“It’s time that the entire country learned from what’s happening right here in Portland with mass transit and bicycle lanes and funding alternative means of transportation.”
— Senator Barack Obama
The historic crowds from yesterday’s Barack Obama rally made headlines from Chicago to India — but the big news around here is that bicycles left their mark not only that event, but that they have staked their claim as an important part of Oregon politics.
Let’s start with bikes — thousands of them.
In Portland, when 75,000 people show up on the Waterfront for any event on a gorgeous spring day, you’d naturally expect many of them get their on two wheels.
I was not at the rally, but around 2:45 I got a text message from a reader who was in the crowd:
“The bike presence at the Obama rally is amazing…there are literally bikes parked all over on every railing on the waterfront from Hawthorne to Steel [bridges].”
Check out the photos below:
Bikes as far as the eye can see.
(Photo: Bob Crispin)
(Photo: Mason Marsh/Flickr)
One estimate puts the number of bikes at 8,000 on the railing above the river alone (that does not include the likely thousands of bikes locked to every pole, rack and tree in a one-mile radius!). After the event, bikes were reportedly bumper-to-bumper over the Hawthorne Bridge and I noticed several groups of 10-15 people riding north near the Rose Quarter as they filtered back into the neighborhoods.
The news of so many bikes — though not unexpected — warmed my heart.
But the next text message I received was even better.
Senator Obama, in a part of his 40 minute speech devoted to energy policy, singled out Portland’s “bicycle lanes” as something “the entire country” should “learn from”.
Here’s the key excerpt from his speech (audio stream/download is below):
“If we are going to solve our energy problems we’ve got to think long term. It’s time for us to be serious about investing in alternative energy. It’s time for us to get serious about raising fuel efficiency standards on cars. It’s time that the entire country learned from what’s happening right here in Portland with mass transit and bicycle lanes and funding alternative means of transportation.
That’s the kind of solution that we need for America. That’s the kind of truth-telling that we are going to do in this campaign and when I am President of the United States of America.”
Listen to it here:
And yet another sign that bicycles have officially entered the national political scene is an article published today by the New York Times. Times reporter William Yardley (who knows a thing or two about Portland’s bike culture) has followed the Obama campaign through Oregon. In his most recent article, A Shift in Voters, but Oregon Still Embraces the Unconventional, Yardley writes:
“Multnomah County, which includes Portland, is particularly antiwar. Successful candidates, including Republicans, know not to leave Portland without courting the bicycle-commuter vote.”
These are all good signs; but what happens on the campaign trail is not the same as real change. It will take the work of voters, local leaders, and advocates to seize this moment in history and work together to push the pendulum toward more sustainable, human powered cities.
Don’t forget to vote!