Tuesday, January 13, 2009

A great piece from the NY Times about a great guy

Here's a terrfic piece about Earl Blumenauer (Dem -OR), the foremost bike advocate in the US House of Representatives. He's from Portland, he's a born leader and he's been leading the government toward appreciation of the bicycle as a remedy for...you name it. We knew that but congress evidently did not.

1 comment:

Khal said...

I take great joy in that article. I have been doing this advocacy gig since the early nineties when bicycling advocacy in Honolulu meant confronting not only the motorists and the city, but, joining forces with a like-thinking gang of subversives, butting heads with the statewide Hawaii Bicycling League leadership as well. Of course, the subversives eventually became the League leadership. Like then, this is a joyous time.

I took offense to the usual crap in the Times piece about "bike rage" near the end of the article. Pandering? The comment on cyclists who "hog narrow roads" usually translates to cycling advocates and League Cycling Instructors such as myself as "taking the lane". Was the Times simply prejudiced?

But the final two comments in the story pulled it back to our side.

So ignore the "bike rage" crap. Nothing ever gets done without growing pains. We have to remember that we are after all the same people--whether in cars, motorcycles, or on bikes. One will never expect a nation of cyclists to somehow transcend all of our bad attitudes by hopping on a bike since we come to the car or the bike with whatever bad karma we are carrying around. That cycling is an experience that makes one holier than thou is an idyllic thought of which we advocates have to disabuse ourselves. I see people behaving like A-holes on bikes routinely. Occasionally its even that guy in the mirror.

The good news is that it is a lot harder to wipe out an entire family by cycling while intoxicated or cycling on the cell phone, and its tougher to put on a road rage act and kill someone if you are on a twenty pound bike. Its tougher to melt all that polar ice when riding to work on a bike. We have a smaller footprint, so when our cycling brethren screw up, its a smaller mess to clean. I think that is a good form of Hazard Reduction, as we say in nuke-safety-speak, and it should be encouraged by the good Congressman.

Putting on my cycling-religious garb, I actually believe that being on a bike eventually cures you, one way or the other, of the worst of one's bad karma. One is, after all, more vulnerable (or more rapidly reduced to road kill) on a Cannondale than in a Hummer. One actually sees the world rather than being trapped in a cage. I think that change in mentality sinks in to some degree.

This past summer, I asked some guy riding in to work here in town why he wasn't wearing a helmet or stopping at intersections after I saw him blow through a stop sign with his head down. His first reaction was to want to wrap my bike around my skull. He was actually already having a bad day before I stopped him, as I eventually discovered. But as two people standing there face to face rather than car to car, the tension ramped down pretty fast. That was fortunate. He was a big motha...what I learned as well, since we were not in separate cages, was that the message and the decency of the delivery are equally important.