What Obama reelection means for cycling in the US

Bipartisan efforts still needed for continued support of bicycling

On Tuesday US President Barack Obama was reelected to a second term, and he will likely have to address a number of issues even before his January 20 inauguration. With the Democrats controlling the Senate and the Republicans controlling the House of Representatives it is likely that Mr. Obama will face gridlock, one that could even have an effect on bicycling.

But not in the short term.

“The first thing to point out is that a two-year transportation bill with funding is in place,” said Tim Blumenthal, president of the advocacy group Bikes Belong. “This bill goes through the end of September 2014. That isn’t going to be affected much by the election.”

So in essence the money for cycling initiatives is set by this bill. But what about after September 2014?

“With Obama’s reelection we believe that Ray LaHood will stay on as Secretary of Transportation,” Blumenthal told BikeRadar. “That would be good if the stays on. He’s been a good spokesperson for federal investment of bicycling. And he’s done a lot to set up programs including that add to the bicycle infrastructure throughout the country. That has been very good for bicycling.”

The President of the United States of course actually has little to do with bicycling directly of course, and even former President George W. Bush, an avid cyclist in his own right, seldom talked about the matter in any official capacity.

But the President instead leaves that to the Secretary of Transportation.

"Obama won't be more active in supporting, or even vocal about bicycling," said Blumenthal, "but the reason is that when LaHood acts

it is with the support of the President."

LaHood is also a rare example of bi-partisan support in Washington, D.C., a Republican politician from Illinois who crossed the aisle to support Obama in 2008.

A greater concern isn’t what comes from the White House but rather from the capitol building.

“The fiscal cliff question that the government is facing right now is a major concern,” Blumenthal added. That could be something that could affect bicycling, at least indirectly.

Although Obama's blessing should help cycling in the US, Transportation leaders will be the ones making funding decisions

Both Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) and Rep. Thomas Petri (R-Wis.), the co-chairs of the Congressional Bike Caucus were re-elected on Tuesday, once again suggesting that bicycling is a bi-partisan affair. However, there were some other changes that will be watched closely by cycling advocates.

“There are going to be shakeups in committee leadership,” said Blumenthal. “(Rep.) Bill Schuster (R-Penn.) will replace (Rep.) John Mica (R-Flo.) as head of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. That is too early to say what that will mean for bicycling.”

But Blumenthal stressed what the goals will be for groups such as Bikes Belong over the course of the next two years – until the mid-term elections – and beyond. “At the very least we have some work to do to convince Schuster that bicycling is a cost effective investment for the federal government.”

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