Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on June 16th, 2008 at 4:38 pm
“If I had to choose between Bush on his mountain bike and John Kerry on his Serotta, I’ll take Obama.”
–U.S. Congressman Earl Blumenauer
Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama made headlines last week for his private meeting with members of the bicycle industry in Chicago.
U.S. Congressman Earl Blumenauer (who some have whispered would make a great Transportation Secretary under Obama) was also at the event. He was so moved by what he thinks the event meant for the bicycle movement, that he took time to share his thoughts during a phone call with me a few days later.
Recalling the Obama/bike industry meeting, Blumenauer said,
“The place was just packed… and the list of people in the room read like a who’s who of the bike industry. During both the informal meeting and the official statements released later, Barack clearly understands the connection between obesity and Safe Routes to Schools and that it doesn’t take much of a shift in the Transportation Bill to make a big difference.
He wasn’t just open to it [bicycling], he was supportive of it.”
During the bike industry meeting, Blumenauer said Obama was asked about how bicycling fits into broader agendas. Blumenauer remembers that he answered, “in terms of how we make communities work.”
“He was very clear that cycling is part of a comprehensive solution that gives people choices. Specifically, he mentioned more intelligent land-use and the use of rail to move goods [instead of trucks].”
Blumenauer referred to the event as, “a coming of age moment for the bicycle constituency.”
He then thought back to the 2004 election (between Kerry and Bush) and compared it to the year’s race.
“Back then, we also had two people that liked to bike. They were serious bikers… but Bush and his administration just didn’t get it (as evidenced by Mary Peters’ comment). They did the absolute minimum.
We’re trying to put a human face on cycling and to make it integrated into everyday life. If I had to choose between Bush on his mountain bike and John Kerry on his Serotta, I’ll take Obama …I think that’s something people can really relate to.”
“Now”, Blumenauer says,
“…we’ve got a guy who just plain likes to bike, understands it, and has already expressed in very clear and direct ways an understanding of what’s possible. The fact that he and his wife like to bike with the kids, I think that’s a very important signal.”
Back in May, Obama held a rally in Portland and an estimated 10,000 of the event’s 75,000 participants showed up by bike. Blumenauer made sure to remind Obama about what that meant:
“I pointed out to him that the rally in downtown Portland was only possible because of all the folks who rode bikes. Could you imagine if all those people would have gotten downtown in their cars?”
Blumenauer said he’s been promoting bicycles as a viable form of transportation for a long time, but he’s never seen so much happen so fast.
“I’ve been doing the bike policy stuff forever, but, in the last 30 days,” he said, “I feel like more has happened than in the last 30 yrs.”