Rep. McHenry (L) and Shane Cooper.
Remember Rep. Patrick McHenry?
McHenry is a Republican member of Congress from North Carolina who, back in August of 2007, sharply ridiculed and mocked the bike commuter tax benefit when it came up in Congress as part of an energy bill.
During a floor speech, McHenry said (in part, see full excerpt/video here):
“They want to tell the American people, stop driving, ride a bike…
Apparently, the Democrats believe that the miracle on two wheels that we know as a bicycle will end our dependence on foreign oil. I cannot make this stuff up. It is absolutely amazing.”
“We could not beat him… so let’s get him to think like us about bikes…let’s change his mind.”
— Shane Cooper, DeFeet
Shane Cooper, the owner of North Carolina bike sock maker DeFeet, called that speech “the bicycle advocates worst nightmare.” Cooper (and DeFeet) are in McHenry’s district and in a recent blog post, Cooper said he was “shocked and embarrassed that he would say such an ignorant statement.”
The reason I’m sharing this with you is because of what Cooper wrote (and did) next:
“I was so shocked, that I reached out to my friends in the outdoor and bike industry to see what we could do to stop his bicycle slander.”
As shared on his blog, Cooper’s first reaction was to support McHenry’s political opponent in an election and try and get him voted out of office. That didn’t work, so Cooper accepted the fact that McHenry was, “set to rant irresponsibly and spread his bike hate for 2 more years.”
But then, something quite serendipitous happened. Cooper and his family were on a large charity ride when he rode up next to… guess who… Patrick McHenry, on a bike! Cooper shared with McHenry how the speech impacted the bike movement and confessed that he hoped McHenry wouldn’t get re-elected.
Cooper reported that McHenry was “nice” and that he wanted to meet Cooper at a later date to talk more about bikes.
As promised, Cooper later got a call from McHenry’s office. The two ended up having lunch, Cooper gave McHenry a primer on bike issues (along with a tour of the DeFeet headquarters of course) and asked him to join the local bike advocacy organization. It was a textbook lobbying effort, just like they teach at the National Bike Summit.
Cooper wrote that McHenry was enthusiastic about greenways and that, “overall, he was very open-minded about bikes.”
Cooper’s lession from all this? “We could not beat him… so let’s get him to think like us about bikes…let’s change his mind.”
Read more on Cooper’s blog at DeFeet.com.