Congressman Ridicules Bikes as “19th Century Solution”

Congressman Patrick McHenry standing with an automobile,
which, as it happens, was also invented in the 19th century.

The US House of Representatives approved an energy conservation bill on Saturday that includes, among other things, a tax break of $20 per month for bike commuters, which would take effect at the beginning of next year.

The vote on HR 2776 was largely split along party lines, and was preceded by inspired testimony from Congressman Patrick McHenry, a Republican representing the 10th District in my home state of North Carolina.

Here’s McHenry, as quoted in the Congressional Record:

"A major component of the Democrats’ energy legislation and the Democrats’ answer to our energy crisis is, hold on, wait one minute, wait one minute, it is promoting the use of the bicycle.

Oh, I cannot make this stuff up. Yes, the American people have heard this. Their answer to our fuel crisis, the crisis at the pumps, is: Ride a bike.

Democrats believe that using taxpayer funds in this bill to the tune of $1 million a year should be devoted to the principle of: "Save energy, ride a bike.” Some might argue that depending on bicycles to solve our energy crisis is naive, perhaps ridiculous. Some might even say Congress should use this energy legislation to create new energy, bring new nuclear power plants on line, use clean coal technology, energy exploration, but no, no. They want to tell the American people, stop driving, ride a bike. This is absolutely amazing.

Apparently, the Democrats believe that the miracle on two wheels that we know as a bicycle will end our dependence on foreign oil. I cannot make this stuff up. It is absolutely amazing.

Ladies and gentlemen, I bring you the Democrats, promoting 19th century solutions to 21st century problems. If you don’t like it, ride a bike. If you don’t like the price at the pumps, ride a bike.

Stay tuned for the next big idea for the Democrats: Improving energy efficiency by the horse and buggy."

So proud is McHenry of his witty remarks that he posted the video on his web page.

Like the man said: You cannot make this stuff up.

Photo: Congressman Patrick McHenry’s web site

  • Joe

    Here’s a NC zip+4 that should work so you can comment on his site:

  • Nascar was created in North Carolina

    He voted for Freedom Fries too.

  • Environmental Defense NEEDS us driving our cars.

    Where do you think they get their money?

    Environmental Defense pretty much wrote the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006.

    They are not into supporting a reduction in cars. They are supporting new hidden taxes on the cars in the form of “low-carbon” fuel blend. They support large “global warming” sales-taxes on larger vehicles.

    They are working to get taxes from cars to fund their NGO operations of planting trees in Africa.

    Congestion Pricing is not designed to go to Environmental Defense.

    Low-Carbon fuel “standard” is.

  • blake

    what’s so conservative about fighting a tax cut? down with stupid big government!

  • Matt P

    Someone on another board I’m on commented on the fact that McHenry wears glasses and that McHenry doesn’t seem to think that glasses are unacceptable despite the fact that they were invented in the 14th century and we have more modern miracles such as contact lenses and laser surgery.

  • Mitch

    Re 44: I wouldn’t say this tax break favors the sunbelt. A lot of places in the South are “too damn hot” and humid to do much biking, at least in mid-day, in the summer, and the roads (and drivers) don’t leave much room for bikes.

    On the other hand, a lot of northern cities have good biking weather in the summer and tolerable weather in the winter (as long as you dress right and approach life with the right level of stoicism).

    As a case in point, I live in Wisconsin and I bike to work all year round, so I’m looking forward to collecting the full tax benefit.

  • Mitch

    Actually, though, I can see the Congressman’s point. Biking isn’t so much a 19th-century practice as a European one, like playing soccer or drinking lattes and capuccino. We’re Americans, dammit; those things will never catch on here.

  • so you are the ones being naive…anyone against this solution obviously spent more time parked by your disonnected parents in front of a TV as a child and not pretending to be a superhero or actually being active….i’m also willing to bet that anyone against this solution has their children well on their way to being diabetic….65% of america is FAT or in “lets be nice” terms OBESE….having said that, on top of a having degree in not liking hippies and fat lazy americans who don’t realize how good we have it here, i also have a degree in Environmental Science….i can tell you for sure that in order to solve the energy crisis, you must get everyone involved on the smallest level…if everyone walked or rode bikes to at least half the places thay go, then there would be no energy crisis…on top of that, it would fill 2 other purposes====forcing people to build up instead of out in order to be closer to where they need to go, hence keeping america wild and beautiful instead of a huge ugly sprawl of 10×10 yards that no one uses….and by people not having the option to live an hour from work, it would force people to invest in their neighborhoods, which makes america safer….the second purpose would be that americans would actually be healthy; which makes them naturally happier, assists in regaining a positive political image to the rest of the globe, saves everyone a ton of money in healthcare….so the moral of the story is that yes, a bicycle is a great start to an even greater solution, but if people cannot even start there, when or how will anyone do their own part…..yes, technology will need to continue to advance and he competitive market has barely been enacted so far, but that must be followed by action…wake up people!!! all you hippies quit living off your parents money and pretending to be into the environment while holding a cigarrette, and all you “typical FAT, LAZY americans-remember that each day millions of people dream of living here and wishing for only half the opportunity that we are all born with, so start fulfilling all of that potential and live a life that all the world can live up to….oh yeah, and take a step back to realize that america is one of the very very small number of DEVELOPED nations that actually has beauty and wide open space-keep it that way by not contributing to urban sprawl….if you tried riding a bike to work for a week, your productivity, happiness, and energy would automatically be increased….

  • PG Wisn

    I agree with #33. I just completed a ride from Oregon back to Delaware, and was surprised by the blatant ‘sign of the times’ I saw while riding into Casper, Wyoming, the gas and oil capital of the state. The federal building is “The Dick Cheney Federal Building”. Who owns the government of the people? The moneyed interests. It’s high time we do respond to these ‘elected representatives’ and make our voices heard. We need to take back our government for the greater good. Too many people are marginalized and too much wealth is concentrated in too few hands. The only thing insurance companies insure is profitability. The only thing Bush is helping are his multimillionaire friends who are invested heavily in defense industries; oh, and a measly handout or two for good press. There is no real attempt to support education and deal with hunger and unemployment. The powerful need those with no options to fight their baseless wars. Had we invested 1/10th the money spent on these wars 40 years ago and provided the Palestinians with an infrastructure and industry and agriculture that could provide a reasonable living standard they would have reigned in their radical element. Why do you think China is building roads, hospitals, industries and schools in South America? They know they need resources. When the US robber barons went to South America did we just take resources or did they honor the needs of the native populace by giving back?

    #33 wrote:
    As I’ve been writing everywhere I’ve encountered this story, the Republican’s solution to energy planning was to convene a meeting of oil company executives with Dick Cheney, and then stamp the results “Top Secret”. And this was BEFORE 9-11-01. So much for transparency in government.

    Helluva job, Dick.

  • gecko

    Congressman McHenry speaks to the common wisdom. He is wrong, but there are no authoritive ideas, plans, or actionable strategies to completely revamp transportation with the required extreme urgency demanded by the climate change crisis.

  • granny gear

    He’s a very small man.

  • Everyone is taller riding a bike.

  • David

    I note that that the good Congressman looks a little pudgy as he gazes longingly at his automobile. Perhaps there are additional benefits to bike-riding other than environmental? The Republicans could push this as a health-care bill if they were smart – issue bikes to the poor so that they stay healthy and don’t clog up the health care system for those who can’t imagine going more than a 100 yards without their SUVs.

  • Kartik

    Charlie D (post #4) is right that McHenry’s website only allows his constituents to contact him via his web form. BUT, his phone number and email address are available to all:


    (any reference to his district – if you know people there, you know people considering moving there, you have visited before, etc.) will significantly improve the odds that he’ll consider your comments at all.


  • d

    I just looked up one of the town’s in his district, then used their city hall address as my address.

    I wrote him a sarcastic letter, thanking him for his quality service and for articulately framing the energy debate around 19th century technology, like bicycles.

    poor guy, I wonder why he likes cars so much? It can’t be comfortable sitting on multiple phone books just so you can see over the dash.

  • I Hate Bigotry

    Give up the gratuitous slurs about his height. They are not funny and should be screened out of this blog by the moderator.

  • Tom

    From watching the good Congressman’s video clip, the bicycle commuter aspect is his only objection. If the $10M out of several Billion dollar legislation is dropped, will he fully lobby the president to sign?

    This guy is a joke and I hope his opponent in the next election fully utilizes this speech.

  • Miles Stoneman

    The bicycle is clearly one of the solutions to the fuel costs as well as the obesity in this great nation. We are paying nearly 3.00 a gallon to grow so obese that it’s killing us and our kids. Why not bike?

  • Julie Audrain

    Why isn’t he balking at a trillion dollars being spent in Iraq trying to get more oil to keep the cars rolling? With that money we could have rebuilt most of America into dense, walkable communities where everyone could actually bike to places. And for the longer distances that are not practical for bikes, that’s what trains are for, but when all the money is spent on roads and building sprawl, the trains and bikes don’t work.
    I think he is lost in space, and clearly not focused on the fact that world oil supplies are starting to run out, so it won’t matter if he thinks biking is silly when no one can afford to drive anymore.

  • Lets be honest

    An assortment of other recipients of ADA $$ for your review.

    National Auto Dealers AssnPAC Contributions to Federal Candidates 2006 Cycle

    House Candidate Total Contribs
    Ackerman, Gary (D-NY) $6,500
    Andrews, Robert E (D-NJ) $10,000
    Bishop, Timothy H (D-NY) $5,000
    Crowley, Joseph (D-NY) $9,100
    Engel, Eliot L (D-NY) $2,000
    Higgins, Brian M (D-NY) $3,500
    Israel, Steve (D-NY) $5,000
    Maloney, Carolyn B (D-NY) $5,000
    McCarthy, Carolyn (D-NY) $2,500
    McHenry, Patrick (R-NC) $10,000
    Meeks, Gregory W (D-NY) $2,000
    Nadler, Jerrold (D-NY) $5,000
    Pallone, Frank Jr (D-NJ) $7,500
    Pascrell, Bill Jr (D-NJ) $5,000
    Rangel, Charles B (D-NY) $2,500
    Rothman, Steven R (D-NJ) $10,000
    Schwartz, Allyson (D-PA) $10,000
    Sires, Albio (D-NJ) $5,000
    Towns, Edolphus (D-NY) $2,500
    Van Hollen, Chris (D-MD) $10,000
    Velazquez, Nydia M (D-NY) $3,000
    Weiner, Anthony D (D-NY) $3,000

  • I know that this is a difficult concept for liberals, but not everything must be subsidized.

    There is nothing wrong with riding a bicycle, as long as one follows the law doing so. It is healthy and does reduce a personal gas bill. (The issue of net national effect is questionable. Presumably there are carbon-costs to people biking such as increased consumption of food and water and a possible increase in road congestion.)

    What you all have not commented on is Congressman McHenry’s actual energy proposals. For instance, Congressman McHenry was a co-sponsor of the H-Prize Act of 2006, which was designed to advance hydrogen technology as an alternative source of fuel.,1895,1961364,00.asp

    I would also note that nuclear power is a long term solution to America’s energy crisis. France and Japan both get most of their power from nuclear energy. Their is no reason that we cannot do the same.

  • Angus Grieve-Smith

    Fine, Ron, let’s take away your road and oil subsidies and see how difficult you find that concept.

  • Dave

    Thanks for the civics lecture, Ron. I’ll add to Angus’s suggestion. In addition to taking away the hundreds of billions in prized road subsidies, let’s also eliminate the vast public moneys used to pay for the military operations that help maintain our steady supply of foreign oil. I’d think that “conservatives” would be very interested in that concept.

    You’ll have to forgive us for not focusing on McHenry’s substantive proposals to promote more coal burning, nuclear energy and fantasy hydrogen projects when the guy is playing politics over a measly tax credit for urban bike commuters.

  • Steve

    Ron, I work in an office where the parking tax exemption and the mass transit fare exemption are available to everyone. I can shield $215 in income each month from taxes if I pay it to garage owners. I can shield $110 in income a month from taxes if I give the money to mass transit. If I ride a bike or walk, my income is fully taxable. Tell me whether you think that is rational or fair.

    I have co-workers who live about two-three miles away and drive to work in part because of the financial incentive this garage tax shelter give them. And there are others who live very close to the office, use the parking reimbursement to subsidize the cost of a garage near their home, and simply walk to work. So anyone who might oppose extending this tax sheltering system to bike commuters because of the potential for abuse should address first why that abuse would be any different from that already rampant under the current system, reserved for motorists and mass transit users.

  • Ian Turner


    I know that this is a difficult concept for you, but not everything must be subsidized.

    Rather than trying to subsidize specific technologies (corn ethanol, wind power, solar power, hydrogen), couldn’t you achieve the same effect and even encourage new innovation without the subsidy distortions through a carbon or oil tax or cap-and-trade system (which amounts to the same thing)?

    The answer, of course, is yes: But very few groups will lobby for a carbon tax, because the benefits are distributed throughout the nation (indeed, throughout the world) whereas the costs are centralized in a few industries. Subsidies are pursued because there are specific monied interests to lobby for them. Don’t praise the man for more pork, even in an environmental arena. It’s still just corporate welfare.

  • I deeply apologize, but it’s the dizzying stupidity of the people we elect to office, regardless of their political persuasion, that on occasion leaves me ashamed of my own country. We are all responsible for letting fools like this one into office by supporting the most electable instead of the most qualified.

  • Jackie Knoch

    I’ve been trying to e-mail him a video response but there seems to be a problem with his website. Does anyone have McHenry’s e-mail?

  • Nobody’s mentioned Daniel Johnson – he’s running against this idiot, and I say we all flood his campaign with contributions, and indicate that it’s in direct response to these comments.

  • Jean Naimard

    Actually, the automobile is a 18th century invention, invented in 1770, 238 years ago, well before the US revolution:

  • Danny



Is Barack Obama the Livable Streets Candidate?

Barack Obama is a long-time cyclist (Photo: Chicago Tribune) The current crop of Presidential candidates are busy debating the energy crisis, national security, climate change, health care, all of which potentially pose a serious threat to America’s future. We can begin to address all of these issues simultaneously by transforming our cities into more sustainable […]

Jim Walden Gets In Sync With the Tea Party Transportation Platform

Gotta hand it to Gibson Dunn attorney Jim Walden. Somehow he’s managed to parlay his neighborhood-level “pro-bono” gig suing the city of New York over a popular protected bike lane into national status as a go-to source for anti-bike quotes. Somewhere along the way, Walden dropped the pretense that he’s fighting for “better bike lanes.” […]

More on Rep. Patrick McHenry

Grist’s Dave Roberts provides some more background on Rep. Patrick McHenry, the North Carolina Republican Congressman who ridiculed bicycling as a "19th century solution" during debate over the "Renewable Energy and Energy Conservation Tax Act of 2007." The House bill, which passed on Aug. 4, included a $20/month tax break for bike commuters: That was […]

Bailout Bill Includes Bike Commuting Benefit

Remember Oregon Congressman Earl Blumenauer’s long-sought $20 per month tax credit for bike commuters, intended to extend a benefit to cyclists that motorists have received for decades? The measure ridiculed by North Carolina Rep. Patrick "Give Me Fossil Fuels or Give Me Death" McHenry? It didn’t make it into law last year, but it seems […]