03 June 2023

The ‘Bike Man’ in Washington

 Earl Blumenauer has done, possibly, more than any other politician to encourage cycling in the United States. Representing a district around Portland, Oregon (where else?) since 1996, he is responsible for, among other things, the bike lane on Pennsylvania Avenue—the location of the White House.

His wins include gaining tax benefits for bicycles commuters. On the other hand, a bill that would have provided subsidies for eBikes was yanked from the Inflation Reduction Act at the last minute.

In his interview with David Zipper, Blumenauer revealed that the loss (which he regards as temporary)of the eBike subsidies was a result of lobbyists.  

What we in the cycling community often forget is that the largest companies in the bicycle industry are minnows next to the whales and sharks of other industries.  Some of those corporations, particularly in the energy, automotive and tech industries, provide financial and other support to alternative-energy sources and electric cars.  Of course those corporations are acting in self-interest or, more precisely, their stockholders’ demands.  

Perhaps they see the current boom in bikes and eBikes in the same way as the ‘70’s Bike Boom.  But, as Blumenauer points out that “Boom” was really just a fad that petered out in part because no meaningful policies came from it.

Perhaps one day soon investors in alternative energy and electric cars will see that those enterprises are related to bicycles and eBikes—and Representative Blumenauer will once again be vindicated.

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