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Thoughts on the transpo bill: Is Mica afraid of Republican party leadership?

Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on February 2nd, 2012 at 11:41 am

National Bike Summit - Day two-56
Rep. John Mica at a bike industry
fundraising event in March 2009.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Since the House transportation bill has gone all crazy, I've been banging my head against my desk to figure out why Republican members of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee are so afraid of including any mention of bicycling, transit (except to strip away dedicated funding for it), walking — or anything that doesn't harken back to the 1950s Interstate Highway era — in the bill.

Then it occurred to me (with some help from sources on Capitol Hill, who say there's a threatening letter going around from House Majority Leader Eric Cantor that there better not be any mention of bicycling in the bill), perhaps they're afraid of Republican party leadership? (Feel free to point out my political naivete if this is an obvious thing.)

"I did a [bike] path over an interstate years ago... but we didn't send out a press release on it."
— Congressman John Mica, Chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee

This led me to T & I Committee Chair John Mica (R-FL). As we've noted, Mica has clearly been a supporter of Safe Routes and other bicycling and walking-oriented projects in the past. However, now he has crafted a bill that many advocates say will eliminate funding for bicycling completely and roll back their progress several decades.

What gives?

Then I remembered when Rep. Mica attended a fundraiser hosted by Bikes Belong during the 2009 National Bike Summit (at the time, Mica was minority leader of the T & I committee). Here's what I wrote about Mica's brief remarks at that event to a room full of bike advocates:

"He shared candidly that, while he and Rep. Earl Blumenauer "have our disagreements from time to time," he is supportive of biking. Mica boasted that Florida leads the nation in rail-trails and then said in a self-deprecating tone, "That's pretty good for a right-wing, knuckle-dragging conservative." On that note, Mica said that as a Republican he has to support biking "quietly". "I did a path over an interstate years ago," he said, and then began to smile, "but we didn't send out a press release on it.""

So now we have the House member with power over federal transportation legislation doing his best to not simply be "quiet" about his support for bicycling; but to eradicate it from national law altogether.

The debate over this bill is far from over — and without the Petri amendment it's even less likely it will ever pass in its current form — but I think it's important to keep stuff like this in mind. What do you think?

— For more coverage, visit our new Federal Transportation Bill page.

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Comments
  • Rick Bernardi February 2, 2012 at 11:50 am

    But Eric Cantor was just photographed riding a bike. Surely he wouldn't stoop to a misleading photo op...

    Recommended Thumb up 3

  • Gerik February 2, 2012 at 11:52 am

    You might have hit the nail on the head Jonathan. Chairmanship can be stripped by party leaders. Elections are won and lost by party support. Caucus politics dictate much of what happens in the people's house. Infuriating.

    Recommended Thumb up 2

  • NW Biker February 2, 2012 at 11:59 am

    I hate politics.

    Recommended Thumb up 2

    • Rick Bernardi February 2, 2012 at 12:02 pm

      They want us to hate politics. That way, we won't be paying attention to what they are doing.

      Recommended Thumb up 19

      • NW Biker February 2, 2012 at 12:55 pm

        Unfortunately for me, I read enough news that I know what they're doing.

        Which is why I hate politics.

        Recommended Thumb up 5

    • John Lascurettes February 2, 2012 at 1:21 pm

      Don't hate politics. Hate the two-party system with a stranglehold on politics.

      Recommended Thumb up 6

      • NW Biker February 2, 2012 at 5:02 pm

        And lobbyists with wads of cash, too. That's who really gets what they want in the current so-called system.

        Guess I'm feeling particularly cynical today.

        Recommended Thumb up 6

  • poncho February 2, 2012 at 12:04 pm

    Clearly its because GOP represents Southern rural areas. 'Small Town America' no longer means "Main Street" a concentrated place walkable and bikeable and community oriented. This no longer exists. 'Small Town America' now means ***portion of comment deleted because it's too insulting and disrespectful -- JM ***. There are no living wage jobs in this environment. In this new Small Town America environment its all about the 45 mph 5-lane highway strip lined with every fast food restaurant and WalMart (both of which are the only job opportunities). Honestly, I can see exactly why there is no interest in bike, ped or transit from the GOP, in the areas they represent you cant walk or bike, they are way too low density, dispersed and auto-oriented.

    Recommended Thumb up 3

    • poncho February 2, 2012 at 8:38 pm

      Thank you Jonathan for not deleting my whole comment and just removing parts.

      I dont mean to be disrespectful but truthfully Small Town America really has become a sad state very different from how it is portrayed especially by GOP politicans. That small town America does not exist anymore.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Rol February 2, 2012 at 1:19 pm

    How can something so cheap and sensible be seen as unconservative? More evidence that Republicans aren't actually real conservatives anymore.

    Recommended Thumb up 7

    • Rol February 2, 2012 at 1:27 pm

      Democrats aren't real liberals either. Ideology is gone from politics! (So are ideas, for that matter.)

      Recommended Thumb up 4

  • Mark Allyn February 2, 2012 at 2:20 pm

    Folks:

    I need to remind myself that we should almost consider ourselves (and I hate using this term, and Jonathan, you can remove this if it is indeed offensive) living (and biking) an a bubble here in Portland.

    Having traveled to parts of this country, I can agree with Poncho's comment above that much of this country does live in the 5 lane 'big box / fast food / cinemagigaplex' environment. Biking is just about as far out of their minds as dressing the way I do (in lighted clothing).

    Couple this with the rumor that the average american spends close to 5 hours per day passively watching tv and accepting what it says as the gospel truth.

    Even here, I sometimes get the 'three headed circus man' stare when I tell people that I have 86'ed the tv and the car. It's almost as if I am not american.

    Recommended Thumb up 8

    • S February 2, 2012 at 4:56 pm

      I hear you on the "almost not American" notion...have also been accused of not qualifying for true adulthood either, due to my bike commuting...and for not falling into the two-cars-big-mortgage-huge debt trap.

      Recommended Thumb up 1

  • spare_wheel February 2, 2012 at 3:24 pm

    Get used to this. IMO, we are in the early stages of cycling as a wedge issue.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

    • JRB February 7, 2012 at 4:54 pm

      Spare wheel has hit the nail on the head. Big corporations and lobbyists are not why Republicans get power. It is their masterful use of wedge issues to divert vast sections of the electorate away from real issues and instead get them to focus on cultural issues. So long as "real Americans" as Sarah Palin refers to them, can get whipped into a frenzy about homo-lovin', bike-ridin', birkenstock-wearin', latte-sippin', craft brew-drinkin', coastal-livin', organic vegetable-eatin', IFC-watchin' liberals, who hate American and American values, the chance we can get the majority of the country focused on issues like universal health care, reducing global warming emissions etc are slim.

      To support bicycling would undercut the "us versus them" mentality they have spent so much time and effort to build and which forms the basis for their power. I'm not giving the Democrats a pass, they suck too, but at least they show some interest in trying to govern the country, while all the Republicans want is power and they are happy to fiddle while Rome burns if that means the get it and hold on to it.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

  • VS February 2, 2012 at 5:58 pm

    Today at work a guy was telling a story of having things thrown at him while riding to work in Houston. I guess I just don't understand why riding a bike makes someone mad.

    So who is doing legislative advocacy at the national level? I'm curious if other readers have groups they donate to? Of course BTA for here in Oregon, but what about nationally?

    Recommended Thumb up 0

    • ScoBu February 2, 2012 at 6:42 pm

      It was the same for me in Raleigh NC and I was riding on the sidewalk! No way would I have ever thought to take a lane. Would have been sure death with everyone saying I deserved it. I love Portland because we are able to have the necessary arguments about the nature of cycling in traffic. A lot of places aren't even close to that.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

  • mark kenseth February 2, 2012 at 6:02 pm

    Wait, it costs little to build a bike bridge and you don't want to brag about it, but if it's building more roads/lanes and cost a lot of money, you brag about it? What is wrong here? Republicans always talk about less taxes. I'm totally confused.

    Recommended Thumb up 2

  • Jonathan Reed February 2, 2012 at 6:36 pm

    "knuckle dragging" is an insult to primates.
    "Backward-ass" seems more fitting.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Opus the Poet February 2, 2012 at 6:46 pm

    I was hit again today while I was out running errands on my bike, because I was "in the middle of the road" on a street that had about 3 feet of usable paving thanks to the TX drought and our unstable soils tearing the road apart. Even if the entire lane was perfectly paved it would still have been too narrow to share (under the law in TX) as it was only 12 feet from lane stripe to shoulder. The annoying thing is he idiot was trying to pass on the right as I was positioning my bike over the sensor for the traffic light, that gives me 1/4"+/- to get the light to change and drove into me less than a car length from the stop bar, well after the lane marking went to solid stripes (no passing in TX).

    So, I was doing everything by the book, but in front of him and not doing the speed limit, so he thought it was OK to bump into me from the right with his truck, with another vehicle to my left, and both of them moving. this placed my life in danger because I was slower than he wanted to go and I was in front of him.

    You know what? I hope they get everything they deserve from that transportation bill. And yes, I'm still angry.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Mark Allyn February 3, 2012 at 6:43 am

    Folks:

    Because of Opus's comment, along with other stuff that I have read here, I have finally got off of my butt and made the plunge.

    I just ordered on line two sport cameras (Contour HD 1080's).

    I plan to have one strapped to my rear carrier facing backward and the other I plan to have either on my helmet or on my front carrier facing forward.

    I plan to get a pile of 32 GB micro sd's to have on hand.

    My goal is to turn these things on before I leave and then pop the SD's out when I arrive. I re-sue the SD's if nothing happened; if something does happen, I hopefully have a video that can be taken to the authorities or Youtube'd.

    Recommended Thumb up 4

  • k. February 3, 2012 at 9:43 am

    Welcome to third world America. Brought to you by the Republican Party.

    Recommended Thumb up 1

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