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Barack Obama

Portland Elects Cyclist Mayor; Obama Draws 8,000 on Bikes

1:21 PM EDT on May 22, 2008

 
On Tuesday, voters in Portland, Oregon elected Sam Adams as their next mayor. A former Congressional staffer and current Portland city commissioner, Adams -- who is a cyclist -- ran on a platform that emphasized environmental and progressive growth initiatives, including, in the words of the Oregonian, "use [of] the
Portland Streetcar and better planning to spur urban
renewal." Adams received strong support from the livable streets community, which helped earn him a 52-34 percent margin of victory.

There is speculation that the Adams camp got a last-minute boost from Barack Obama, who came to town ahead of Tuesday's primary and drew a crowd of some 75,000 -- with an estimated 8,000+ arriving on bicycles. As quoted on BikePortland.org, Obama responded with some fairly breathtaking comments on transportation policy.

“If we are going to solve our energy problems we’ve got to think long term. It’s time for us to be serious about investing in alternative energy. It’s time for us to get serious about raising fuel efficiency standards on cars.  It’s time that the entire country learn from what’s happening right here in Portland with mass transit and bicycle lanes and funding alternative means of transportation.

That’s the kind of solution that we need for America. That’s the kind of truth-telling that we are going to do in this campaign and when I am President of the United States of America.”

How remarkable is it that a presidential candidate -- or virtually any politician in higher office -- would talk about transit and bike lanes without making fun of them? Still, as BikePortland Editor Jonathan Maus notes:

These are all good signs; but what happens on the campaign trail is notthe same as real change. It will take the work of voters, localleaders, and advocates to seize this moment in history and worktogether to push the pendulum toward more sustainable, human poweredcities.

At the very least, it looks like Obama may be willing to get this conversation started on a national level.

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