Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Cycling's hero defeated for congressional seat

An electorate determined to throw da bums out has retired the man who did more than any other to improve the infrastructure for bicycling in the United States. Rep. Jim Oberstar of Minnesota lost to a Republican political novice the seat he has held in Congress for 18 terms. (Oberstar's concession statement is related in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.)

Oberstar was chairman of the House Transportation Committee, and worked hard to bring bicycling its fair share of federal transportation aid.  An avid cyclist himself, he organized the Congressional Bike Caucus soon after his election in 1986.  (Re-elected yesterday were three Florida members of the caucus: Gus Bilirakis of Palm Harbor, Kathy Castor of Tampa, and C.W. Young of St. Petersburg.  Suzanne Kosmas of Orlando was defeated.)

One of Oberstar's most popular achievements was launching federal support for the national Safe Routes to School program -- first with pilot projects in 2000, then writing the legislation that extended the program to all 50 states.  The Safe Routes to School National Partnership paid tribute to Oberstar today with a letter that said, in part:
Through your 36 years of inspired leadership as a Congressman, you reformed the transportation system to make it multi-modal, institutionalized walking and bicycling within state Departments of Transportation, and ensured that the safety of children on the trip to and from school is a priority for transportation planning and construction. 

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