Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on March 5th, 2008 at 12:58 pm
This story is part of my ongoing coverage of the 2008 National Bike Summit. See the rest of my coverage here.
Congressman Earl Blumenauer offered a historical perspective in his speech to the 500+ National Bike Summit attendees this morning. Referring back to major U.S. transportation planning milestones in 1808 and 1908, he continued his call for a new national transportation plan.
He said our current transportation system is in dire straits in part because we lack a “sense of national purpose” and he said, “Isn’t it time for a vision of what we need for this century?”
Blumenauer reminded the audience how the U.S. used to be afraid of China’s weapons stockpiles but now, he said they have a real and potent advantage — their transportation infrastructure. He said China invests 8% of their yearly budget to the maintenance and upkeep of their transportation infrastructure versus a paltry 1% spent by the U.S.
“I think you out to be indignant about the fact that you’re not getting your fair share!”
Blumenauer was animated in his speech and seemed intent on lighting a fire of urgency and outrage coupled with a sense of opportunity for the future among the assembled crowd of bike advocates.
“I think you out to be indignant about the fact that you’re not getting your fair share!” he said, referring to how bicyclists still don’t get the same tax benefit motorists do for riding to work. He also addressed his displeasure with certain Republicans who are playing politics with bike issues.
Blumenauer specifically addressed comments made by House Republican Patrick McHenry back in August. McHenry (who Blumenauer referred to as a “marginal back-bencher”) infamously referred to bikes as, “promoting 19th century solutions to 21st century problems.” To this, and to a string of recent anti-bike comments from Republicans, Blumenauer said we should “be outraged” and he forcefully implored us to, “Stop partisan use of your issue now by going to the Republicans and asking them what the hell is going on!”
Then, stepping back from the podium, he put his hands together and said with a mockingly empathetic tone, “You need to help these people.”
In closing he made yet another reference to a national movement when he said, “We need to get those millions of bikes that are currently gathering dust in garages and basements and get them back on the roads.”
After his speech, Blumenauer met with David Jones, the CEO of Louisville, Kentucky-based Humana, Inc.. Humana is a major health care provider with 9,000 employees that has started a bike-sharing program called “Freewheelin'” that allows employees to use bikes around town for free (Jones also delivered a keynote speech at dinner last night).