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Blumenauer in NY Times: A "bicycle evangelist"

Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on January 13th, 2009 at 11:09 am

My ride with Earl Blumenauer-1.jpg
Blumenauer in front of his
office in D.C.
(Photo © J. Maus)

The New York Times has published a profile on Portland Congressional Rep. Earl Blumenauer. The story, A Bicycle Evangelist With the Wind Now at His Back appears above-the-fold on page two of the paper's weekly "Science Times" section.

Unlike the recent anti-bike comments by Rep. John Boehner that got national attention, this story paints a more positive picture of biking as a political issue.

Here's how the Times characterizes Blumenauer's work:

But Mr. Blumenauer’s goals are larger than putting Americans on two wheels. He seeks to create what he calls a more sustainable society, including wiser use of energy, farming that improves the land rather than degrades it, an end to taxpayer subsidies for unwise development — and a transportation infrastructure that looks beyond the car.

The article also mentions the work Blumenauer and his colleague Jim Oberstar (D-MN) are doing on Obama's economic stimulus package (which, depending on who you talk to is either looking like a dream or a nightmare for bike advocates -- more on that later):

With an eye on the potential stimulus package, cycling advocates "have compiled a list of $2 billion of projects that can be under construction in 90 days," Mr. Oberstar said, adding that prospects are "bright."

Cycle Oregon Day 4-Ride-16.JPG
Rep. Jim Oberstar at
Cycle Oregon 2007.
(Photo © J. Maus)

Just what is on that list? We know $25 million of it includes a request from Portland to build out 110 miles of "shovel ready" bike boulevards. (We'll have more on that list soon).

It's good to see a major media outlet take interest in biking and Blumenauer, and this article also shows the diverse range of issues that biking touches on (from energy to obesity).

However, I cringe whenever people that work on bike issues are portrayed as being "evangelists" or activists (many people assume because I cover biking that I must be an advocate, but I consider myself a journalist first and only an accidental advocate). Biking is simply a transportation issue, but to many people in the media (and in the general public), it's some type of fringe thing that comes with a group of believers who -- like missionaries of a new religion -- are trying to convince the rest of America to see the light.

-- Read the full article at NYTimes.com.

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Comments
  • beth h January 13, 2009 at 11:24 am

    Jonathan -- I was once an "accidental" advocate, too. I sold my car in 1990 simply because I couldn't afford the costs of keeping it anymore. The environment and other intangibles had nothing to do with it.

    In the nearly twenty years since I began living a bike-centric life, I've saved a ton of money, maintained better overall health, and discovered a slower pace of living that is more in line with my needs and my spirit. Of course, once I noticed these positive changes I start edtalking about them with others. Today I can count on all my fingers and toes almost two dozen people who were inspired by my example and chose a similarly car-lite or car-free path. I'm still an advocate but it is no longer by accident at all.

    I invite you to reconsider your definition of "accidental". Your journalism does a great service in bringing these issues to a larger audience and you do yourself a disservice by downplaying it.

    Bravo, and thanks.

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  • Critter's Keeper January 13, 2009 at 12:41 pm

    I'll join that congregation!
    But I'd want to name it
    "Our Lady of Perpetual Motion"
    Or somthing clever and zippy.
    (Of course I'll probably need some help with that;)

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  • Critter's Keeper January 13, 2009 at 12:41 pm

    I'll join that congregation!
    But I'd want to name it
    "Our Lady of Perpetual Motion"
    Or somthing clever and zippy.
    (Of course I'll probably need some help with that;)

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  • Joel January 13, 2009 at 1:32 pm

    Funny how many people are ready to jump on the "evangelist" band wagon. I completely agree with you about the way that this is perceived among the greater (read non-transit cycling) public. Fringe loonies who can't part with the toys of youth. We as transit cyclists need to educate our non-cyclists friends in the ways in which biking has simplified and enriched our lives instead of trying to indoctrinate them with the religion of two wheels.

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  • just an ordinary joe January 13, 2009 at 9:55 pm

    I am very pleased Rep Blumenaeur advocates for cycling. Agreed,the 'evangelist' label is uncomfortable. At the end of the day, I am much happier to see button-down "respectable" folks covered as opposed to more colorful sorts. The tent is big enough to fit us all in. Strident activists to City Council Meeting attendees. It has been our lot as cyclists to get press only when Critical Mass or some colorful//artistic//or obnoxious folks ride through the Living Section of the daily paper. But that brings only a few to the fold, and puts many more off. Hearing leaders, from the Mayor to our Congressman discussing the reasons why cycling is good policy as well as a good transportation choice lends a mantle of respectability and offers a possibility to many who might not have considered ditching the car until they heard from those they would listen to.

    I have seen six league strides in the past decade. I expect much more of the same with the support of our leadership who realize cycling and walking and transit is good policy.

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  • k. January 14, 2009 at 9:22 am

    Jonathan,

    I know you're well aware of the issues presented by today's bloggers and how they are viewed in the context of 'news reporting' but to call yourself both a journalist and an advocate is breaking some of the basic fundamental tenants of journalism. Everyone who reads this blog should be aware of that.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) January 14, 2009 at 9:27 am

    "to call yourself both a journalist and an advocate is breaking some of the basic fundamental tenants of journalism."

    thanks k.,

    First, I take pride in not having to follow any of the "fundamentals tenants (tenets) of journalism". While I respect the old idea of journalism... we are in new times and I'm making things up as I go.

    Also, it's obvious my heart is in this issue, but I encourage you and all other readers to judge me by my actions, not by my emotions. Read the stories I write and then decide if my "advocacy" is negatively impacting the stories.

    As always, I'm grateful for feedback on how I'm doing.

    thanks.

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  • Brian Johnson January 14, 2009 at 10:33 am

    I look forward to the day when bicycling is simply "another" transportation issue.

    Unfortunately the USA is a car country. Automotives are buried so deep in this country's collective DNA.

    Just look at the Oregonian. Cars get a section of the paper all to themselves-- "Drive Time". Automakers are considered so vital to our nation that our government extends to them financial assistance. Our cities are built around automotive accessibility needs.

    To include non-motorized modes of moving around (bike, walking) in the transportation equation represents a radical, fundamental shift in our mindset. Such "radical" thinking challenges the status quo and thus requires the work of "evangelists and activists".

    That said, I do agree with Jonathan-- it gets tiresome to always be equated with some radical fringe group of society when all we do is NOT think of the car first when we need to get around.

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  • Kt January 14, 2009 at 10:59 am

    The O's Drive Time section is a section of advertisements and classifieds about cars, with the occasional story thrown in about people who love cars-- whether competitvely, recreationally, driver or mechanic.

    Oh, and there's a calendar of car-related events. Woo.

    Bikes get more press in the O than you think: the former Living section, now called "How We Live" usually has something bikey about it, as does the A&E calendars when something interesting, bike-wise, is going on that people might want to participate in.

    But besides all that, yes, USA == Cars. And it's sad that other modes of transportation are marginalized and made into "fringe activities". Lame.

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  • El Biciclero January 14, 2009 at 11:10 am

    tenants live in a rented property.

    tenets are fundamental principles or beliefs held in common by members of an organization, movement, or profession.

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  • Car Culture and Cold Weather | Carbon Trace January 15, 2009 at 10:44 am

    [...] Jonathan Maus, of BikePortland, was happy to see the positive profile, but: …I cringe whenever people that work on bike [...]

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