Monday, March 19, 2007

Bicyclists as fringe interest

Image of bicyclist in Washington D.C.From The Politico, 03.19.07:

Last week, Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) braved a cold, rainy day to zoom around Capitol Hill on his Trek bike--appropriately, the Portland commuting model--to celebrate the National Bike Summit hosted by the CBC.

That's not the Congressional Black Caucus--it's the other CBC: the Congressional Bike Caucus...

As for the majority of the caucuses that focus on a single issue, many health-related, Smith said their work probably helps keep some legislative efforts alive. They can, he said, "make a difference at the margins."

The bike caucus, for example, promotes funding for cycling activities. It introduced the Bike Commuter Act to give transit benefits to bicycle commuters and establish a federal safe-routes-to-school program.

So far, no luck: The Bike Commuter Act has been introduced three times and has yet to pass. (Read more.)
Sigh. Bicyclists in the U.S. have spent most of the past two decades organizing as a political constituency, and the only way the beltway pundits can acknowledge us is as a wacky special interest.

I date the new paradigm of bicycle advocacy to the pivotal passage of ISTEA in 1991, which for the first time made federal transportation money available for bike and pedestrian facilities. Prior to ISTEA, bike advocacy was more pessimistic about the possibility of changing the streetscape, and bicyclists pursued adaptive "bike education" approaches. Sadly, many of these "old paradigm" bike advocates continue to push a narrowly defined approach to education.

The 2007 National Bike Summit attracted a record 430 advocates, and the primary announcement was the aforementioned reintroduction of the Bicycle Commuter Act. Eventually, we two-wheeled pedaling types will be recognized as legitimate commuters, and the BTA or something like it will succeed. However, it's hard to imagine this petroleum-soaked Bush administration actually signing the BTA. But we can always hope.

I'm more optimistic about the possibility of cycling improvements at the local and state level. The strong turnout at the National Bike Summit is indicative of the grassroots growth of our movement. (Or is it a cause?) We're making progress. At least the beltway pundits are noticing, even if they feel compelled to be dismissive. At least we aren't ignored anymore.

Image: BikePortland.org. Cyclist in Washington D.C.
Visit: League of American Bicyclists
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips

1 comment:

Jonathan Maus said...

The Bike Commuter Act should be a slam-dunk piece of legislation this year.

If we can't get it passed than we have some very serious problems...both as a country and as an "interest group".