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In Portland, Blumenauer calls for a ‘national movement’

Posted by on January 11th, 2008 at 11:08 am

Earl Blumenauer in Portland-8.jpg

Congressman Earl Blumenauer addressed a
crowd of supporters at the downtown
Bike Gallery store Wednesday night.
(Photos © Jonathan Maus)

Congressman Earl Blumenauer was in Portland this week to kickstart a fundraising campaign for his re-election to the U.S. House of Representatives.

Wednesday night, Bike Gallery owner Jay Graves and bike infrastructure planning consultant Mia Birk hosted a party for Blumenauer at the downtown Bike Gallery.

In recent weeks, the media has taken note of Blumenauer’s rising position of influence in the halls of Congress and his reputation as the “bike guy” on Capitol Hill.

“It’s about changing land-use patterns so you don’t have to burn a gallon of gas to buy a gallon of milk.”

In the fitting backdrop of a bike shop, Blumenauer spoke to about 60 supporters about his work on Capitol Hill and the opportunities and challenges the bike movement faces in America.

Much of his talk focused on the example Portland is setting for the entire nation. He called Portland, “the epicenter of an American cycling revolution.” He spoke about our campaign to establish a network of bike friendly streets and said, “families cycling on bicycle boulevards are an indicator species of a livable community.”

Blumenauer is known for his one-liners. He unveiled a new one last night: “It’s about changing land-use patterns so you don’t have to burn a gallon of gas to buy a gallon of milk.”

He also rallied the troops and spoke of the critical importance of a “citizen infrastructure…the people who’ve decided that they’re going to make a difference.” Blumenauer wants to, “make the cycling community a powerful political force”. He said that if one million “cycling fanatics” around the country could get together than it would have “a transformational effect on politics.” (Anyone up for organizing a One Million Man (and Woman) Ride to Washington?)

Earl Blumenauer in Portland-10.jpg

Here’s what Blumenauer said about the climate change crisis:

“We’ve got about 10 years to turn around the global warming equation. We’ve got an 80% reduction by 2050, which means we’ve got to get started on it now; it’s energy, it’s transportation, and it’s land use, and the bicycle is something that can bring people together that can make a difference in a hurry, and start changing the way we that regard how we work with one another, how we deal with natural resources, how we live a little lighter on the planet. So this isn’t just about bicycle advocacy, this is about saving the world, and healing the political process.”

Blumenauer also stressed the importance of taking advantage of the current political climate in Washington:

“We’re going into a three year window of opportunity that is unparalleled. We have 378 days until there is a new administration, and in that period of time, we’re going to be setting the table legislatively and politically.”

Blumenauer said that he guarantees that no matter who the next president is, “he or she will be much more receptive to what we’re trying to do, without question.”

As for the recently defeated Bike Commuter Benefit, Blumenauer was upbeat and spoke of a silver lining,

“We got a bike commuter benefit through the House twice this year…it was the Republican road block in the Senate that knocked it out, but we’re going to get there. We’ve now got people in the House Ways and Means Committee that agree it makes sense…and the good news of them knocking it out is that we’re going to be able to raise it when it gets back in, it’s going to be a bigger number. It’s the sort of thing that will level the playing field. We don’t even have to level the playing field, but if we just don’t tilt it quite so much against cyclists and pedestrians I think it will make a huge difference.”

Earl Blumenauer in Portland-1.jpg

Bike Gallery owner Jay Graves
co-hosted the event.

And on the next Transportation Bill, which is up again in the next Congress, Blumenauer said the cycling stars are coming into alignment with Jim Oberstar — the “#1 cycling advocate who’s ever served in Congress” — is in line to become chair of the House Transportation Committee.

Blumenauer said Oberstar’s leadership of that committee will be “transformational” and “profound”. He also said that Oberstar is convinced that what Portland has done with cycling, transit and land use is “part of what’s going to save America.”

Blumenauer also noted that the chair of the House Subcommittee on Transportation will be Oregon’s other bike-friendly congressman, Peter DeFazio.

But Blumenauer also warned of some storm clouds ahead. He said the Transportation Fund is going into deficit next year for the first time in history and that he “wants to make sure we don’t have to have a food fight for table scraps over transportation.”

Blumenauer seemed to pin much hope on a grassroots, citizen-led movement for bikes. He closed his talk by saying,

We’ve got to transform this into a national movement. We’re making progress, we’ve got a great opportunity, but it’s going to be tough sledding because there’s lots of competition and we’ve got some significant hurdles to overcome.

I was very inspired by Blumenauer’s words and now I’m really looking forward to this year’s National Bike Summit coming up in March.

For more photos of Blumenauer’s visit to the Bike Gallery, check out these photos.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

  • a.O January 11, 2008 at 11:38 am

    Hell yes! Viva Earl!

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  • Anonymous January 11, 2008 at 11:44 am

    That\’s a hopeful article, thanks John.

    Considering how many people attend cycling related events(mountain and road), I think it\’d be feasable to organize a \”million man ride\”, but it would take the right people.

    It\’s events like this that could make a statement!

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  • ugh January 11, 2008 at 11:50 am

    Yay Bike Gallery.

    Now if you would only find a way to pay your employees a living wage and not treat them like disposable widgets.

    Easier to dream and visioneer than actually take care of your employees I suppose.

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  • Jean Reinhardt January 11, 2008 at 12:20 pm

    Perhaps eventually this political coalition could target for electoral defeat those Senate and House members who are the worst hoes of the auto and oil industries–Oklahoma senators Coburn and Imhofe, for example.

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  • Phil Hanson (aka Pedalphile) January 11, 2008 at 12:46 pm

    Earl Blumenauer is one of the few \”keepers\” involved in US government. He gets it right almost every time.

    Thanks in part to the rapacious nature of the Bush League, I\’m no longer certain that the US is worth saving. I\’ll be satisfied if we can only save the Cascadia portion of it. Save the cheerleader, save the world!

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  • Opus the Poet January 11, 2008 at 1:04 pm

    Hey guys? I live in one of those states you\’re busy \”writing off\”, do I have to suffer because of people I can\’t control? I mean any more than I already do suffer just because I was offered a good job near good schools 20 years ago? Can you fix my state, too?

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  • Mmann January 11, 2008 at 1:05 pm

    I like the \”million riders\” idea a lot. Makes it a lot harder to see cyclist as a fringe if we could rally like that in Washington. Let\’s keep this one on the burner – tons of potential.

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  • DAvid January 11, 2008 at 1:21 pm

    Who\’s going to organize the ride to Washington for the Bike Summit in March? West Coast riders could meet in Salt Lake City, or Denver, and then again meet up with mid-westerners in another city en-route before meeting up with everyone else from the east coast in time for the summit! Awesome!

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  • Moo January 11, 2008 at 1:49 pm

    A million bike giveaway sounds better to me. There are many that would love to commute by bike but can\’t afford to buy a decent one…and all the trimmings to boot. A few hundred bucks to some is a creative balancing act between food, clothes and utilities- let alone a roof over their heads. Think of it as a recruiting tool for the cause.

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  • Cøyøte January 11, 2008 at 2:03 pm

    Earl is a lot more credible without the bow tie.

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  • Austin Ramsland January 11, 2008 at 2:07 pm

    Earl is such a champ. Great write up Jonathan.

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  • Mmann January 11, 2008 at 3:37 pm

    With a new (hopefully) Democratic administration in Washington in \’09, Is there a better candidate for Transportation Secretary than Earl?

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  • joeb January 11, 2008 at 3:43 pm

    The Big Picture is a pedestrian friendly America with mass transit between cities that have recognized the limitation of the SOV and have provided alternative infrastructure.

    The Small Picture is… there is no reason for me to drive a car to work. If there is a reason for me to drive, I can, and for the most part have, eliminated that reason.

    Most days and weekends, you can’t put more cars on the road. They won’t fit! They sit there idling away $3/gallon gas… if idle means spewing CO2 at 20lb/gal. So the big picture is a requirement.

    There must be enough small picture stories for a movement. ‘Live locally’. ‘Ride to Live, Live to Ride’. Etc. Maybe it will take a few more individuals to step outside and away from the mass marketing we are fed about the American dream.

    Excellent article. Very motivating!

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  • Matt Picio January 11, 2008 at 3:45 pm

    ugh (#3) – wow, what a way to over-simplify a complex issue. How do you propose they do that? Are you willing to pay more for all your bike components so that Bike Gallery can do this? If they raise wages, they have to raise prices, and then they\’re no longer competetive with online retailers or Performance.

    BG is fairly successful, sure, but if you want to accuse them of being evil, let\’s see some specific facts. How do they pay their employees in relation to the other bike shops? What\’s their margin?

    Way to go, BG, Alta, and especially Earl!

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  • Garlynn -- January 11, 2008 at 4:15 pm

    Blumenauer also noted that the chair of the House Subcommittee on Transportation will be Oregon’s other bike-friendly congressman, Peter DeFazio.

    I think Peter DeFazio is actually chairman of the Highways and Transit subcommittee of the Transportation and Infrastructure committee, chaired by James Oberstar. While \”Transportation\” is a good shorthand for the committee, I think it\’s useful to give the actual title of the subcommittee. Not because it isn\’t the transportation subcommittee of the transportation committee — it is — but because it\’s good to call it by its right name.

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  • Jean Reinhardt January 11, 2008 at 7:46 pm

    Blumenauer, Oberstar or Peter D for secretary of Transportation–any of the three! Hear that, Hilary?

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  • brainie January 11, 2008 at 8:35 pm

    Wouldn\’t a ride to Washington take… at least a couple of months?

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  • Matt Picio January 11, 2008 at 9:26 pm

    brainie (#17) – for most of us, yep. Some of us can do it in as little as 14. (not me)

    OTOH, we could all drive to northern Virginia or Southern Maryland in 3-4 days, and ride from there.

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  • a.O January 11, 2008 at 10:20 pm

    If ever there was a time … and a place … to organize a million (wo)man ride … to start the Bike Revolution … it is here, and it is now.

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  • Marion January 12, 2008 at 8:28 am

    “families cycling on bicycle boulevards are an indicator species of a livable community.”

    Now that\’s so true, I wish I saw more parents taking their kids to school. Pretty much this time of year, I am only seeing one or two on my appointed routes. I am so help more families adopt as much of a car free lifestyle as fits them.

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  • JayS. January 12, 2008 at 9:27 am

    I\’m with you Marion. This time of year it does get harder with the kids. Our bike bus is very rarely more than my family these days. Come spring I\’ll start trying to inspire others to join again. We still try to do more than half our school commuting by bike (8 miles round trip) but the number of families at the racks is much lower when we arrive than in the spring and fall.

    On a positive note I feel like many more folks (just not families) are biking through the winter this year than last.

    I love the idea of a million bike giveaway. What a great opportunity for the bike manufacturers and distributors to make a statement about the benefit of bikes for our country. As discussed last year around the national bike summit, Industry as advocate is something we need to see more of. If auto manufacturers and gas distributors and shipping advocates can have such big voices in D.C. we will never make the changes we need unless the bike industry steps up too.

    Sorry I know this post is somewhat off topic.

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  • Huss March 5, 2008 at 2:03 am

    Hey, the million man ride sounds good, But hey thats alot of mile to D.C.

    Every State, could host a \”Ride-in\” to the capitol !!!!!

    A little more relastic, I could do this.

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  • Northern Virginia Chriopractor November 20, 2008 at 8:07 am

    I don’t know about a “ride-in”, but I think I could handle a fly-in. I’m not built for that kind of mileage.

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