residue removal was certified as an alternative to burning.
However, cereal grain stubble burning continues in Washington. The settlement agreement between SOS and the Department of Ecology that was reached last November did not outlaw stubble burning. It did not even require a reduction below current levels. It did specify that a health assessment was to begin in 2003 and that rule-making was to begin in 2004. Ecology also agreed that it would work to improve the health impacts of its agricultural burning program in the interim.
Jeff Krautkraemer Chair, Save Our Summers Pullman, Wash.