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Thanks to Congressman Bicycle

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.”

congressman earl blumenauerThere’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?

4 comments to Thanks to Congressman Bicycle

  • Jon

    Bicycling is a great form of transportation in some parts of the country. But let’s be realistic, in most areas during much of the year it is unrealistic. Especially if you are trying to transport children, groceries or anything other than yourself.

    I really don’t see the answers to the challenges we currently face in becoming retrograde. Humans as a species, and Western culture in particular has generally meet adversity by overcoming it with technological advances. I believe that we can find the solutions to our energy needs by promoting R and D.

    One thing we can be sure of is, that using 30% of our corn to replace 3% of our fuel needs is not productive.

    • Jim

      Get a trailer and it’s possible to safely transport small kids (big kids can bike themselves) or up to 50 pounds of groceries. I’ve used these trailers in Arizona, North Carolina and Ohio, and they’re available at your typical Target (more durable ones are at your local bike shop). I agree that they’re tricky during the winter, but bicycles are hardly retrograde. Just because we’ve had legs for millions of years doesn’t mean we should be using high technology to climb the stairs. Bikes are smart, they’re quick, they’re nimble, and they’re relatively inexpensive.

    • I just brought the groceries home on a bicycle on a snowy road an hour south of the Canadian border last week.

      Have Americans really turned into such a bunch of wimps?

  • Publius

    If you got a lot of people to call and write their members of Congress, especially members from urban districts or members smart on the environment, you could put some pressure on these folks to move this legislation.

    Pro-bicycle legislation is smart in almost every manner possible. It is environmentally aware, pro-energy independence and cheap. But right now it looks like some fringe hippie thing. If you don’t mobilize people, it just appears that this is Blumenauer’s thing and no one else will stick their neck out for it.

    Don’t be that guy who just complains on some blog. Email your friends. Put some pressure on these folks you sent to make some smart laws.

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