Posted on November 6, 2014
by Dave Cieslewicz, Executive Director
Source: Wisconsin Bike Federation
The Democrats took a beating on Tuesday at every level from the U.S. Senate to governor’s races right down to state legislatures.
Here in Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker was reelected and the Republicans expanded their majorities in the state Senate and Assembly. They now hold a 19-14 majority in the Senate and a whopping 63-36 majority in the Assembly.
What implications does all this have for our work? Well, to be blunt the Republicans are generally harder for us to work with. They tend to have more caucus members who just don’t like cyclists from a cultural perspective. Last session Governor Walker cut funding for bicycle projects, but on the other hand it was Republican legislators who restored some of it. Unfortunately, one of our best Republican allies in that fight, Sen. Mike Ellis of Neenah, retired.
So, we have our work cut out for us. But there’s no reason cycling should be a partisan issues and we know from personal conversations that many of our Bike Fed members vote Republican. Besides, bicycling is big business in our state. Cycling is a nearly $2 billion industry, accounts for 14,000 jobs in Wisconsin and make our state more competitive with our neighbors. Millions of Wisconsinites are at least casual cyclists.
So our response to the election will be threefold.
First, work harder than ever to get the word out about cycling’s benefits to our economy, to tourism and to public health.
Second, build relationships with legislators at the local level. That’s where you come in. Anything you can do to contact your legislators, meet with them, even get them out for a bike ride would be crucial. We’re happy to assist you in making that happen. Just email me.
Third, the Bike Fed must work even harder at the local level. Cities, villages, towns and counties are making great progress on biking issues. They tend not to get caught up in the ideological debates at the state level. Local officials are practical. They just want to get things done. So, we can help them write bike plans, bolster them with information and encouragement and support local advocates on the front lines.
Our job at the Bike Fed is to work with the political players we’re dealt and that’s exactly what we’re going to do.
What is in store for bicycling given the overwhelming victory for conservative Republicans?
The answer depends on what you have to offer. The Cycling Community has over-played their hand in many ways. Being brash and arrogant is the least of our sins.
Now comes the time to find out just what it is we have to offer. We have made ‘baby-steps‘ when it comes to attempting to sound like Capitalists.
We have even learned to couch our requests for bike lanes in language that suggests that small businesses flourish where bike lanes are present.
But this crowd of Conservatives is unlikely to take well to ‘spin‘.
My first suggestion would be to learn ‘chapter and verse‘ the details of the Governors Highway Safety Report. You are going to need more than petulant bluster to counteract the damage done by that single report.
Telling bureaucrats in either party that it is ‘victim blaming‘ to point out that more people on bikes are dying when they are:
- Failing to wear their helmets
- Operating their bikes ‘under the influence‘
is in my estimation a non-starter. We have been haranguing motorists for years about the dangers of operating SmartPhone while driving. Cyclists of course applauded the effort. Now they have suddenly gotten cold feet when the people being warned about ‘bad behavior‘ are cyclists.
And we seem puzzled when we ponder the criticisms of bicyclists are elitists? Go figure.
We Need To Be Unafraid of Self-Examination
Lose the attitude! We need to study the actions and behaviors of the Tea Party. We really do act and think as they do. If we fail to do this we will be doomed to making the same sorts of mistakes that left them vulnerable. But more important we need to understand that the negotiations between the Mainstream GOP and the Tea Party are a template to understand and master.
The single biggest problem that the Cycling Movement and the Tea Party have is their ‘unwillingness to compromise‘. Both treat the concept as if it were some sort of unnatural act between siblings. It is not and has always been the cornerstone of a Democracy like ours.
Both groups have a complex that leads them to disdain any approach other than the one they have settled on. The Cycling Movement has decided that ‘on street bike lanes‘ are the only really legitimate evidence of the commitment of America to changing its transportation landscape. And it has made clear in one way or another to everyone but themselves that they have a stance that suggests a ‘War On Cars‘.
We are at a juncture not unlike that which faces the police in Ferguson, MO.
It does not matter what the reality is, perception is everything.
No amount of contrived concern for pedestrians at this late date is going to convince anyone that cyclists care about anybody but themselves. The journalistic community is in many ways reflecting the growing understanding that ‘bicycle are often piloted by bullies‘. The deaths in Central Park will be seen as a watershed moment decades from now.
We have made it clear that treating automobiles and cars as if they are indeed the deadly forms of transportation that they can be is paramount.
But the real kicker is that automobiles have technological advances on their side. They hold the promise of a safer future than anything bicycles can offer. That is something that nothing from the StreetsBlog crowd by way of ‘spin‘ can easily overcome. We are now indelibly marked as dangerous vehicles with incompetent or drunk pilots. For better or worse we have to be willing to deal with that new reality. We have only ourselves to blame.