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Biking continues to have bipartisan appeal, baffling D.C. media

Posted by Michael Andersen (News Editor) on November 21st, 2013 at 5:09 pm

Blumenauer opens Interbike-1
Republicans disagree with Rep. Earl Blumenauer on
plenty, but can find common ground with him on bikes.
(Photo by J.Maus/BikePortland)

Last week we wrote that "biking and walking safety should be a bipartisan issue." Today we got a reminder that it still is — and just how rare such issues are recently.

On the same day the Senate recut its rules to fit the current slash-and-burn politics of Washington, Politico published a profile of U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Portland), puzzling over how one of the House's most liberal members got two Republicans to cosponsor his bill to ensure that bike safety is officially one of the ways to measure a federal road project's success.

The bespectacled Democrat, known for wearing colorful bike pins and bringing fruitcake to reporters over the holiday season, joked that he’s a big fan of "bike-partisanship."

"Life’s too short, and I think infrastructure is a natural bipartisan platform," he said.

Blumenauer is one of the more active members during House votes, one of his aides said. Even though votes are pretty much the only time all House members gather in the same room, many lawmakers spend the time checking their phones or chatting casually with colleagues. But not Blumenauer — he talks up issues and legislation with fellow members.

[U.S. Rep. Howard] Coble [R-NC], who announced recently amid health problems that he won’t run for reelection next year, admitted he’s only "vaguely familiar" with Blumenauer’s bill.

So why is he a co-sponsor?

His reason points to just how much personal relationships matter on the Hill and the lasting power of transportation’s bipartisan tradition: "I’m really not that familiar with the bill. I just signed on because Earl asked me to, told me he was promoting it," Coble said.

The North Carolina lawmaker, at 82 years old, said he "wouldn’t think about riding a bike to work in a rural area like my district, much less up here" in Washington.

It's great that Bluemenauer has used 16 years in Washington to build strong and useful relationships. But from 2,500 miles outside the Beltway, we wonder if it's actually as strange or remarkable as Politico seems to think that an 82-year-old who doesn't ride a bike himself might trust an expert like Blumenauer on the details of bike policy, or that he might want to ensure that federal road projects consider people on bikes and foot.

In most of the rest of the country, we suspect that designing safer roads just sounds like good American horse sense.

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Comments
  • Anne Hawley November 21, 2013 at 6:03 pm

    It baffles me, too. I mean, it's a fact that Earl has gotten some kind of bipartisan support, but I'm so completely brainwashed by the past ten years in American politics that even in the face of evidence, I don't really believe it.

    Recommended Thumb up 1

    • mran1984 November 21, 2013 at 6:45 pm

      Only ten?

      Recommended Thumb up 1

      • Anne Hawley November 21, 2013 at 7:09 pm

        Okay, 20.

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  • Brian November 22, 2013 at 5:42 am

    Cycling is in-line with the ideologies with liberals and conservatives. Policies that support it should be a no-brainer.

    Recommended Thumb up 2

    • Mike Quigley November 22, 2013 at 6:25 am

      Liberals and conservatives yes, but not the Tea Party. Old, white people with a grudge hate bicycles. Just ask 'em.

      Recommended Thumb up 7

      • Granpa November 22, 2013 at 8:07 am

        Make overarching generalizations Much?

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      • Eric November 22, 2013 at 8:59 am

        I don't know if it's a product of their age and color, but I think it does make sense to their world view. If you believe there are two groups, one that makes money and the other takes money/resources. Even if it is wrong, they would believe bikes fall into the take money category. The "why is the government taking MY money and spending it on freeloaders", mentality.

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        • Brian November 22, 2013 at 9:20 am

          For some I am sure that is the case, but have they been presented logical reasons for increased cycling? I have a friend who is a pretty hardcore conservative. When we talked about the financial benefits of cycling (health care, transportation, etc), he was on-board.
          BTW-he's in his late thirties.

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          • KillMoto November 23, 2013 at 4:06 pm

            Or, the fact that those freeloading drivers are subsidized heavily by non-drivers, like cyclists?

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      • q`Tzal November 22, 2013 at 9:05 am

        It's not bicycles, they hate government almost but not quite as much as the Anarchist Party.

        Recommended Thumb up 0

      • wsbob November 22, 2013 at 11:03 am

        Lots of people are concerned about the potential for collisions with other road users, especially those that are vulnerable road users, and of course, they worry about their responsibility as drivers, to avoid close calls and collisions with the same.

        How old is 'old', is relative, I suppose to the age of those referring to others as 'old'. Lots of very good drivers on the road in their 50's, 60's, 70's, and even 80's, yet when close calls or collisions occur between people riding and people driving, many people seem to want to reflexively connect cause of such incidents to 'old age', rather than looking further into other more likely causes for incidents. Kind of a 'guilty' before innocence is even considered, situation. That this tendency exists is one reason, I suppose that some people are less than enthusiastic about encouraging greater use of bikes for travel, and having money spent on building infrastructure for use of bikes.

        Back to the main subject though, which is Blumenauer as a legislator, effectively rallying sometimes disparate fellow members of congress to support a bill created to advance the quality of bike infrastructure in the U.S.: this is good work going on, which he apparently is better than average at doing. The Politico story had some other good info about the bills chances of eventually being passed. Also in the article, but not noted in this bikeportland story, is that a version of this bill has already been presented to the senate, and is sponsored by a R from New Hampshire. For what it's worth, and to what extent it's accurate, I'm not sure, but a quick internet search came up with info describing New Hampshire as right-Libertarian.

        Sounds as though this bill has a good chance of at least getting some serious consideration by both House and Senate, possibly even passed at some point. At present though, it seems a summary of the bill has yet to be put together.

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      • Christopher Sanderson November 23, 2013 at 9:48 am

        Yeah, I'd be careful with generalizations. My conservative aunt and my step-dad are very much on board with multi-use paths and similar infrastructures. They are older, but enjoy quiet walks on paths away from traffic, and will support local, state, or federal funding to build them.

        This might be a little off subject, but I as for road behavior, I have found some older, conservative types very friendly on the roads, stopping on roads like SE Foster to let me cross the street. Likewise, I have also encountered some young, hip, Obama bumper sticker, Prius-driving, earth fart, liberals, who have displayed vicious driving habits while picking up their kids from school or blowing off stop signs crossing SE 41st.

        Recommended Thumb up 2

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