Urban Tribe - Ride with your kids in front.

League helps you talk back to trash talk

Posted by on September 15th, 2008 at 4:32 pm

NY Times columnist David
Brooks is one of the trash-talkers
outed by the League of
American Bicyclists.

In their most recent email newsletter to members, the League of American Bicyclists shared a new educational campaign aimed at fighting back against statements that discriminate against bicycles.

On their web page, Who’s Trash Talking Bikes?, the League has a list of recent anti-bike statements by politicians and pundits. For each one they include sections titled: “What he/she said”; “What’s the issue”; “What are the facts”; “What he/she could have said”; and “What you can do.”

Here’s how they deal with some recent trash talk from U.S. Senator Jim DeMint from South Carolina (I’ve included the links as they appear on the League’s site):

What he said:
“We must stop wasteful earmarks for bike paths and museums that divert critical funding away from priority roads and bridges,” DeMint said in a September 8 statement addressing a shortfall in highway funding.

U.S. Senator Jim DeMint,
trash talker.

What’s the issue:
The Highway Trust Fund, funded from gas taxes and “spent” by state Department’s of Transportation, is running out of money and needs an $8 billion infusion of cash, according to the US Department of Transportation. Senator DeMint is apparently blaming the shortfall on wasteful bike path projects.

What are the facts:
It’s true that the law approving the spending of the highway trust fund has a lot of Congressional earmarks for “high priority projects” – a total of $15 billion in the 2005 SAFETEA-LU legislation. However, bike paths account for less than five percent of those earmarks, and most of them haven’t even been started yet.

A much more immediate reason for the funding crisis is the dramatic fall in motor vehicle miles traveled (and thus gallons of gasoline bought) in recent months due to rising gas prices. Ironically, of course, bicycle use is soaring because of those same high gas prices, meaning that we actually need more bike facilities, not less.

In August 2007, after the Minneapolis bridge collapse, Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters made similarly unfortunate comments for which she has subsequently apologized. Bicycling and walking are critical components of our transportation system.

What he could have said:

We must stop wasteful earmarks and get transportation funding into the hands of local decision-makers to start solving some of our traffic, energy, environmental and health challenges by getting more people bicycling, walking and taking transit. We also need to change the funding process so that we reward ourselves for reducing the number of motor vehicle miles traveled.

What You Can Do
If you are from South Carolina, drop a line to your Senator and let him know that bicycling and bike paths are pretty important to you. Let him know that while earmarks are generally undesirable, the only reason most of the bike-related projects are even requested in the first place is because state Departments of Transportation still stubbornly refuse to implement them willingly.

If you aren’t from South Carolina, you can still drop him a note, or you can write your own members of Congress and let them know how much you disagree with Senator DeMint’s attack on bike paths – that way we might just discourage them from making this mistake in the first place.

Other useful facts and figures:
What are the true costs of driving?
Do bicyclists pay their way?

Now that’s what I call holding the weasels accountable!

I think this is a very important tool for education and I hope they keep this page updated. For more examples of how to intelligently refute anti-bike statements, check out the League’s Who’s Trash Talking Bikes? page.

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. Thank you.

  • RyNO Dan September 15, 2008 at 7:04 pm

    Why is there a picture of Brooks ?

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  • Eileen September 15, 2008 at 7:26 pm

    That is a great website. Very informative. I wish they would change the name from trash talk which sounds a bit like the us against them mentality. But I like the way they outlined the issues and gave the people making them a little bit of credit by actually re-phrasing the issue in a non-trash talky way. I think combating trash talk with more trash talk would be very ineffective and recognizing that people with different viewpoints are not just raving idiots is a better approach at trying to get them to see your viewpoint.

    My favorite comment was from Patrick McHenry from NOrth Carolina. Wow.

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  • Eileen September 15, 2008 at 7:27 pm

    Oh, and Earl Blumenauer for President! I love that guy.=)

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  • JH September 15, 2008 at 8:26 pm

    How about a section that covers the local media and our elected officals? That blowhard Lars Larson spews enough miss-truths to fill a whole web site! We need a \”Media Matters\” geared towards the local media.

    Here\’s a great site that explains the true costs of cars Vs bikes. http://www.kenkifer.com/bikepages/advocacy/free.htm

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  • Donna September 15, 2008 at 8:42 pm

    The Lars Larson Show is on 175 affiliate radio stations across the US. He\’s beyond local, and so should qualify for any LAB list.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) September 15, 2008 at 9:13 pm

    \”Why is there a picture of Brooks ?\”

    He is someone who recently said something bad about bikes and is included on the League\’s website.

    As for Lars Larson, I think the League should only concentrate their efforts on high-level, respected pundits (like David Brooks) and powerful politicians (like Congressmen and above)… Larson is just a rabid shock-jock and not really worthy of the League\’s time in my opinion.

    Larson preaches to his choir.. I think the League is interested in singling out people who at least have the guise of impartiality and who are listened to by a wide range of Americans.

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  • Jessica Roberts September 15, 2008 at 11:08 pm

    Great site, but it doesn\’t seem to have an RSS feed, so I can\’t subscribe. Hopefully they\’ll change that.

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  • peejay September 16, 2008 at 6:43 am

    Why is there a picture of Brooks ?

    Because David Brooks is the personification of that particular flavor of smug, effete conservative who likes to think he\’s smarter than the rest of us while twisting himself into knots defending the train-wreck that is the McCain campaign. Get to know that picture well, and if you happen to see him in person, and you happen to have a cream pie in hand at the time, you\’ll know what to do.

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  • jrep September 16, 2008 at 10:58 am

    \”A much more immediate reason for the funding crisis is the dramatic fall in motor vehicle miles traveled (and thus gallons of gasoline bought) in recent months due to rising gas prices.\”

    As we seek to make certain that the bicyclist is not blamed for the funding problems of the Highway Trust Fund, we should make certain our facts are right. The statement in the article above is wrong, though it is repeated so often many people believe it.

    In fact, the funding crisis began years ago! According to the testimony of Donald Marron, Deputy Director of the Congressional Budget Office on March 27, 2007, the cause is overspending and that began in 2001. (Long before the gas price increases caused any reduction in consumption.)

    According to Marron:

    \”Spending from the trust fund has increased steadily since 1998, by an average of about 4 percent per year. Spending began to outpace revenues in 2001 and since then has exceeded revenues by about $16 billion.\”

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  • Cøyøte September 16, 2008 at 11:37 am

    jrep speaks the truth.

    One related parallel funding crisis in the making is funding infrastructure development by issuing public bonds. We are borrowing against future taxes in the naive belief that our economy is infinitely expandable. No money for maintenance is provided in the bond, and the infrastructure is in need of repair, or obsolete before the bond is paid for.

    We got away with this for a long time, but now the economy is receding, and the piper is calling. OTIA 1, 2, & 3 bonds, are beginning to feed on Oregon\’s tax base, and in a less than thriving economy, transportation funding is going to get ugly.

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  • John Mulvey September 16, 2008 at 1:13 pm

    John Boehner has got to be the biggest prick on the face of the earth.

    David Brooks is sometimes a fairly thoughtful guy, but he can often demonstrate a severe NY/DC politico tunnel vision. That\’s why a seemingly small thing like Earl riding his bike to the Capitol can serve as an eye-opener for Brooks and others who are too immersed in the sesspool to think clearly about real life.

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  • Atbman September 16, 2008 at 1:52 pm

    Dear old Senator McHenry seems to be slightly deficient in historical knowledge. The safety bicycle and the automobile are both 19th century inventions

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  • leftcoaster September 16, 2008 at 3:20 pm

    All conservatives/Republicans. I\’m sure there are some \”liberals\” who are ignorant about bikes too, but I bet it\’s a lot harder to find one.

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  • Chris September 16, 2008 at 3:21 pm


    I read RSS at this location


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  • Ron September 16, 2008 at 3:23 pm

    #8 peejay,

    I hope you\’re not serious about the cream pie comment.
    Brooks\’ columns may not be your cup of political tea, but his arguments are, for the most part, thoughtful and reasonable. Yes, he comes at the world from a different point of view. I\’m pretty darned left of center politically and even I feel that among conservative columnists, Brooks is really not that bad. That doesn\’t make what he says right or correct. But, anything more than a metaphorical pie in the face is just childish.

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  • Ron September 16, 2008 at 3:29 pm

    Oh, I just read David Brooks\’ column of Sept 15; \”Why Experience Matters\”. \”Evenhanded\” and \”reasonable\” are the words that come to mind.

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  • Jessica Roberts September 17, 2008 at 3:04 pm

    Thanks Chris, but of course I already have BP on my rss! I was just thinking that I probably won\’t remember to check it regularly…

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