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A bike-friendly presidential candidate? Not yet.

Posted by on January 22nd, 2008 at 4:40 pm

Elly Blue

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:

(Photo: BarackObama.com)

“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.”

The same blogger evaluates all the candidates’ energy plans, finding Obama’s to be slightly better than Clinton’s or Edwards’, and not much to praise in the Republican camp.

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.

Me and my tikit in DC

On the outside, looking in.
(Photo © Jonathan Maus)

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.

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Comments
  • Robin January 22, 2008 at 5:05 pm

    Great work Elly, I\’ve been wondering about this.

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  • Cøyøte January 22, 2008 at 5:32 pm

    Kucinich and Edwards are toast. Billary and O\’baby don\’t have clue about transportation issues. McCain is probably the most progressive on the issue, but he has been he has a hang up about trains. Rudy, Huckabee, and Ronpaul are pretty much transportation cretins.

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  • Dabby January 22, 2008 at 7:36 pm

    Good article Elly.

    Sadly I do not see a candidate running that I would even like to have in office.

    I still haven\’t gotten over the disappointment of the last person I \”thought\” I wanted to win an election, mainly due to his stance on skateboard parks and cycling.

    I think you all know who I am talking about.

    I hope to never again be swayed, as many are now here in Portland, by those that conveniently jump on the band wagon
    of a large, under appreciated constituency.

    One last thing.

    My friend, Keith Goodenough, was a state representative in Wyoming for many terms. He wore Tye Dyes. He had long hair. He volunteered all summer for many many years at the girl scout camp I worked at. The people loved him, and wanted him in office. On Sundays, every Sunday, he walked around town collecting food and other items for the local women\’s shelter, door to door. He was a good and humble man

    If anyone asked him why he kept being elected, he would tell you that it was only because the biggest cemetery in town was in his district.

    Have a good day!

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  • Schrauf January 22, 2008 at 9:37 pm

    Great summary!

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  • Todd B January 22, 2008 at 9:40 pm

    And remember the last election…we had two presidental candidates who were active bicyclists and were public about it in the press. One of them won…did it help us (yet)?

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  • Qwendolyn January 22, 2008 at 9:48 pm

    There is that photo floating around the internets of Obama on a trike.

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  • David Feldman January 23, 2008 at 7:17 am

    Unfortunately, the only candidate who is a member of the Bike Caucus is 1.) Loony far-right and, 2.) Not running anymore–Colorado Rep. Tom Tancredo.

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  • jeff January 23, 2008 at 7:34 am

    With all due respect, having a bike-friendly president would be nice, but it\’s not high on the list of issue that decide my vote. One\’s energy would be better spent looking at the positions at a state and local level IMO.

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  • bArbaroo January 23, 2008 at 10:00 am

    I have found my enthusism for the presidential candidates wanning – especilly after the spat Hill and Obama had during their last debate – just what we need: another president that goes on the defensive with a little provocation.

    On the other hand I\’m very optimistic about the local scene. We have mayoral and city council candiates that are substantially better options than past elections.

    Dabby – I know it\’s off-topic but I was a GS camp counselor once upon a time too…have an odd repertoire of camp songs to dazzle my friends.

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  • Elly Blue January 23, 2008 at 10:19 am

    Jeff, a survey of regional and local politicians and where they stand on biking is a great idea for a story. Wanna help with the research? :)

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  • jeff January 23, 2008 at 11:29 am

    Elly, a great idea indeed! The Bike-Walk-Vote folks endorse local candidates, and I take their recomendations to heart.

    Great article, please don\’t take my earlier post as criticism. Knowing that a presidential candidate was pro-bike would be nice. But with all of the problems in this country right now, I\’d be awful selfish to allow that to influence my vote in any serious way.

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  • Aaron January 23, 2008 at 12:17 pm

    Elly;
    Thanks so much for bringing this up. It\’s important to keep this on the radar.

    \”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.\”

    Keep in mind that G. Dubya also rides his bike regularly.

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  • Matt Picio January 23, 2008 at 3:13 pm

    I\’m tempted to vote against Obama in the primary because his staff writers have started verbing nouns. (Incentivize?!?)

    Yes, I know I just did the same thing – it *was* intentional.

    Seriously, though – thanks Elly for the update: it\’s nice to have some idea of where the candidates stand (or where they fail to take one).

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  • Dabby January 23, 2008 at 3:26 pm

    Aaron,

    By the way, pedaling around with L. Armstrong once or twice does not make one a cyclist.

    And also keep in mind that G.W. is a piece of crap.

    I now sit here awaiting the secret service men…….

    Oh, here they come.

    C\’ Ya!

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  • todd January 23, 2008 at 4:42 pm

    write in earl blumenauer.

    i don\’t think anybody bold and clear-sighted enough to promote transportational bicycling in more than a token way has any chance of being elected by a nation of largely obese motorists. the cost of fuel will cripple the beast eventually; that will be a moment of opportunity.

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  • gene January 23, 2008 at 5:17 pm

    Incentivize?

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  • Russell January 24, 2008 at 10:41 am

    in·cen·ti·vize /ɪnˈsɛntɪˌvaɪz/ Pronunciation Key – Show Spelled Pronunciation[in-sen-ti-vahyz]
    –verb (used with object), ‑vized, ‑viz·ing.
    to give incentives to: The government should incentivize the private sector to create jobs.
    [Origin: 1965–70, Americanism]

    Apparently it is a word, albeit it Americanism. I wonder how many Bushisms will make it into the dictionary . . . Ew.

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  • Zach January 24, 2008 at 7:14 pm

    Here\’s what the NYT had to say about Huckabee in tonight\’s Republican debate:

    \”9:14 p.m. | Changing Lanes On stimulating the economy, Mike Huckabee takes an entirely different road, uh, not to pun, but oh why not. He complains that the $150 billion stimulus package may benefit China more than the United States economy and then asks:
    Why not add two lanes of highway on I-95 all the way from Bangor (Maine) straight down to Miami, he asks. “This nation’s infrastructure is falling apart,” Mr. Huckabee says, echoing a concern that governors and mayors around the nation have expressed.
    Building highways, he said, would be an investment in American labor, American steel, and American concrete and would do more to stimulate the economy. And then there’s the Huckabee way of speaking to the popular vote: “A lot of people sit around in Florida in traffic every day … never getting to their kids’” soccer games.\”

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  • Elly Blue January 30, 2008 at 12:40 pm

    Through a long chain of events, the Orlando Sentinel picked up our \”discovery\” of Obama\’s support for bicycle transportation.

    And here\’s one of the comments:

    \”From Chicagoland Bicycle Federation, Sept. 2006:

    \”Illinois senator Barack Obama recently introduced a bill to promote active lifestyles and health.\”

    \”The Healthy Places Act addresses the built environment’s health effects on children, such as diabetes, obesity and asthma. The legislation is supported by 81 organizations, including the League of American Bicyclists.\”

    By comparison, during the last presidential campaign, the Bush team disparaged John Kerry in TV ads by alluding to his support for bicycle transportation.\”

    Here\’s the ad:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6lIzW4pzjBY

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