Posted by Elly Blue (Columnist) on January 22nd, 2008 at 4:40 pm
Note: This article was written by BikePortland.org columnist Elly Blue.
Elly is a dedicated activist who is busy in the local transportation scene. She spearheaded the “We are ALL Traffic” rally and press conference back in November and she is currently the point person for the upcoming International Towards Carfree Cities Conference coming to Portland this June.
You can read more of her work here.
Have you been following the presidential primary campaigns this year? I have.
If you’re like me, you might wonder where the candidates stand on bicycling, and what sort of policies each might promote, that would encourage or discourage going by bike.
Unfortunately, after combing the internet, I found only a handful of connections between presidential candidates and bikes.
Most promising is a tidbit on the Los Angeles blog Street Heat from Barack Obama’s campaign where he actually mentions bicycling — the only candidate at this point to do so:
“As president…Obama will build upon his efforts in the Senate to ensure that more Metropolitan Planning Organizations create policies to incentivize greater bicycle and pedestrian usage of roads and sidewalks, and he will also re-commit federal resources to public mass transportation projects across the country. Building more livable and sustainable communities will not only reduce the amount of time individuals spent commuting, but will also have significant benefits to air quality, public health and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”
An Illinois constituent reports receiving a letter from Obama, where he says the Bike Commuter Benefits Act is “sound policy” and that “the benefits of commuting by bicycle is almost an endless list.” (Sounds good, but he doesn’t show up on the official list of that bill’s cosponsors.) [***Edit: as this blogger has since pointed out, I was looking at the House version of the bill, not the senate version, of which Obama was a cosponsor. That’s what I get for doing hasty research. Apologies to you readers, and extra props to Obama.]
Dennis Kucinich is the one candidate on the official list of cosponsors of the Bicycle Commuter Benefits Act. But a search of the Kucinich campaign site did not turn up a single instance of the word bicycle.
All the democratic candidates have mentioned the importance of rail transit and Smart Growth policies (read a review here), but none have come out with anything meaty on urban and suburban livability issues. This may change when the primary contest reaches more states with major urban areas.
For what it’s worth, at least we have some bike-riding candidates: John Edwards took a ride with Lance Armstrong (as did Mitt Romney’s sons); Mike Huckabee, a fitness enthusiast, reportedly rides his bike to the grocery store.
Obviously, we do not have a bicycle candidate. Yet. But bicycling’s mixed reputation on Capitol Hill seems to be changing: Portland’s own Congressman Earl Blumenauer recently predicted that the next three years could be huge for bicycling, nationwide.
And bicycling doesn’t have to be a divisive partisan issue. Look at the congressional Bike Caucus, which spans the aisle. Or at the deeply Republican roots of Oregon’s Bicycle Bill and Urban Growth Boundary.
If we continue to let our candidates and representatives know what issues are important to us and why, bicycling could become a true unifier and provide a reality check for the way we and our leaders talk and think about our country, and important issues like climate, environment, economy, energy, agriculture, health, and social equity.