Portland mayoral Candidate Charlie Hales isn’t being shy about positioning himself as someone who cares about bicycling. He’s running ads on Facebook that show him in a bike helmet alongside these words:
“Charlie Hales supported bike lanes and infrastructure in Portland before it was cool. Like his page to see how he’ll fight for bikers!”
It’s an interesting strategy, since “fighting” for “bikers” isn’t exactly the public opinion slam dunk you might think it is here in Portland.
Hales must be aware that current Mayor Sam Adams — who has frequently donned a helmet and done on-bike photo ops — has taken a lot of heat from residents who (mistakenly in my opinion) feel like he’s just a puppet for the all-powerful “bike lobby.” I’ve noticed time and time again that many of Adams’ detractors — or just people who have a particular beef with an issue — will attach their anger at him to bicycles. This is due in part to communications and PR gaffes made by Adams which have led to bike issues and bike-oriented road projects becoming unnecessarily controversial, then sensationalized by the local media and ultimately turning what should be a positive and exciting civic vision into a toxic political football and public scapegoat.
But I digress. Let’s get back to Hales’ ad…
What I also find interesting about it is that when I interviewed Hales’ competitor Jefferson Smith earlier this month (will publish it soon), he explained (rather well I thought) why he feels he’s the best messenger to promote bicycling precisely because he’s not a “biker” himself.
Personally, I love seeing politicians on bikes and talking about bikes; but I cringe when I see them overtly courting “bikers” and talking up a looming “fight.” I’m tired of fights and of Portlanders seeing “bikers” as a special interest that needs to be fought for in City Hall.
How about you? What do you think about this ad/strategy?
For more on Charlie Hales’ ideas about transportation, read my interview with him last month and stay tuned for interviews with Jefferson Smith and Eileen Brady.