While not quite a full-on velorution (there must be silent throngs out there waiting to usher in a full-on velorution, I’m sure of it — bike-guard party, wherefore art thou?), this month’s midterm elections in the U.S. have apparently greased the gears of the otherwise petroleum- and highway-happy lawmaking machine in the House in favor of cycle-friendly reps for the 110th Congress. Or at least, it’s offered cause for hope.
Rep. Jim Oberstar, D-Minn., who helped author the 1991 law that opened the door to federal funding for bike projects, is in line to become chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., a one-time bike mechanic, expects to chair the surface transportation subcommittee.
And Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., founder of the Congressional Bicycle Caucus, will either hold a senior position on the transportation committee or move to the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee.
All three Democrats are strong supporters of alternative transportation who believe that bicycling can play an important role in moving people, particularly in dense urban settings, and in providing recreational opportunities.
Which is, of course, potentially important and great and wonderful.
But it makes a person wonder: Other than just your average congressional inertia (and, OK, a pretty heartless Republican agenda in general dominating U.S. government for the last too-long while), I’m flummoxed that more isn’t done legislatively for cycling in the U.S., even under Republican regimes.
It’s difficult to think of a more politically innocuous, straightforward, obviously beneficial, and nearly-impossible-to-spin-as-damaging issue (even for John Kerry) than encouraging cycling. But what do I know?
Maybe it’s just a matter of focus, and maybe now that the elections have ushered in a Democratic Congress, mustering the necessary concentration will be easier. There’s definitely a lot to be done, the full-on velorution notwithstanding.
Legislation aiming to improve nearly any piece of this country’s not-bike-friendly infrastructure is worthwhile.
For his part, Rep. Oberstar is apparently working on getting airports to offer bicycle parking.
Just before the election, [Oberstar] announced that he’d push airports to provide bike parking after a bicyclist had his vintage cycle cut into pieces by security officials at the Minneapolis airport. The cyclist, rushing to make a flight, had left the bike locked to an out-of-the-way pole after being unable to find any bike parking.
Mainstream cycling advocacy organizations also have ideas of what can be done, and they’re not tearing-up-the-pavement kinds of things either — they’re simple, direct improvements that would make noticeable difference.
[Andy Clarke, head of the League of American Cyclists] said cycling advocates have a chance to develop a national cycling network and to adopt a program that encourages local planners to include pedestrian and bicycling improvements in road projects. Oregon already does this through its 1971 Bicycle Bill, which requires that at least 1 percent of highway money be used to accommodate biking and walking.
Maybe someone can slip in a national 1- or 2-percent provision in the next sprawling energy bill — a bike rider, so to speak.