Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on April 5th, 2008 at 9:27 am
U.S. Congressman Earl Blumenauer opened the Oregon Bike Summit today by outlining three steps bike advocates can take to help spur the movement toward a bike-friendly America.
Blumenauer referred to Oregon as the “cycling epicenter of the U.S,” and said that, “what we’re doing is having a ripple effect on the rest of the country.”
In a speech to the nearly 200 summit attendees at the Red Lion Hotel in Janzten Beach, Blumenauer said there’s, “never been a better time to be advocating for bicycles.” Speaking about his 2008 National Bike Bill — an effort to emulate American transportation infrastructure revisioning efforts in 1808 and 1908 — Blumenauer recounted how bicyclists “got bushwhacked in the 1800s”.
He was referring to a time when bicycling was mainstream in America and the League of American Wheelmen (now the League of American Bicyclists) had over 1 million members. The threat of horseless carriages and poor roadways coalesced those bicyclists into a “Good Roads Movement” to improve America’s transportation infrastructure.
We all know what happened next. Blumenauer says that effort was “hijacked” by the rush to the automobile.
Now Blumenauer says, in order to seize our opportunity to transform America into a place where bike riders are comfortable and safe, our job (as advocates, politicians, business leaders, etc…) is to make sure we don’t get “sidetracked”.
To direct our efforts he offered three things we need to do:
1) Get our story straight and pass it on
Blumenauer challenged the crowd by asking, “Why are you here?” He impressed on us that there is important power in our individual cycling stories and encouraged us to refine that story and share it with others.
2) Pick a path
Blumenauer urged everyone to find causes (non-profits, projects, etc…) to support and be active in moving them forward.
3) Get political
Blumenauer says we all need to implicate ourselves into the political process. If we don’t, he says, the “other side” will push their own “public policy perversions.” On that note, similar to his speech at the National Bike Summit last March, he referred to the partisan bickering that has tied up good bicycle-related policy (like the Bike Commuter Act).
Blumenauer specifically referred to the House floor speech made by North Carolina Republican Patrick McHenry back in August — a speech that drew ire of bike advocates worldwide when he said bicycles are a, “19th century solution to 21st century problems”. McHenry earned the moniker of “weasel” and Blumenauer urged us to pounce on politicians who make comments like that and hold them accountable.
Rousing up advocates is familiar territory for Blumenauer, but no matter how many times I hear him speak, he always manages to add a new wrinkle of inspiration to his words.