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.
2 other blogs have also commented on the WSJ Story:
Charles, of Car(bon) Free in CA., calls the Congressman "a great role model for bicycling and reducing carbon emissions."
November 11, 2006
How Will Election Results affect Bicycle Caucus?
The Congressional Bicycle Caucus before the election:
118 Democrats (Blumenauer Co-Chair)
45 Republicans (Sue Kelly Co-Chair)
Members represent 43 States and the District of Columbia
As everyone knows by now, unless they have been out Touring the Hinterlands, and thus nowhere near a TV, or Radio....
The Democrats have taken over Congress. ;-D
it will be interesting to see the additions, and deletions, in the make-up of the new Caucus
May 25, 2006
Serious Question gets Humorous Answer
In the world beyond the Bike Trails blogger Orin Kerr, over at The Volokh Conspiracy, asks for suggestions for subjects for future Congressional Hearings as Congress is threatening yet another one over something or other.
I couldn't resist. ;-D
How about finding out just how many members of the Congressional Bicycle Caucus have ever actually ridden a Bicycle even once in their life, and if not then why are they members of the Caucus in the 1st place?
A related question for those who HAVE put pedal to pavement: Can you change a Tire?
Within the hour the next comment was left:
RE: A related question for those who HAVE put pedal to pavement: Can you change a Tire?
I think they have Legislative Aides for that sort of thing. The time of a legislator is too valuable to waste.
Hee, hee. ;-D
To read more suggestions go here.
October 21, 2005
No response to follow-up to Webmaster of Congressman
On Sept. 29th I wrote of the responses to a letter I wrote to Congressman Earl Blumenauer, of Portland, Oregon.
He is the head of the Congressional Bicycle Caucus.
While HIS response left much to be desired, the letter from his Webmaster seemed promising enough that...
now that I have an actual e-mail, attached to a real person, I may be able to finally make the Congressman aware of my thoughts about the Bike Caucus, its membership make-up, and its website, and get some serious responses related to Bicycling issues.
So I wrote a follow-up to the Webmaster, a Mr. Ernesto Omar Falcon, on Sept. 29th.
The letter is as follows:
Thank you for the personal reply.
It means a lot.
After reading the "I'm Mad at FEMA, and I'm NOT Gonna Take it Anymore" letter sent under the main e-mail, I was forced to wonder if the Congressman had even read my letter, much less even knew of it's exisitence.
While I understand about not linking to my blog, and fully expected that response, I am still hoping that I can get feedback from the Congressman, or even just appropriate members of his staff, on the content of the letter, and about my Blog, and its content.
You see, I have a link to the section of his website related to the Bike Caucus, and plans to carry thru on writing about Congress, and cycling issues, thru my "Congressional Bicycle Caucus Watch".
I wrote a review of the site, last spring, and even tried to notify the Congressman for feedback, but got no response.
See the 5 entries in my Archives, here: http://www.sneakeasysjoint.com/thecyclingdude/congressional_bicycle_caucus_watch/index.html
A lot has happened in my life since those articles, and I hope to do more on the Caucus, and its efforts, in the future.
I would love to have the Congressman, or an appropriate staffer, take me up on an open invitation to my readers:
I would also love to know about cycling issues the Caucus is dealing with at the moment, nationally, or within each embers jurisdiction, and how I can learn more about them so I can write informative entries on my blog.
Feel free to pass this on to Mr. Blumenauer, and anyone else on his staff who might be interested.
As of this morning there has been no response to this letter.
September 29, 2005
Congressman Earl Blumenauer Responds to Letter
This morning I received the following response, to my letter, from the Office of Congressman Earl Blumenauer, of Oregon, who is the head of the Congressional Bicycle Caucus:
September 29, 2005
Mr. Kiril Kundurazieff
Santa Ana, CA.
Dear Mr. Kundurazieff:
Thank you for contacting me about Hurricane Katrina and FEMA's efforts to
respond. I too am deeply concerned by the administration's
well-publicized flawed performance. Our response to this disaster has
itself been a disaster and we must make sure that those responsible are
held accountable. What is frustrating for me is not just that this was so
inevitable, but that steps could have been taken to moderate the losses. I
truly believe that thousands of people were killed, injured, or lost their
homes unnecessarily. I am an original co-sponsor of legislation to create
an independent commission -- modeled on the successful 9/11 Commission --
to investigate what went wrong in the Katrina response in order to ensure
it does not happen again.
I believe that many of FEMA's problems started when it became part of the
Department of Homeland Security. I voted against creating this department
in part because I was afraid that FEMA would get lost in this vast
bureaucracy. I was pleased that Mike Brown stepped down as head of FEMA,
and I am working to make sure that FEMA is reformed so that it is headed
up by a professional who reports directly to the President.
We need to learn from our past mistakes and ensure that our recovery and
reconstruction efforts on the Gulf Coast do not put people back in harm's
way. Wherever possible, we need to employ natural solutions to protect
people, such as restoring natural floodplains and wetlands. This was the
goal of the Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2004, which I co-authored with
Congressman Doug Bereuter (R-NE), and which the President signed into law
in the summer of 2004. I have also introduced the "Safe Communities Act"
with my colleague Congressman Curt Weldon (R-PA) to help communities
prepare for disasters.
Thanks again for sharing your views on this important issue. The
government's role in preparing for and responding to natural disasters is
something I have been working on for the past three decades, and you can
be sure that I will continue to make it a focus of my work here in
Member of Congress
An apparent Form Letter sent, by his office, to anyone who wrote him about Katrina for any reason at all.
"I'm Mad at FEMA, and I'm NOT Gonna Take it Anymore!"
Pure politics, probably sent out by every politician in the country in one form or another, to cover his/her Ass, and, though interesting, and informative, very disappointing, considering the subject of my letter, was part of ongoing coverage of the aftermath of Katrina, with a focus on Cycling, and the fact it had absolutely nothing to do with FEMA.
However, all may not be lost...
I ALSO got the following e-mail, from his Webmaster, that is a bit more enlightening, and indicates that the Congressman may actually have been made aware of my letter, and possibly may have even read it, even if he didn't follow the links provided to explore this blog further:
How's it going?
I am Congressman Blumenauer's webmaster, and he wanted me to drop a note to thank you for your work, and to let you know that unfortunately House ethics rules prohibit us from linking to blogs from our Congressional website (versus a campaign/political website).
Thanks, again, though.
Ernesto Omar Falcón
Office Technology Manager
Office of Congressman Earl Blumenauer
That is a good start. ;-D
Encouraging enough that, now that I have an actual e-mail, attached to a real person, I may be able to finally make the Congressman aware of my thoughts about the Bike Caucus, its membership make-up, and its website, and get some serious responses related to Bicycling issues.
Now that my life has settled down I think it's time to write more on the Caucus, and its efforts. ;-D
March 24, 2005
2004 Blumenauer speech responsible for Caucus membership growth
I was wondering about the increase in membership of the Bicycle Caucus over the past year, and so went back to the website, and discovered a March 2004 Floor Speech given by Rep. Earl Blumenauer that no doubt played a small part in eventually getting some of his colleagues off their behinds.
He began by urging his fellows to take note of the many volunteers then in the Capitol for a big event who have an interest in Cycling.
These are people from all over the country, small businesspeople, community activists, all here with a message of how activity dealing with cycling in America can make our communities healthier, cycling can be a dramatic opportunity for economic development for thousands of small businesses, and it is, after all, the most efficient form of urban transportation ever devised.
He went on to urge his fellows to join the Caucus, in order to...
support robust transportation funding that includes things like safe routes to school and enhancements; and integrate cycling into your life and your community.
Must have worked.
Membership sure did rise, and the number of states without Caucus representation decreased.
Developing 2005 Congressional Highway Bill good for Cyclists
The Congress of the United States is putting together a major Highway Bill that will have much to recommend it for bicycling, and bicyclists in its legislation.
The shorthand name is the highway bill, but the most important public works legislation Congress will consider this year has more than $50 billion to help people get around out of their cars.
The thousands of off-road projects range from more than $400 million for a Los Angeles subway extension to $150,000 for a historic bike path in Pascagoula, Mississippi, hometown of Republican Sen. Trent Lott, the former majority leader.
The House has passed, and the Senate is going to debate this $284 Billion Surface Transportation Bill that covers projects for the next 6 years.
I found this bit of trivia interesting:
Nearly half the transit money in the 800-page House bill is allotted by complicated formulas to urban area transit departments. But $2 billion over the six years also is set aside for rural areas.
While public transit ridership from 1996 to 2002 rose 21 percent to 9.6 billion passenger trips a year, 40 percent of the nation's counties still have no public transportation.
I would have guessed closer to 50 percent.
One pilot program to link bus and train stations to bicycle and pedestrian roads gets $28 million.
Now, there's an idea!
In case you are still wondering why I have a link to the Congressional Bicycle Caucus, and am beginning to write about its members, and activities, there is this:
Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Oregon, head of the congressional bike caucus, said he's excited about a new safe-routes-to-school provision that will enable younger children to bike or walk to school.
A generation ago most kids walked or biked to school, but now about 90 percent either take the bus or are driven by parents. At a time when child obesity is of growing concern, the $875 million program "has the potential of transforming the daily routine of our youngsters," he said.
Blumenauer's office located some 158 bicycle and pedestrian projects in the House bill worth $242 million. "This is probably going to be probably the best bicycle bill in history," Blumenauer said.
Go team! :-)
Thanks to Gene, of Bikin' Bis, for the heads-up on this story.
*** AFTERNOON UPDATE***
The current version of TEA-21 can be downloaded here.
Gene, of Bikin' Bis', did some searching this morning and came up with a representative sampling of what's in the bill for cyclists:
San Diego River bike path -- $500,000
Improve bicycle sidewalks, Miramar, Fla., -- $600,000
Wading River bicycle project, Riverhead, NY -- $1.2 million
Buy rights of way for bike path, Aurora, Ohio -- $500,000
Central Iowa Bike Trail, Ankeny to Woodward, Iowa -- $1 million
Bike boardwalks at Pismo Beach, Calif. -- $300,000
Rahway River Corridor Greenway bike path, NJ -- $1.5 million
Bike path, Petal, Miss. -- $200,000
Citywide bike path network, Evanston, Ind. -- $250,000
Bike trail, Smyrna, Tenn. -- $3 million
Regional bike routes on highways in Austin, Texas -- $1 million
Bike trail, Cookeville, Tenn. -- $2.5 million
Upgrade bike corridors, Solano County, Calif. -- $3 million
Bike path, Portage, Wisc. -- $2.2 million
Route 11 extension and bike path from Salem to Waterford, Conn. -- $16 million
Bike bridge between San Leandro and Oakland, Calif. -- $750,000
12 miles of Palmetto Trail Project, S.C. -- $1 million
Bike Trail at I-95 interchange, Lake County, Ohio -- $2.5 million
Bike trail, Gallatin, Tenn. -- $665,000
East Coast Greenway bike path, New Brunswick to Hudson River, N.J. -- $1 million
Bicycle bridge, Stillwater River, Maine -- $1 million
Reconstruct Neal Smith Trail, Iowa -- $3.5 million
Six-mile bike path, Mahoning County, Ohio -- $500,000
Bike overpass, Phoenix -- $3 million
Bike trail network, eastern Austin, Texas -- $9.6 million
Bike path, Madison, Wisc. -- $3.5 million
Bike path, Wisconsin Dells -- $2 million
Cayuga Waterfront Trail, Ithaca, N.Y. -- $1.2 million
Bike trail, Murfreesboro, Tenn. -- $9 million
Bike path, ferry landing, Brooklyn -- $10 million
Bike and transit facilities, Rockwood, Ore. -- $3 million
Bike bridge, Wayne, Ill. -- $1.2 million
Historic bike path, Pascagoula, Miss. -- $150,000
Scenic bicycle path, Niagara County, NY -- $2.3 million
Penobscot Riverfront Development, Maine -- $2 million
Bike trails, North Delaware riverfront, Penn. -- $10 million
Waunakee to Westport bike path, Wisc. -- $2 million
Bike path and bike bridges, Madison, Wisc. -- $2 million
Bike path, Chula Vista, Calif. -- $300,000
Bike path, New River, Calexico, Calif. -- $5 million
Acquire rail corridors for bike paths, Durham, N.C. -- $2 million
Extend bike trails, Aberdeen, N.D. -- $800,000
Bike improvements in Georgetown and Middletown, Ill. -- $6 million.
I agree with Gene that there's a lot in the bill for bicyclists, and now let's see if the Senate lets this through intact.
March 22, 2005
Bicycle Caucus members by State and Party
At this time last year there were 87 Democrats, 1 Independent, and 35 Republicans, from the 108th Congress, in the Congressional Bicycle Caucus.
It was interesting to sort the numbers, State by State, for a closer look at the membership.
12 States had NO MEMBERS.
A lot has changed in a year so I'm here to share the new numbers.
The current make-up of the Caucus is quite interesting:
118 Democrats ( Earl Blumenauer, of Oregon, Co-Chair )
45 Republicans ( Sue Kelly, of New York, Co-Chair )
1 Independent ( Bernie Sanders, of Vermont )
Members represent ONLY 43 states, and the District of Columbia.
7 states are NOT represented.
Is YOURS one of them?
ALABAMA: 1 Democrat, 1 Republican.
ALASKA: NO Members.
ARIZONA: 2 Democrats, 1 Republican.
ARKANSAS: 2 Democrat, 0 Republicans.
CALIFORNIA: 24 Democrats, 2 Republicans.
COLORADO: 1 Democrat, 1 Republican.
CONNECTICUT: 1 Democrat, 1 Republican.
DELAWARE: NO Members.
FLORIDA: 2 Democrats, 3 Republicans.
GEORGIA: 3 Democrat, 1 Republican.
HAWAII: 2 Democrats, 0 Republicans.
IDAHO: NO Members.
ILLINOIS: 4 Democrats, 4 Republicans.
INDIANA: 2 Democrat, 1 Republicans.
IOWA: NO Members.
KANSAS: 0 Democrats, 1 Republican.
KENTUCKY: 1 Democrat, 1 Republican.
LOUISIANA: NO Members.
MAINE: 2 Democrats, 0 Republicans.
MARYLAND: 4 Democrats, 1 Republican.
MASSACHUSETTS: 7 Democrats, 0 Republicans.
MICHIGAN: 2 Democrats, 1 Republican.
MINNESOTA: 3 Democrats, 1 Republican.
MISSISSIPPI: NO Members.
MISSOURI: 0 Democrats, 1 Republican.
MONTANA: 0 Democrats, 1 Republican.
NEBRASKA: NO Members.
NEVADA: 1 Democrat, 0 Republicans.
NEW HAMPSHIRE: 0 Democrats, 1 Republican.
NEW JERSEY: 4 Democrats, 0 Republicans.
NEW MEXICO: 2 Democrat, 0 Republicans.
NEW YORK: 8 Democrats, 3 Republicans.
NORTH CAROLINA: 1 Democrats, 1 Republican.
NORTH DAKOTA: 1 Democrat, 0 Republicans.
OHIO: 3 Democrats, 2 Republicans.
OKLAHOMA: 1 Democrat, 0 Republicans.
OREGON: 4 Democrats, 1 Republican.
PENNSYLVANIA: 2 Democrats, 3 Republicans.
RHODE ISLAND: 1 Democrat, 0 Republicans.
SOUTH CAROLINA: 1 Democrats, 2 Republicans.
SOUTH DAKOTA: 1 Democrat, 0 Republicans.
TENNESSEE: 3 Democrat, 1 Republican.
TEXAS: 8 Democrats, 2 Republican.
UTAH: 1 Democrats, 1 Republican.
VERMONT: 1 Independent.
VIRGINIA: 2 Democrats, 2 Republicans.
WASHINGTON: 4 Democrats, 1 Republican.
WASHINGTON, D.C.: 1 Democrat, 0 Republicans.
WEST VIRGINIA: 1 Democrat, 0 Republican.
WISCONSIN: 3 Democrats, 3 Republicans.
WYOMING: 0 Democrats, 1 Republican.
March 09, 2005
Congressional Bicycle Caucus: Introduction
How many ordinary bicyclists are even aware that there is such a thing as the Congressional Bicycle Caucus among the members of the United States House of Representatives.
How many even think their Representatives even know HOW to ride a bike at all? :-)
How many Senators do? :-)
Well, I'm here to begin to shed some light on these folks, and try to keep an eye on what they are doing for bicyclists.
Let's begin by introducing you to the Caucus, and its mission.
Congressman Earl Blumenauer (3rd District- Oregon) is founder, and leader, of the pack, and his website hosts the HQ page for the Caucus.
There are 2 things of importance there that shed light on the group.
The 1st is a brief bit of history:
When he was Elected to Congress, in 1996, Bluemenauer, who worked closely with Portland activists, in his previous job, noticed the Capital was a nice place to bike ride.
This, and his apparent realization that cyclists are some of the most determined, most dedicated, and most fun people around, led to the development of the House Bike Caucus.
He began working with Representatives Oberstar, DeFazio and Kennedy, whose Chain Gang successfully moved cycling onto the national agenda in 1991, to develope the Causus.
According to their website, The Bike Caucus was
conceived as an informal, bipartisan group whose primary goal would be to provide a place for cycling Members of Congress and their staffs to have fun. We also wanted to provide Congressional leadership to complement the efforts of the millions of cyclists working for safer roads, more bikeways, convenient bike parking and increased recognition of the importance of cycling to our communities.
On the website is a Mission Statement:
Members of the Bike Caucus Believe:
It is in the national interest to promote low-cost, low-impact transportation modes which decrease our reliance on imported fossil fuels;
It is in the national interest to insure that our national infrastructure provides safe, appropriate transportation options for all citizens;and
Cycling as a mode of transportation requires no fossil fuels, has no impact on air quality, creates less wear and tear on roads, and is more affordable than automated vehicles.
The Bike Caucus has been formed to promote cycling as an inexpensive, non-polluting, healthy and fun mode of transportation for all kinds of trips through:
Briefings for Members of the House of Representatives and their staff;
Educational and recreational rides for Members of the House of Representatives and their staff; and
The devil, however, is in the details, and results.
I imagine there are a lot of state, and national advocacy organizations that keep an eye on Congress, and it will be interesting to learn what is actually happening, legislatively with regards to Bicycling Issues.
The site no longer has info on group activities from 1999-2002 ( I couldn't find the info, anyway ). When the website was re-designed some things were apparently thought un-important when deciding what should stay.
Too bad as this was what impressed me in the 1st place
The section has NO list of informational bicycling links.
I have no staff, and a non-existent to tiny available budget for my riding activities, and look how many links I'VE found searching my computer.
The Caucus has had how many years of a headstart on me?:-)
There is a link to a Transportation and Bicycling page:
On this page you will find related Floor Speeches, and Press Releases, to other related Caucuses in Congress.
The best thing about the site is that it has a list of Caucus members so you can see from which state each is from, and what political party they are.
To see the list of current members go to the site:
The Numbers: Bicycle Caucus members by State and Party.
I 1st wrote about the caucus a year ago, and now is the time, as this site has grown, to begin looking closer at their activities.
One has to wonder, though, what the fate of the caucus will be when its leaders are no longer in Congress.