Oregonian: Cyclists are an “important micro-constituency”

National Bike Summit

Oregonian political reporter
Jeff Mapes
(File photo © Jonathan Maus)

The Oregonian recently rolled out a new political blog written by Jeff Mapes. You might have met Mapes at any number of bike events and meetings in the past year or so: he recently concluded a sabbatical to research a book on how bicycles are shaping the urban bicycle movement in America (that’s my description, not his).

Now he’s back at the desk for the Oregonian and working hard on his Mapes on politics blog.

This morning he got to blend his two areas of expertise on an an article titled “Sam Adams and his bicycling base”.

I’m kind of new to all this political stuff, so it’s interesting to read what a veteran Oregonian political reporter thinks about how bicycling figures into Portland politics.

Here are some notable excerpts from the article:

“There’s an interesting side note to Portland Commissioner Sam Adams’ non-surprising announcement that he is running for mayor: his intriguing pursuit of Portland’s bicycling lobby.

…cyclists are growing in number and they have their channels of communication. Adams learned that when he narrowly won his seat on the City Council in 2004 after promising cyclists that he would work to make Portland a “platinum city,”…

Cyclists, of course, didn’t put Adams over the top by themselves. But they are one of the important “micro constituencies” that politicians in Portland can court for volunteer and financial help…”

Read the full article here.

The way the political and social landscape is changing (and will continue to change) in Portland in the coming years, I wonder when/if they day will come when people that ride bicycles are no longer considered a constituency at all.

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Founder of BikePortland (in 2005). Father of three. North Portlander. Basketball lover. Car owner and driver. If you have questions or feedback about this site or my work, feel free to contact me at @jonathan_maus on Twitter, via email at maus.jonathan@gmail.com, or phone/text at 503-706-8804. Also, if you read and appreciate this site, please become a supporter.

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a.O
a.O
16 years ago

We are certainly growing in number and, like most people, have \”channels of communication.\” But perhaps more interesting – and more relevant politically – would be a demographic profile of cyclists in Portland. I\’m willing to bet we\’re more likely to vote and to be politically active than the average Portlander. And that\’s saying something in such a civicly-engaged place.

Jessica Roberts
Jessica Roberts
16 years ago

When I was at the BTA, we would have our membership lists enhanced by the OLCV so we could match them up with their various voting districts for better targeting. They also gave us some interesting demographic information.

We found out that BTA members are more likely to vote than the members of any other environmental organization in town. I wouldn\’t be surprised if that goes for cyclists in general.

So really, we may be a small (albeit growing) group, but we care about the issues, we pay attention, we\’re loyal, and we VOTE. Politicians should be falling over themselves to win us over!

Darren
Darren
16 years ago

\”I wonder when/if the day will come when people that ride bicycles are no longer considered a constituency at all.\”

Jonathan, I think an immediate question is will the bike constituency come together and (1) influence local elections, and (2) help shape policy/funding.

Bike riders are a diverse group with a spotty history of voting and working within the establishment. We can shout down a radio personality, cork some roads while having fun, raise money on a charity ride, and channel our inner Lance at PIR, but actually working together with a common goal…

I think the coming election will be a good indicator if there really is a core constituency. I\’m hoping there is and willing to do my part, but the nuts and bolts of poltics are not for the self-centered or impatient. A certain maturity and long-view are necessary. Do you really think bikers are ready for primetime?

Darren

Dan (teknotus)
Dan (teknotus)
16 years ago

I think bicycling makes people feel emancipated. We aren\’t constrained by bus routes, and their schedules. We can usually find a parking spot within a block of our destination. Our group size isn\’t limited by the number of seats in the car. We don\’t have to think about if it is worth the cost of gas when we walk out the door. We only think about if it is worth the effort we have to put into the ride, and that effort seems to decrease every day. Without a box surrounding, and constraining our senses we can clearly see the difference fixing even one pothole makes. If checking one box over another fixes even one bike boulevard pothole there is no question in my mind that cyclists will know that it is worth their effort to vote.

pushkin
pushkin
16 years ago

Darren –

Bikers ready for primetime? They sure were back in 1995:

http://youtube.com/watch?v=TmWmTCx9-6I

Karl Rohde
Karl Rohde
16 years ago

This is a critical issue for successfully advancing the interests of the bicycling community. As a result of my being on the Lake Oswego City Council and subsequently Lynn Peterson, who is now a Clackamas County Commissioner, the City of Lake Oswego advanced a number of bike friendly policies and projects.

One reason for the success in Portland is that over the years a number of people have been elected that have a pro-bicycling mindset. They have pushed the agenda in various agencies and bureaus.

The suburbs are often noted for their lack of adequate bicycling infrastructure. I would argue that in order to turn that around, we need to get people elected that are supportive of the bicycling community in the suburbs. We may have thousands of supporters but it often only take 3 or 4 votes on a city council to get major policy changes put into effect. We need to be strong and support those folks.

The BTA is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization and cannot actively support or oppose candidates but this doesn’t mean our supporters can’t. We need a farm team that gets elected and advances through the levels of government, ala Earl Blumenauer.

Matthew
Matthew
16 years ago

Many people bicycle because they care about something. Don\’t get me wrong, bicycling for bicycling sake is cool too, but a lot of people in this city are \”utility bicyclists.\” We go to work, we go shopping, we go visit friends, and we do it on a bicycle instead of a car for some reason. And that reason various from person to person, but we are doing it… So it isn\’t at all surprising that we do other things too, like vote, or write letters to the mayor when he cuts our funding, or whatever… For instance, I\’m on the board of my neighborhood association, and I\’m trying desperately to make it easier/safer/etc for children to get to school by walking or bicycling. It is good for the children, it is good for their parents to walk or bicycle with them, and it is safer for everyone not having 2 ton cars driving around in a parking lot right next to a bunch of elementary students…

Alan
Alan
16 years ago

Cyclists may scoff at the \”micro-constituency\” lingo, but it is important to understand how many different organizations lobby politicians about *automobiles*. You have your car manufacturer lobby, your car insurance lobby, your highway & bridge construction lobby, your car driver lobby (AAA), your petroleum product lobby, and, wait let take a breath because this list goes on and on …

Get the picture? Cyclists may think anarchy is a good thing, but its a crummy way to assert yourself in our system. Bicyclists Unite! And support bicycling organizations with a few bucks too!

rev
16 years ago

Jeff is a pretty awesome biker. Best of political fortunes to him.

Adams Carroll (News Intern)
16 years ago

Darren said:
\”Do you really think bikers are ready for primetime?\”

I think the momentum for bicycling is moving much faster than the evolution in thinking required of bike advocates to fully realize its potential.

We have gone from a marginalized minority to front page news in USA Today in just a few years.

Have bike advocates and activists evolved as quickly?

I think some have, but we need to re-think and take a close look at how we talk and act.

Another big issue are all the cyclists who continue to ignore traffic laws and ride discourteously to other road users.

I could go on and on…