It’s Time to End the Politicization of Cycling

For some reason, cycling has become politicized. If you ride a bike or are in favor of making your community more bike and pedestrian friendly, people assume you must be some kind of a liberal freak.

Far from the truth.

Though there is some conjecture about how this came to be – perhaps it’s because the original ISTEA  bill funding bike accommodations was sponsored by Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan in 1991?   Who knows.

Either way, to the chagrin of many,  making communities bicycle friendly  has become fodder for the political parties rather than an intelligent discussion in the investment for our countries future and the health and dare I say welfare of our citizens.

Next time you have a conversation with a conservative about why the country needs to make these changes, show them this article about the king of conservatives and founder of the National Review, William F. Buckley 

Yes, Buckley,  captain of conservatism,  was calling for New York to become more bike friendly when he ran for mayor in 1965!    Buckley even spoke of elevated bike ways.  He envisioned residents cycling to work and for exercise.

Fast forward to 2011, and  unabashed conservative and bike commuter, Tom Bowden  waves the Buckley-esque  banner proudly.

This author  feels that it’s time for all of us – including our elected officials – to take a step back and consider some of the challenges facing our communities, state and country: an out of control  health care system;  rising energy costs;  a crumbling highway infrastructure.

It’s time for leaders from both parties to engage in some critical thinking  about ways we can intelligently and  inexpensively make changes to address these issues.  Namely invest in  a safe bike and ped infrastructure.Giving people the option to safely walk or bike to work, school, go shopping  or even getting some exercise  isn’t about red or blue, liberal or conservative: it’s about doing what’s right for the country and our citizens.  And compared to building more highways, it’s an incredibly cheap investment.

Let’s cut the rhetoric and demand that our elected officials to sit down  together to create a transportation system that will work for the next hundred years and make America stronger in many ways.  I’m tired of the mean spirited political talk and feel it’s time our government makes it safe for citizens to leave their cars and find alternative ways to get around in their communities. 

Whether you read the Wall Street Journal or prefer perusing  Mother Jones, biking and walking is good for our country and good for our citizens no matter your political bent. 

It’s time our politicians hear the call and make these changes starting now.

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6 comments… add one
  • I’m not sure that citing Buckley is the way to convince anyone that this is a cause open to conservatives. He’s a heretic by modern standard; someone like Frum who greatly admired him is pretty much an apostate.

  • Way to politicize it Don. Way to go.

  • Oh, you mean like the way the VBF introduced the Buckley piece on the FB page?

    “You don’t need to eat granola to ride a bike: conservatives like cycling too.”


  • Could you provide more examples of the kind of partisan bike-bashing you are criticizing? I see a lot of bipartisan support for bicycling. Transportation Enhancements gets bi-partisan support when Sen Coburn and others try to kill it every few years. I just don’t really see party politics being as much of a problem as status quo transportation planning and voter pressure to improve “traffic flow.”

  • Are you kidding me? The attacks by Sen. Coburn and his ilk are exactly what Champe is talking about. It’s playing to the average person’s fear of change, and lack of knowledge about costs, both monetary and societal.

    We’ve seen pro- biking and walking bills sponsored by Republicans, only to have their sponsors turn against them in a last minute flurry of brown-nosing to the Speaker.

    Why does this happen? Political staffers do a quick scan of the mediaverse, and see biking and walking mixed in with transit, global warming, using less oil, keeping yourself healthy, and other things you should do but don’t. They assume we’re a “liberal” cause. So “conservatives” must be against it.

    Since we’re hardly on anyone’s radar to begin with, they decide we’re politically dispensable. They don’t care about offending us if it helps them score points with their base.

    This is not always a classically liberal vs. conservative, D vs. R battle. Look what Jerry Brown just did in California, in vetoing three-feet-to-pass — ostensibly to please the CHP and AAA, but who knows what web of alliances he might be wrapped up in.

    We can expect to be kicked around like this until we’re seen as a constituency to be reckoned with.

    And to do that we need to pull our heads out of the yuppie liberal echo chamber.

  • I bike to work in DC from NOVA and am *gasp* an R. I think the reason many people think we’re all liberals is because the vocal ones among us go on about saving the environment making exercise and cost factors way down their list. When I’m asked the answer is, I hate paying WMATA $7 a day, I hate paying $10 a day to park and $2-3 a day in gas and I could sure use the exercise (aka, I prefer cycling to running) so why wouldn’t I ride to work? Plus traffic blows and half the time I can beat my s/o back to our place despite leaving 15 minutes later.

    However, I don’t vote based on bicycling issues because I find myself disagreeing with some fellow cyclists (namely, who the hell wants to ride on the GW Parkway?!?!). All I want is the MVT maintained, DC bridge bike lanes maintained and a few bike lanes in the city, which they have now. Unlike most bikers, I try to avoid riding on the street because I find there are tons of retarded drivers out there and trusting their retarded decision-making in a car versus in a bike is a big difference. I’ll just take the brief sidewalk detour and go slow.

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