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At bike industry meeting, Obama pledges funding for cycling

Posted by on June 13th, 2008 at 9:49 am

Obama spoke cards-1.jpg
The bike industry believes in Obama.
(Photo © J. Maus)

Bicycle Retailer & Industry News magazine (known as BRAIN) reports this morning that in a meeting yesterday with bicycle industry representatives, Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama said if eleceted he would, “increase funding for cycling and pedestrian projects.”

Obama held a private, 20-minute meeting with members of the Bikes Belong board of directors. According to BRAIN,

He also told them he seldom makes promises on what he would do if elected president, but that this was a promise he would keep.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon) was present at the meeting after Obama left and referred to the bike industry as “a force” and said it was “historic” for leaders from the bike industry to meet privately with a presidential candidate at this stage in a White House run.

160 people reportedly turned up for the event. Among them were Bikes Belong executive director Tim Blumenthal, cycling legend Greg LeMond, the president of SRAM Stan Day, and others from both the supply and retail side of the industry.

Obama’s promise to fund cycling isn’t technically groundbreaking. In the last Transportation Bill (passed in 2005), the Safe Routes to Schools program received over $600 million dollars and it’s safe to say that number will jump way up when the next bill is passed in 2009.

What is truly historic about this news is the context of the meeting itself. Senator Obama made national headlines last week for riding around the streets of Chicago with this daughter in tow, and now he has made time to listen and get to know the leaders of the bike industry.

Anyone that thinks Obama is simply playing politics and trying to win votes should keep in mind that the “bicycle lobby” has nowhere near the deep pockets of the other interest groups trying to bend Obama’s ear on transportation policy.

Check out the full story on BicycleRetailer.com.

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  • Spencer June 13, 2008 at 10:08 am

    The Truth is out!

    Check out the link and …

    Obama is White Sox fan. I thought the Cubs were the team for the working man.

    All in all it is good to see him on a bike. One question, is that really his bike? Seems a little small or maybe he received a poor fit at the bike shop.

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  • N.I.K. June 13, 2008 at 10:33 am

    Obama is White Sox fan. I thought the Cubs were the team for the working man.

    Nope, quite the opposite. Over here in Chicago, White Sox fans dismiss Cubs fans as well-heeled yuppie morons, while Cubs fans tend to dismiss Sox fans as blue collar slobs. The Cubs are also more popular nationally, while the Sox are underdogs even on a local level. Remember that sweep they made of the series a few years back? No? There you are. :)

    All in all it is good to see him on a bike. One question, is that really his bike? Seems a little small or maybe he received a poor fit at the bike shop.

    I was more concerned that he was riding on the sidewalk right before Bike-to-Work week and all. I\’m even more concerned that, despite talking up bike-friendliness on the campaign trail, he\’s said nothing about all the crazy furor surrounding the tragic dooring-induced death of Clinton Miceli and the safety issues it brings to mind. (Word to the wise: if you hate anti-cycling rhetoric, give the comments surrounding it on mainstream news sites a miss. There\’s a lot of cold-hearted evilness afoot there).

    I\’m all about Obama, and I think it\’s great he\’s reaching out to the industry, because the industry makes a lot of this possible. I\’d really like to see him talk safety and essential infrastructure, though, particularly when stuff\’s going down right in his home base…

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  • Liu June 13, 2008 at 10:42 am

    Regarding the first two comments, remember that Obama lives on the city\’s South Side, so it\’s perfectly fitting that he\’d be a Sox fan. If he represented a North Side district in his former days then he\’d probably be a Cubs fan.

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  • P Finn June 13, 2008 at 10:50 am

    Seriously small bike for our boy…

    Right-wing media\’s gonna eat this one alive…

    Word to the wise, BamBam…don\’t get Trek and Lemond in the same room at the same time.

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  • Russ June 13, 2008 at 10:51 am

    I have to agree with Spencer. The Cubs are a modern metaphor for us work-a-day types. Don\’t get me started on the evil that is the Bears.

    If McCain comes out fully for the Cubs and Packers, I\’m afraid he\’s got my vote.

    Those bike pics are downright funny. I hear all this talk about how his campaign is full of pros, and then they don\’t hit up Cannondale for a Road Warrior loaner for this family time photo shoot (which is what it was). Instead he ends up on a low end Trek made in China that\’s slightly ill fitting with some sort of party ballon attached to the back acting as a sunny day fender or antenna to communicate with the aliens.

    I\’m sure any one of the companies that spent good money for the honor of Obama\’s company could have sent him and set up any kind of middle class Sunday waterfront riders dream bike and had it set up for him.

    I\’m also sure he never tells groups of large donors in private meetings about how he \”rarely makes promises, but in this case…\”

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  • Jeremy June 13, 2008 at 11:12 am

    I am glad that he was on a \”low-end\” bike. It just shows that anyone can ride and you don\’t need a $1000 bike to get out and ride.

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  • Russell June 13, 2008 at 11:12 am

    \”sort of party ballon attached to the back acting as a sunny day fender or antenna to communicate with the aliens.\” – Russ

    I think that you are referring to the attachment for the trailer that had his daughter in it.

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  • E June 13, 2008 at 11:13 am

    Russ, isn\’t the \”party balloon\” actually a trail-a-bike attachment? 2 parents plus 2 kids suggests at least one trail-a-bike. I don\’t know how old the kids are.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) June 13, 2008 at 11:18 am

    All the uproar and news articles about Obama\’s bike, his helmet, the trailer, his jeans to me is so tragically American.

    who really cares what he was wearing! he hopped on a bike for the first time in probably a long time and went for a ride with his family.

    he has a basic Trek hybrid that wasn\’t professionally fitted. big whoop!

    i am amazed at how much media fodder those photos turned in to. sad.

    to me, the big story is the reaction to the photos, not the photos themselves.

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  • Russ June 13, 2008 at 11:29 am

    Ahh, I didn\’t expand the pics. It doesn\’t look like a hitch on my laptop at all. Thank you for putting me on the humble path to admitting my idiocity.

    It still looks odd without the trailer context, even expanded on the desktop.

    Weird they cut out the offspring, especially considering that if the theme of 2000 was \”I only screw my wife\”, the theme for 2008 is shaping to to be \”not only do I screw my wife, but I spend time with my kids\”.

    I still say a good fitting higher end flat bar bike would have been better for the shoot. At first glance he looks like a dork.

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  • Spencer June 13, 2008 at 11:40 am

    \”All the uproar and news articles about Obama\’s bike, his helmet, the trailer, his jeans to me is so tragically American.\”

    Johnathan, are you saying that it is tragic to be an American?

    During the last local election, every candidate was put under the be-spoked bike microscope for their position on issues, how much they actually ride, and their level of commitment to the cause. For example Sho definately got the short end due to his lack of bike cred. Why should it be any different for Obama? He has said painfully little about bike issues, so any little tidbit of information is going to be over-analyized. Maybe if he came out with a meaty plan on funding bike education or more bike lane, mass transit, etc., the peanut gallery would have more to comment on than how well fitting his bike is and the team of his choice.

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  • Brad June 13, 2008 at 11:54 am

    If he had the right mix of custom fitted frame and lycra then he would be labeled \”elitist\”. (Remember the reaction to John Kerry on his custom Serotta in 2004?)

    I\’ll attempt to translate Jonathan\’s comment: \”It\’s tragic that Americans and American bike devotees can be so friggin\’ shallow.\”

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  • N.I.K. June 13, 2008 at 11:54 am

    For example Sho definately got the short end due to his lack of bike cred. Why should it be any different for Obama?

    True, but to date, Obama has accrued more bike cred than McCain over there. I think the point of the photo op was more about portraying him as a youthful family man to help further the image of McCain as a cranky, inactive old-timer through implication rather than direct statement – meanwhile, Jowls Verne\’s closest association with any sort of physical activity is the golf gear section on his campaign site. Let\’s face it, if it had been geared towards bike commuting, it would\’ve been a functional ride on city streets rather than him taking his daughter for a tag-along ride on out to the Lakefront Path and back.

    Hitting up the cycling industry, though? That\’s a move for both funding and a push to grab hold of a more-relevant-by-the-day niche community. It\’s politics, sure, but by comparison, McCain\’s not done *squat*. Zero acknowledgment whatsoever. After all, his proposed solution to out-of-control gas prices is that \”gas tax holiday\” concept. Gee, what\’s the cycling community gonna go for: clear-cut support for a viable long-term solution, even if it is in the form of pandering, or sticking a band-aid on a gangrenous limb?

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  • Russ June 13, 2008 at 12:04 pm

    John Kerry failed because he personally made a picture of a very nice bike cringe inducing. With Obama, you democrats have slightly upgraded in your bicycle propaganda photos, but you still haven\’t reached the artistic heights of George Bush on his Trek mountain bike with the American flag waving in the background.

    It\’s not the cost of the bike, but if you look like a dork on it. Lucky for George, there\’s no viral internet video of him constantly falling off his… In other words, his team are excellent \”moment managers\”, something the democrats stink at.

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  • N.I.K. June 13, 2008 at 12:09 pm

    In other words, his team are excellent \”moment managers\”

    Surely you mean \”were\”. They did a bang-up job last time the fellow had to campaign, but there\’s no denying his public image since is less than the real-live white-hotness? :D

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) June 13, 2008 at 12:13 pm

    re: my \”tragically American\” comment.

    Spencer, perhaps I should have typed \”typically American.\”

    i was just trying to say that I feel it\’s too bad how much people feel the need to focus on the fashion and how much air was in his rear tire. to me, the whole thing is just symbolic of the American media machine and the people that feed off it.

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  • Bill June 13, 2008 at 2:39 pm

    So, is it illegal to show pictures of his kids and the bike trailer? Very odd…

    –Bill

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  • steve June 13, 2008 at 4:42 pm

    I would be amazed if any Trek dealer sold that bike to him. It is absurdly small. It also appears to be a recently made 7100, not an old bike he has had laying around.

    How can someone so cool allow his handlers to make him look so dorky?

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) June 13, 2008 at 4:44 pm

    did it ever occur to anyone that maybe Obama actually didn\’t have any \”handlers\” around when he did this?

    my sense of him is that he\’s smart enough to not always be in need of hand-holding by political consultants.

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  • rixtir June 13, 2008 at 5:06 pm

    Instead of complaining, we should just send him a fixie with love from Bikeportland readers. Maybe some Chrome gear, too.

    But for the love of all that is holy, please let\’s put a brake on that fixie. We wouldn\’t want to be responsible for altering the course of history…

    Where\’s peejay when the next President needs him?

    :)

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  • Aaron June 13, 2008 at 8:49 pm

    Hey folks please don\’t be giving a hard time to Jonathan. His comments are that it\’s unnecessary to debate about what bike Obama rides, did he wear lycra, did he have a flag pin on his jersey etc etc
    The point is that he has expressed, more than any other candidate, a respect for cycling as a means of transportation. Whether he\’s just saying something to be elected (like a certain mayor) or whether he\’s sincere (like a certain mayor-elect) will be demonstrated soon.
    (And can we keep the \’Sox\’ discussions to a sports blog? Thanks)
    And hope to see other less famous people biking around Chicago. It\’s great :-)

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  • steve June 14, 2008 at 12:22 am

    The real point, is that Obama is a corporate controlled shrill. Just like Hillary, just like mcsame. We have had 8 years of bad cop, now we will get 8 years of good cop.

    Whoopdedoo.

    Ya\’ll would not know a real progressive from Reagan.

    Least you have Sam Adams and Scott Bricker.. LOL!!!

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  • Russ June 14, 2008 at 1:11 am

    Jonathan,

    Obama has a guy who works for him 12-16 hours a day, 6-7 days a week. For his job, he carries Nicorette, Obamas favorite pens and drinks, tons of other nic nacs, and is responsible for any piece of paper Obama hands him, as well as being his basketball partner… – and this hand holder is just one of the front line grunts employed by the campaign, he\’s not even one of the thinkers. All presidential candidates running multi hundred million dollar campaigns are handled 24/7.

    Every moment of a national campaign is managed. If a moment goes by that is not, then it\’s only due to incompetence on the part of his image team and other handlers. Most everything you hear Obama say has been focus group tested and fine tuned to appeal to a certain demographic.

    The Obama campaign succeeded in relaying to the press that Obama would be spending quality time with his wife and children bicycling that weekend, making a certain demographic they were targeting (aka guys like Jonathan Maus) feel that the candidate was \”someone like them\”. The Obama team failed in presenting the candidate in a way that reflected strength and purpose (like the staged photos of Bush and his Trek), thereby making the targeted demographic feel that Obama was also \”someone they\’d like to be\”.

    When you pull a press event like this, you have to be able and willing to go all the way. That involves a proper bike fit with a bicycle that evokes attributes you want the politician to be seen as having. You have to make a decision about helmet or no helmet, and if so, what one? It means a professional photographer taking pictures that are then distributed to the press.

    The Obama campaign failed, but it wasn\’t a monumental failure like John Kerry. In some regards it was successful. You liked it. They just need to do a better job at relaying what traits they want to relay to low information voters when promoting these type of \’relaxed\’ family activities.

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  • Zach June 16, 2008 at 8:21 am

    I think I made the first comment on here about Obama\’s getup, but this is getting ridiculous. So Sen. Obama is not the most fashionable man on a bike. BFD. Have you people seen what most voters wear – what most people wear – when they go about their daily business, or even \’dress up\’?

    This ain\’t Italy, folks…

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