Is Barack Obama the Livable Streets Candidate?

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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 communities and adopting the principles of complete streets. A modal shift away from the automobile toward more bicycle and pedestrian orientated streets will reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, slow the rise of C02 emissions and improve the overall health of Americans.

With the exception of John McCain, none of the Republican candidates seem to be interested in any of this. You may remember their colleague Patrick McHenry, Republican Congressman from North Carolina, who while debating a proposal for a $20/month tax break for bike commuters in the energy bill ridiculed bicycles as a "19th Century solution" to our current energy problems. The tax break was eliminated from a weakened version of the energy bill that was just passed by the Senate.

The Oregonian, however, has discovered that one candidate does understand the importance of this "old fashioned" form of transportation:

Portland’s fervent bicycling community has discovered that Democrat Barack Obama is the only one of the Democratic presidential candidates who explicitly encourages bicycle transportation in his platform (and I didn’t find much from the Republicans either, other than that Mike Huckabee rides his bike to the grocery store). Here’s the relevant quote from Obama’s energy platform:

As president, Barack Obama will re-evaluate the transportation funding process to ensure that smart growth considerations are taken into account. Obama will build upon his efforts in the Senate to ensure that more Metropolitan Planning Organizations create policies to incentivize greater bicycle and pedestrian usage of roads and sidewalks, and he will also re-commit federal resources to public mass transportation projects across the country. Building more livable and sustainable communities will not only reduce the amount of time individuals spent commuting, but will also have significant benefits to air quality, public health and reducing greenhouse gas emissions."

It’s also worth noting that Chris Dodd is the only candidate with the guts to push for a carbon tax.

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