Representative Earl Blumenauer (Oregon) recognizes the value of bicycles as a mode of transportation

March 13, 2008 | By | 1 Reply More

On Feb. 28, Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore. submitted House Congressional Resolution 305 for consideration to the House of Representatives: “Recognizing the importance of bicycling in transportation and recreation.” I assume that this resolution is a perfectly valid reaction to this boneheaded statement by one of Bush’s appointees.

I don’t think Blumenauer’s resolution has any chance of passing, because it suggests that some money now going for highways should actually be used to encourage people to use bicycles for their transportation needs.   God forbid that we actually encourage such a perfectly sensible mode of transportation.  You know the arguments, prevents obesity, uses no fossil fuel, cheap, is perfect for urban commutes.  I’ve previously posted on some of the many reasons to use a bicycle for commuting.  There are, indeed, many reasons for doing so, especially in an urban area where many commutes are fewer than five miles.  BTW, what would a bicycle-friendly city look like?  Here’s one version.

I learned of Bluemenauer’s resolution by reading Andrew Leonard’s article in, “Life and death and bicycling.”  Just because you use a bicycle doesn’t mean you are “green.”  Leonard includes a Sierra Club test to see how “green” you are.  I am a rather cool 92 out of 100, a very green cyclist! 

I do want to publicly thank Representative Blumenauer for bringing some much-needed attention to bicycles as a serious mode of transportation.   His resolution is chock full of statistics that should (but likely won’t) wake up those who don’t yet take bicycling seriously.   I’m pasting in, below, the full text of Bluemauer’s resolution on the importance of bicycling (here’s another place to read the full resolution):

2d Session
H. CON. RES. 305
Recognizing the importance of bicycling in transportation and recreation.

February 28, 2008

Mr. BLUMENAUER (for himself and Mr. OBERSTAR) submitted the following concurrent resolution; which was referred to the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure

Recognizing the importance of bicycling in transportation and recreation.

Whereas a national transportation system conducive to bicycling produces enriched health, reduced traffic congestion and air pollution, economic vitality, and an overall improved quality of living is valuable for the Nation;

Whereas by dramatically increasing levels of bicycling in United States cities tangible and intangible benefits to the quality of life for cities and towns across the country will be realized;

Whereas we now live in a Nation with 300 million people, and that number is expected to grow to 365 million by 2030 and to 420 million by 2050 with the vast majority of that growth occurring in urban areas with limited ability to accommodate increased motor vehicle travel;

Whereas since 1980, the number of miles Americans drive has grown 3 times faster than the United States population, and almost twice as fast as vehicle registrations;

Whereas one-third of the current population does not drive due to age, disability, ineligibility, economic circumstances, or personal choice;

Whereas the United States is challenged by an obesity epidemic, 65 percent of United States adults are either overweight or obese, and 13 percent of children and adolescents are overweight, due in large part to a lack of regular activity;

Whereas the Center for Disease Control estimates that if all physically inactive Americans became active, we would save $77 billion in annual medical costs;

Whereas over 753 of our Nation’s Mayors have signed onto the climate protection agreement of the United States Conference of Mayors urging the Federal Government to enact policies and programs to meet or exceed a greenhouse gas emission reduction target of a 7 percent reduction from 1990 levels by 2012;

Whereas the transportation sector contributes one-third of the greenhouse gas emissions in the United States and passenger automobiles and light trucks alone contribute 21 percent;

Whereas bicycle commuters annually save on average $1,825 in auto-related costs, reduce their carbon emissions by 128 pounds, conserve 145 gallons of gasoline, and avoid 50 hours of gridlock traffic;

Whereas the greatest potential for increased bicycle usage is in our major urban areas where 40 percent of trips are 2 miles or less and 28 percent are less than one mile;

Whereas in 1969 approximately 50 percent of children in the United States got to school by walking or bicycling, but in 2001 only 15 percent of students were walking or bicycling to school;

Whereas as much as 20 to 30 percent of morning traffic is often generated by parents driving their children to schools, and in the United States, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for children ages 3 to 14;

Whereas many public agencies in cities are using bicycles to deliver critical municipal services, for example, more than 80 percent of police departments serving populations of 50,000 to 249,999 and 96 percent of those serving more than 250,000 residents now have routine patrols by bicycle;

Whereas surveys show that a majority of people want to ride and walk more but are dissuaded by concern over traffic danger and other barriers, and case studies have shown that when those barriers to bicycling are removed, people start riding;

Whereas investment used for improvements for bicyclists and promoting bicycle use resulted in the quadrupling of bicycle use in Portland, Oregon, since 1994 and a recent report to Congress on the nonmotorized transportation pilot program reveals that 19.6 percent of trips in Minneapolis, Minnesota, are made by biking and walking, reflecting the benefit of initial investments in nonmotorized infrastructure;

Whereas the American bicyclist generates enormous economic returns, in 2006, the national bicycling economy contributed $133 billion to the United States economy, supported nearly 1.1 million jobs across the United States, generated $17.7 billion in annual Federal and State tax revenue, produced $53.1 billion annually in retail sales and services, and provided sustainable growth in rural communities;

Whereas a national network of interconnected urban and rural bikeways can provide valuable community benefits, including low or no-cost recreation and alternative transportation options for people of all ages and abilities;

Whereas mountain biking is an environmentally friendly, healthy nonmotorized outdoor recreation activity that encourages young people to experience our natural world, and engenders community support for preservation of open space;

Whereas each year major charity bike rides in communities across the country raise in excess of $100 million for critical medical research to find cures for life-threatening diseases;

Whereas 57 million adults in the United States bicycle each year, and bicycling and walking currently account for nearly 10 percent of trips and 13 percent of traffic fatalities, yet less than 2 percent of Federal transportation safety funding is currently spent to make bicycling and walking safer; and

Whereas communities across the United States are seeking ways to reduce traffic congestion, improve air quality, increase the safety of their neighborhoods, and decrease petroleum dependence, bicycles offer a simple, healthy, energy-saving alternative to driving: Now, therefore, be it

          (i) safeguarding existing funding sources for nonmotorized transportation from inequitable treatment in the Federal transportation funds rescission process;

          (ii) supporting funding for core Federal transportation programs that support nonmotorized travel, including transportation enhancements, safe routes to school, and recreational trails; and

          (iii) ensuring that highway safety improvement program funds are spent in proportion to the percentage of bicyclist and pedestrian fatalities in each State;

          (i) States that adopt motor vehicle laws that protect the rights of bicyclists to share the road;

          (ii) businesses that expand bicycle-friendly programs for their employees;

          (iii) the health care industry to develop more member discount programs, that target increased physical activity such as bicycling and walking; and

          (iv) provide bicycle commuters the transportation fringe benefits currently provided to people who commute by car or mass transit; and

      • (A) establish national target levels for increased bicycle use, reduce the number of motor vehicle miles traveled (VMT), improve bicycle safety to be achieved within a specific timeframe, and collect data needed to monitor progress;

        (B) increase intermodal travel between public transportation and bicycles;

        (C) provide incentives for State and local governments to adopt and implement complete street policies designed to accommodate all users, including motorists, pedestrians, bicyclists, transit riders, and people of all ages and abilities;

        (D) encourage bicycle use in communities where significant segments of the population do not drive and where short trips are most common;

        (E) expand funding for core Federal transportation programs that support non-motorized infrastructure, education, and encouragement programs by–

        (F) facilitate the development of a coordinated system of United States bicycle routes across the country that cross state borders and connect metropolitan regions;

        (G) create bicycle-friendly Federal land protection legislation, such as national recreation areas, to encourage regulations and management practices for mountain biking as an environmentally friendly nonmotorized use of natural surface trails;

        (H) provide flexibility in Federal transportation law that would speed up the delivery of nonmotorized infrastructure without sacrificing necessary environmental protections;

        (I) provide Federal tax or funding incentives to–

        (J) build upon the `Green the Capitol Initiative’ as a model, create and provide an environmentally sustainable and healthy working environment for employees that includes the promotion of bicycling as a transportation alternative;

    • (1) recognizes that increased and safe bicycle use for transportation and recreation is in the national interest;

      (2) supports policies that–

      (3) encourages the Department of Transportation to provide leadership and coordination by reestablishing the Federal bicycle task force to include representatives from all relevant Federal agencies.

  • Resolved by the House of Representatives (the Senate concurring), That the Congress–


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Category: American Culture, Economy, Energy, Technology, transportation

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

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  1. Alison says:

    Does Blumenauer use a bike himself? I'm always skeptical of resolutions like this here in NJ, because they are generally feel-good measures proposed by people who have not studied the situations, who won't be affected by the changes, but will get some props in the media to fuel their re-election campaigns.

    Many years ago, someone spent huge amounts of money building HOV lanes all over the state, and then spent even more getting patrol cars and aircraft to enforce it. Meanwhile, the tax laws were set up to encourage big corporations to locate giant campus-type headquarters out in the middle of nowhere. People were commuting in from a huge radius (including Pennsylvania and New York). In order for these HOV lanes to work, there would have had to be a co-ordinated effort to get employees who worked the same hours in the same company (or companies whose campuses were geographically close) and lived in the same towns to form carpools. In my office of several thousand, three of us lived within a 10-mile radius of each other, and though we tried to do this, mandatory overtime, trips to customer locations, and various "emergencies" made it impossible – since we all worked different jobs and had these schedule changes at different times. It was a matter of months before the lanes were opened up to all commuters, and our legislators (who, I would assume, never looked up and observed the traffic during their chauffeur-driven commutes) were at a complete loss to explain the failure.

    The town I moved from had neighborhood elementary schools, and when the weather was nice, we would often walk to pick up our kids and walk them home. Afterwards, though, all the students attended a single middle school and a single high school, and they started having to take buses. The superintendent, pushing the idea of health and fitness, and saving some money for the town, tried to expand the distance needed for students to qualify for the bus, saying they should bike if it was too far to walk. The uproar among parents was tremendous, seeing that only a couple of years earlier, the same superintendent had removed all the bike racks because bicycle theft was rampant and too expensive to prevent.

    Just recently, the speed limit was reduced by 10 mph on a 20-mile section of the Garden State Parkway. Our Governor has assured us that it is for safety, and it will be changed back after the road is widened (at some unnamed point in the future.) While he has proposed a tremendously slashed budget (which includes, ironically, disbanding the Agriculture Department – in "The Garden State"), somehow the money was found to put up signs announcing the new speed limit, replacing all the old speed limit signs with new ones, and placing additional patrol cars to monitor the speed limit. This is bad enough, but get this – there are also signs announcing the distance until the "speed enforcement zone" – 1 mile, 3/4 mile, and 1/2 mile, as well as signs that say "end speed enforcement zone." So in case you don't like to drive slower, you know in advance where the police are. It gets better, though. The money has also been found to get a helicopter to monitor for speeders, on a three-mile section of the road. There are signs to tell you where the helicopter is, too. A huge sum has been spent on passing a law that people don't want, and making it easier to not follow it, so it won't even pay for itself with violation fines. But we've been told that it's a really, really, really good idea because it will make the road safer.

    So if Mr. Blumenauer has actually studied the ways to encourage cycling, has worked out some plans to implement it practically, can respond thoughtfully to questions about the pros and cons and the bottom-line economic and environmental impacts, then bravo for him. If, however, it turns out to be just an opportunity for some favorable press coverage, then he should be called out on it. Having lived in NJ for so long, I'm skeptical – it would be nice to be wrong.

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