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Blumenauer: When Bicyclists Talk, Congress Listens #NBS12

If you think your calls and emails to members of Congress fall on deaf ears, Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) would like to set the record straight. The co-chair of the Congressional Bike Caucus kicked off the opening session at the Summit this morning with an empowering, promising message: When bicyclists talk, Congress listens.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (Credit: Chris Eichler)

Along with Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood (read about his remarks here), Blumenauer was joined by a bi-partisan group of cycling leaders: Rep. Tom Petri (R-WI), Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD), and Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR). They all agreed that the support of advocates has been — and will be — crucial in passing a transportation bill that continues to move the country forward, instead of sliding back.

Before he was a Congress member, Blumenauer worked to create the infrastructure and local policies that turned Portland into America’s leading cycling city. “But I came to Congress with a little different goal: Working with you to make cycling a political movement,” he said.

“We’ve taken these issues to members of Congress in way they hopefully understand, and worked with you in making these messages louder and more direct,” he said. “We’ve gone after some of the people who have chosen to attack cycling  — and we’ve gotten their attention.”

Especially in the past few months.

“You being part of this political cycling movement made a huge difference last month,” he said. “We were faced with what [Transportation] Secretary [Ray LaHood] described as the worst transportation bill in history. It was an outrage. It wasn’t just attacking cycling, but would throw out Safe Routes to School, the transit guarantee and was backed by arguably the most powerful person on Capitol Hill — the House Speaker John Boehner — Republican leadership and the committee.”

“But you were part of a coalition that stopped it dead in it’s tracks.”

Thanks to advocates, thousands of calls and emails flooded Capitol Hill. Blumenauer was able to share with his House colleagues a letter signed by 600 diverse organizations, from Bikes Belong to the U.S. Chamber of Congress. “It pointed out how far out of touch they were and how wrong the policy was,” he said.

And it worked.

“Before it could be taken to the floor,” Blumenauer said emphatically, “it crumbled.”

Moving forward, Congressional leaders like Blumenauer, Edwards, Petri and DeFazio spoke of their commitment to fight for a bill that preserves important programs for biking and walking.

Congressman Petri on the link between infrastructure and economic growth: “We all know our nation needs first-rate infrastructure to support a first-rate economy. That means we need to invest in various modes in an adequate way — and we’re really not doing that now… If we continue to under-invest, we’ll see the growth of the economy stagnate and we won’t leave the next generation with the opportunities we have. It’s my firm belief that we should be working to achieve the highest common denominator, to meet the variety of needs in our communities, not the lowest.”

Congresswoman Edwards on cycling for transportation: “I became a cyclist not by choice. It was because I had to; I didn’t have a car. I had a three-year-old I needed to get to daycare and I needed to get to work. So I would strap him on back of my bike and ride to daycare, and then ride to the bus stop and call the metro system to tell them I needed to put my bike on back of the bus. I did that every single day. Even then, I didn’t describe myself as a cyclist. I needed transportation to get to work… I think the work you’re doing today, the advocacy you’re doing today will help so many more members of Congress understand that, sure, we have fun riding a bike, but, for so many of us, it’s about transportation. It’s about quality of life.”

Congressman DeFazio on advocates’ ask to Congress: “Tell them, yes, in the United States of America we can afford to build a 21-Century transportation system that’s less congested, more energy efficient and includes alternatives that get people out of their cars… Go up there with a passion because this is a fight. This is a fight like we haven’t seen before and we can’t lose.”


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