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December 31, 2007

Portland's Pedal Pushing Pol Noticed by Wall St. Journal

It's been over 2 years since I wrote an e-mail, in the aftermath of Katrina, and the office of Congressman Earl Blumenauer, the head of the Congressional Bicycle Caucus, was one of the small number of those to receive it to respond.

It was a Form Letter, from someone in the Office, with a "I'm Mad at FEMA, and I'm NOT Gonna Take it Anymore!" focus and not even close to touching on the subject of my letter. ;-D

As mentioned, I also got an e-mail from his Webmaster explaining why they could not include a link to me on his website.

I wrote a follow-up to the Webmaster, but never got a response back.

I mention all this because the good Congressman took time out from his busy schedule to be interviewed for a story by the Wall Street Journal the other day, an article that had as its focus his cycling advocacy and his role as head of the 11 year old Congressional Bicycle Caucus.

It is a very interesting and informative story, even if the Reporter refers to the Congressman as a "Bike Nut" in the video. ;-D

Some members of Congress come to Washington and get in the fast lane. The 59-year-old Mr. Blumenauer came to Washington and got in the bike lane. Few members of Congress care more than he does about cranks and sprockets.

Mr. Blumenauer's "obsession with bicycling borders on the interesting," sniffed TV satirist Stephen Colbert.

"Bikeman," a House colleague from Oregon calls him. Mr. Blumenauer owns seven bikes. His congressional office is one of the few -- if not the only one -- that didn't even apply for a parking permit. On occasion, Mr. Blumenauer has cycled to the White House. On Mr. Blumenauer's first visit, the Secret Service, more accustomed to limousines, was flummoxed at the sight of his bike.

I can well Imagine. ;-D

In his early days, he tracked down Speaker Newt Gingrich in the House gym to pitch transit-fare subsidies for House workers. He got them. 

The Caucus has more than 170 members, and gotten more money thru for projects over the last decade.

With Democrats in the majority for the first time since he came to Washington, Mr. Blumenauer snagged a seat on the Ways and Means Committee, and has had some success peddling a proposal to encourage bike commuting. The tax code already encourages employers to subsidize parking spots for workers who drive or fare cards for those who use mass transit. But it is silent on bikes.

Very interesting, that little tidbit.

"You can't provide a benefit for people who burn calories instead of petroleum," says Mr. Blumenauer, in disbelief. "It just seemed outrageous that somebody who cycles got zip."

The provision would encourage employers to provide fringe benefits to bicycle commuters -- such as for repairs and annual upkeep -- at a cost to American taxpayers of $1 million a year.

Interesting idea, that. ;-D

Mr. Blumenauer found a home for the proposal in the massive energy bill crafted by Democratic leaders in the House over the summer. When the measure first hit the floor, Republican critics derided it as an attempt "to tell the American people, stop driving, ride a bike," as Rep. Patrick McHenry of North Carolina put it. The measure was later dropped, and has a ways to go before becoming law.

Sometimes my fellow Conservatives need to think before they speak. ;-D

Most Cyclists are not into the habit of telling anyone to STOP driving, just maybe do less of it when it's possible, and what they do do of it, do safely... SHARE THE ROAD.

Like the Congressman most Cyclists are not Anti-Car.

I prefer to think we are Pro Less of it. ;-D

I laugh when I read that "when he cycles across town to an event, he often gets there faster than his friends in Congress do." ;-D

READ: 12/29/07 -  For Congressman, Life in Bike Lane Comes Naturally BY Greg Hitt.

In 2008 I am going to try to pay more attention to Government efforts on behalf of cycling and cycling law and will check the Congressman's website to see if there is more on the efforts of the Caucus beyond the listing of the Membership Roster.

For now let me bring to your attention the above mentioned Bill sponsored by the Congressman: H.R. 1498 Bike Commuter Act

Currently, employers may offer a Transportation Fringe Benefit to their employees for certain costs incurred while commuting to work. Employees who take advantage of this benefit may receive a tax-exempt benefit up to $215/month, for drivers participating in qualified parking plans, or $110/month for those who use transit or vanpooling. There is also the option of taking cash compensation. The Bike Commuter Act aims to balance the incentive structure by extending the Transportation Fringe Benefit to include bicycling.

What does it do?

Amends Section 132(f) of the IRS code of 1986 to include “bicycles” in the definition of transportation covered by the qualified transportation fringe benefit.

Provides a strong incentive for employees to bike to work, which is a cleaner, healthier, more efficient mode of transportation.

Go here to learn why he believes this is important.

In 2005 the Congressman was instrumental in getting the Conserve by Bike Program approved by the House and Senate, then the President (Program Details).

2 other blogs have also commented on the WSJ Story:

Fritz, of Cyclicious, thinks "the dude rocks". ( The Congressman, not me, hee, hee! I already KNOW he thinks THIS Cycling "Dude" rocks. ;-D )

Charles, of Car(bon) Free in CA., calls the Congressman "a great role model for bicycling and reducing carbon emissions."

December 31, 2007 in Congressional Bicycle Caucus Watch | Permalink

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