If I had to pick just one member of the U.S. House of Representatives to watch, it would be Earl Blumenauer from Oregon, someone who I affectionately refer to as Congressman Bicycle. Representative Blumenauer is known for wearing a bicycle pin on his lapel, and for promoting legislation that makes it easier for Americans to get around by bicycle and other forms of alternative transportation. In these times of environmental crisis and economic hardship, that’s an important area of action that other members of Congress neglect.
Just yesterday, Congressman Blumenauer introduced H.R. 863, the Multi Modal Transport Benefit and technical Corrections Act, to the House of Representatives. It’s a small bill to add flexibility to a small financial benefit to Americans who do a big thing for their country: Instead of driving their cars to work, they commute by bicycle. Blumenauer said yesterday,
“Allowing individuals to choose how to commute to work, and providing parity to those who choose alternative methods of transportation, simply makes sense. Bike commuters–who burn calories instead of gasoline, emit fewer fossil fuels and have a much smaller impact on our roads and transport systems than most other commuters–should at the very least have the same access to fringe benefits that their car driving colleagues enjoy.”
There’s little glamour in this legislation. It simply allows for people who get a small monthly benefit for riding a bicycle to receive assistance for using mass transit systems as well. Still, at a time when Congress is shoveling huge amounts of money directly into the accounts of automobile manufacturers, and offering big tax breaks to encourage people to buy new cars, I’m encouraged to see someone moving even a small distance in the opposite direction.
I’m disheartened, however, to see that there’s just one co-sponsor for this legislation: James McGovern, from Massachusetts. Another piece of legislation introduced by Steny Hoyer yesterday, “authorizing the use of the Capitol Grounds for the Greater Washington Soap Box Derby”, already has 6 cosponsors. Why does a soap box derby get more consideration in Congress than environmentally responsible transportation? Have our leaders learned nothing from our current economic and environmental troubles?