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Guest post from Rep. Earl Blumenauer: A Job Well Done

Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on April 19th, 2010 at 11:18 am

The article below is a guest post by U.S. Congressman Earl Blumenauer.

National Bike Summit-Lobby Day-8
Blumenauer (right) and US DOT Sec. LaHood
at the National Bike Summit.
(Photo © J. Maus)

When I first came to Congress in 1996, the concept of cyclists as a powerful advocacy group was, at best, near fetched. Now, almost fifteen years later, I am constantly impressed and inspired by the bicycle community’s passion, commitment, organization and advocacy efforts.

At the League of American Bicyclist Summit in March, Secretary LaHood made the exciting announcement that motorized transportation will no longer take priority at the expense of non-motorized transportation. On the heels of this, the cycling community galvanized behind him. As the Secretary himself has said, this policy change doesn’t drastically change funding levels or mean that the Department of Transportation no longer builds roads; it simply recognizes biking and walking as valid modes of transportation.

I commend the Secretary for this policy clarification and the cycling community for its support and advocacy.

"The bike community’s response was powerful, on-point and timely—so effective, in fact, that Mr. LaTourette quickly clarified his comments and reiterated his support of bicycles as a transportation tool."

Unfortunately, there are other members of the transportation world who are not as thrilled about this policy as we are. In particular, during a late March hearing, some of my Republican colleagues took a page from the Tea Party and directed inflammatory comments at the Secretary about the DOT’s clarified policy. While these comments show how much work still needs to be done when it comes to educating people about cycling and walking as transportation modes, the cycling community reacted quickly, intelligently, and effectively.

One of the best examples of the impact the cycling community had was with my colleague Mr. LaTourette. I have worked with him in the past on many issues, and I value his interest in and support of infrastructure. I have especially appreciated his leadership as an original co-sponsor of CLEAN TEA (the Clean Low-Emission, Affordable New Transportation Efficiency Act) to help communities reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector. That was why I was taken aback by the March Transportation and Infrastructure hearing. His comments as reported were, to say the least, troubling as he aggressively questioned a DOT official regarding the Administration’s nonmotorized policy.

The bike community’s response was powerful, on-point and timely—so effective, in fact, that Mr. LaTourette quickly clarified his comments and reiterated his support of bicycles as a transportation tool.

I welcome his clarification and look forward to working with him in the future on cycling initiatives.

This is yet another example of the bike advocates being forceful in protecting what we have fought so hard to achieve. I want to congratulate the cycling community on a job well done and more importantly, remind each and every one of us that with this kind of passion and commitment, we can work together to ensure that this upcoming Transportation Authorization will be the best bicycling bill ever. Keep up the great work.

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Comments
  • John Lascurettes April 19, 2010 at 11:20 am

    Earl, you're my hero.

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  • chad April 19, 2010 at 12:02 pm

    Earl = awesome!

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  • tim h April 19, 2010 at 12:15 pm

    What's with all this talk about people being disenchanted with government. They must not be from your district. Thanks for representing Earl!

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  • Andrew Plambeck April 19, 2010 at 12:31 pm

    We're lucky to have you!

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  • Nick V April 19, 2010 at 12:35 pm

    Congressman Blumenauer,

    Everything I hear and read about Congress in the news infuriates me and makes me wish that we could wipe the Legislative Branch clean and start over again with people who are more willing to work together as adults and listen to what someone else has to say. BUT everything that I hear and read about you and your work, from your e-newsletter and this site, impress me and restore my faith just a little bit. Please keep up the good work and don't let those other jerks get to you.

    Thank you.

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  • are April 19, 2010 at 1:19 pm

    link to latourette's "clarification"

    http://latourette.house.gov/issues.aspx?Section=36

    not sure what "online publication" he is referring to, but the new york times, for example,

    http://greeninc.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/03/26/transportation-department-embraces-bikes-and-business-groups-cry-foul/

    reported not only that latourette asked a transportation undersecretary whether they still had mandatory drug testing at DOT, but then responded when "equal treatment" was explained to him, quote:

    "i don't even understand how you get a bang for the buck out of a bicycle project, i mean, what job is going to be created by having a bike lane?"

    his press release reiterates this point.

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  • RWL1776 April 19, 2010 at 4:26 pm

    What about the 110+ miles of singletrack that mountainbikers lost access to when his Mt. Hood Wilderness bill became law? These were trails mountainbikers rode AND maintained for over TWO DECADES. This bicyclist is not pleased at all with his actions. OregonWild rammed that one right thru our spokes.

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  • matt picio April 19, 2010 at 5:34 pm

    RWL1776 (#7) - To be fair, it was Ron Wyden's bill, not Blumenauer's. Earl did support it though.

    It's a good point - the irony of the Wilderness bill is that it closed off a lot of land and a lot of access for cleaner, more environmentally-friendly uses. For example, Cycle Wild, the bike camping nonprofit I founded, used to camp in the Big Bottom area up the Clackamas. That area is now wilderness, and off-limits to bikes. Even though we ride the entire way there are back with no motorized support, and only ride in and out of the area once (causing no noticeable impact), that area is effectively lost to us - but Joe Average can drive out in a 6,000 pound truck to the trailhead and then hike around on the trails. I would say that's more a failure of Oregon Wild to anticipate and accommodate use than that of a particular lawmaker who is relying on groups like Oregon Wild to advise him.

    The real irony is that the loss in access will actually make it more difficult to police the offenders.

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  • Joe Rowe April 19, 2010 at 7:59 pm

    Earl, we all appreciate any tiny steps you and other lawmakers can make in responding directly to voters, rather than the media or right wing spin.

    I know you did a lot of good things for bikes in the past, and you are a hero to many cyclists. I don't want to downplay any of that work.

    Add up all those bike projects, then multiply by 10,000 to equal your big mistake, which you and Nancy have sold and somehow it got bought: Talk about stopping the war, but don't talk about the one tool that would work, aka impeachment.

    It's not the small good things of the past, it's the one big costly choice you made, it eclipses all, even bike issues.

    You are a lawmaker, AND also a security guard, and you did not even want to answer questions about your impeachment silence. Failing to answer questions on an illegal war killing 100,000+ humans is not just cowardly, it is unspeakable.

    http://www.costofwar.com/

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  • wsbob April 19, 2010 at 10:51 pm

    "...but Joe Average can drive out in a 6,000 pound truck to the trailhead and then hike around on the trails. I would say that's more a failure of Oregon Wild to anticipate and accommodate use than that of a particular lawmaker who is relying on groups like Oregon Wild to advise him. ..." Picio #8

    Matt, could you remind us what the newly designated wilderness lands were slated to become had they not received that designation? I think it was...ski resort, chopped down trees for ski runs...chic little mountain condos for people far wealthier than I'll ever expect to be.

    But I can share a ride up to the wilderness with a pack, rain gear, a sleeping bag and some provisions, boots, and take in this great new wilderness. I don't even need a 3 ton vehicle (1 ton will do just fine)or expensive, or cheap touring bike for that.

    What might off-road bike enthusiast have been doing, leading up to and since the legislation has passed to have Wyden and Blumenauer seek possible exceptions to the Wilderness Bill that would restore some off-road bike access to those lands? That would seem to be the smarter thing to do rather than to go on kicking them in the shin for a good deed done.

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  • Mike Fish April 20, 2010 at 4:37 am

    Thanks for all your hard work Earl! I love the bike pins you give out too - I still have one on my bag. I also feel proud that you're my representative. I live in Istanbul now, where lots of people are rightfully angry about the war in Iraq. I'm happy that I can say my representative was one of the few who voted against the war. While I'm disgusted with how it all played out, I take some solace in that fact.

    Re #9: Get real.

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  • matt picio April 25, 2010 at 1:44 am

    wsbob (#10) - "slated to become"? Nothing. (at least most of them) They could have been threatened with cutting in the future, which was a big part of the protection push. I don't have a problem with protecting them, except that now I can't camp in them because bicycles aren't permitted in the wilderness - period. Exceptions to the designation aren't possible, thanks to the interpretations of the bill by US courts during the Reagan Administration. Sure, I can get out to the Wilderness on a cheap touring bike, but then I have to leave my bike unprotected at the trailhead, without any way to keep it from being damaged or stolen. That's an issue, especially for those of us who don't have or choose not to use a car.

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