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November 15th, 2006 Jake Thomas | News Stories
 

Congressional Cycle

Democratic control of Congress could help local bikers.

     
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While the Democratic takeover of Congress this election will undoubtedly alter the country's political path on major policy questions like Iraq, it could also benefit a vocal community closer to home: bicyclists.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), who's worked to export Portland's "livability" nationwide, won't be pedaling uphill next year when he's pitching his bike-friendly agenda to a House controlled for the first time in his decadelong tenure by fellow Democrats.

Blumenauer first sponsored the Bike Commuter Act in 2001. It gives employers the option of offering employees a non-taxable cash incentive for cycling to work.

As a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, the Portland lawmaker thinks the act could pass in 2007 after long being ignored by a Republican Congress.

"I have high hopes for the Bike Commuter Act and other pro-cycling legislation to receive favorable treatment in the next Congress," says Blumenauer, co-founder of the bipartisan Congressional Bicycle Caucus, whose 164 members include the entire Oregon House delegation and presumptive House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee's chairman-to-be, Rep. Jim Oberstar (D-Minn.), is another co-founder of the bike caucus sympathetic to cyclists. In a speech to the 2005 National Bike Summit in Washington, D.C., Oberstar said we "have the chance to change the habits of an entire generation" with more focus on bicycling.

"We're very optimistic about having Jim Oberstar as chair,'' says Evan Manvel, executive director of the local Bicycle Transportation Alliance.

About 3 to 4 percent of Portlanders commute on bicycles, according to Manvel, which ranks the city first nationally in the category of large cities.

Besides Blumenauer, the transportation and infrastructure committee also is slated to include Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), a cycling fan who could become chairman of the pivotal Highway and Transit Subcommittee.

 
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