LaHood, Blumenauer fire up Summit crowd: “Ride up there and tell them to pass the bill!”

DOT Sec Ray LaHood at opening plenary-2

U.S. House Representative Earl Blumenauer and Ray LaHood headlined the opening plenary at the National Bike Summit this morning. The energy of both men was equal to the frustrations they face on Capitol Hill when trying to push through a transportation bill that includes adequate support for cycling. Also adding their support for cycling this morning were Congresswoman Donna Edwards, and. House Representatives Peter DeFazio and Tom Petri.

“The Senate bill is a good bill. It’s paid for. No more excuses. No more politics. Ride up there and tell them to pass the bill, if you do that you’ll be doing a good thing for America!”
— Ray LaHood, US DOT Secretary

In talking about recent successes in pushing back on the House transportation bill — which he said “crumbled” before it could be taken to a vote on the floor — Blumenauer put credit for the bill’s demise squarely on the shoulders of the advocates in the room.

“Make no mistake about it,” he said, “This is a movement and you are the heroes of this movement!”

Blumenauer then told the Portland story, telling the packed room of over 800 advocates and industry insiders that “even in a mid-sized city where it rains a lot,” and while spending very little money, “we were able to put a stamp on our community… It became part of who we are, what we do, and it became a critical part of our local economy, of civic life, and of the social scene.”

Rep Earl Blumenauer at opening plenary-3

As for his House colleagues that “chose to attack cycling” in recent months, Blumenauer said the huge response from advocates was clearly heard by lawmakers. “We’ve gotten their attention,” he continued:

“You, being part of this cycling movement, made a huge difference last month. We were faced with what the Secretary here described as the ‘worst bill ever;’ and it was, it was an outrage… It wasn’t just attacking cycling and [transportation] enhancements, it was backed by arguably the most powerful person on Capitol Hill… But you were part of a coalition that stopped it dead in its tracks!

… You made it possible for me to waive a petition in committee signed by over 600 organizations pointing out how far and how out of touch their policies were.”

Rep Earl Blumenauer at opening plenary-5

I don’t know if he forgot his pant strap was still on, or if he left it on as a fashion statement.

Blumenauer shared the upward trajectory of bike spending in America from the paltry $4 million dollars a year prior to ISTEA in 1991 to the over $1 Billion we’ve spent in the last two years thanks to the Obama administration’s stimulus.

Blumenauer said the rising investment in bicycling has been amazing. “It was a transformation,” he said emphatically, “And we’re not going back!” He also told the audience to fight locally: “This is something we need to unleash when we go home, not just every year when we come to the Summit.”

In conclusion, Blumenauer spoke about the larger picture, and what the future might hold.

“Make no mistake about it, this is going to be an amazing political year,” he said. Once the politics of the election are over — and assuming Obama gets re-elected — Blumenauer said, “We’ll have 30 months that will be about legacy, not about re-election.”

In introducing US DOT Secretary LaHood, Blumenauer called him “The best transportation secretary we’ve ever had.” The audience seemed to agree as they stood and cheered during a sustained ovation as he came to the lectern.

DOT Sec Ray LaHood at opening plenary-3

LaHood’s speech was short, but he was very emphatic.

“The message for the House is very simple. Pass the Senate bill! It’s not complicated. Take the Senate bill, put a house number on it and pass it! Set aside politics for just one day. The House could do that tomorrow.”

LaHood’s other main point was that we need a new, robust transportation bill now because we’re on the eve of the big spring construction season. “We need to put our friends and neighbors to work. A transportation bill is a jobs bill.”

In closing, LaHood pointed the podium and did not mince words:

“The Senate bill is a good bill. It’s paid for. No more excuses. No more politics. Ride up there and tell them to pass the bill, if you do that you’ll be doing a good thing for America!”

BikePortland’s coverage of the 2012 National Bike Summit is brought to you Planet Bike.

[Note: I will include the comments by House Rep. Donna Edwards and Rep. DeFazio in a separate story.]

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10 years ago

Blumenauer left the pant strap on for effect, like his bicycle lapel pin… he’s not afraid to flaunt it… he’s awesome!

Andrew K
Andrew K
10 years ago

Thanks for the report!!

Paul Johnson
Paul Johnson
10 years ago

You mean the Senate bill Inhofe and Boxer gutted? The one that makes safe routes for schools, bicycle infrastructure and transit funding optional? If so, LaHood is dead wrong and this thing needs to fail like a raise for Beaverton’s school teachers.

Ed R
Ed R
10 years ago

We as Portlanders can be proud of our contribution to the national conversation here. Our “little train that could” efforts now serve as inspiration and motivation to communities across the continent. Thanks is due to bikeportland for significant contributions in this regard.