Bike Caucus Wants House Certified as Bike-Friendly Workplace

Posted November 15, 2013 at 1:15pm

When the League of American Bicyclists released its nationwide list of “Bicycle Friendly Businesses” this month, the State Department, the International Monetary Fund and the National Park Service were among the 20 D.C.-area businesses recognized.

If Rep. Earl Blumenauer has his way, the House will join the certified list of cyclist-friendly federal workplaces in 2014.

“That’s our next goal,” said the Oregon Democrat, who is a founder and co-chairman of the Congressional Bike Caucus. Blumenauer, an avid bike commuter, shows his zeal for two-wheel transportation on his lapel with an ever-present neon bike-shaped pin, and he wants to continue to raise the profile of sustainable transportation around Capitol Hill.

Earning a spot on the league’s list is an opt-in process that requires an application, according to Alison Dewey, who manages the program. Businesses are then ranked by a medal system — bronze, silver or gold — and given feedback from the group on how to improve.

Improving conditions for cyclists pedaling across the National Mall and through the District’s national parks helped the NPS move from “bronze” to “silver” this year.

“The application is designed to be a road map on how businesses can become more bike-friendly,” Dewey explained. It’s divided into “the 5 Es” — encouragement, evaluation and planning, engineering, education and enforcement. Under engineering, for instance, businesses could provide bike parking and end-of-trip facilities, such as the showers in the staff and member gyms.

Rep. Tom Petri, co-chairman of the bike caucus, also supports the effort to get the House recognized as bike friendly. As chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Highways and Transit, the Wisconsin Republican will also advocate for bikes in the upcoming surface transportation reauthorization.

The League of American Bicyclists lobbies Congress for transportation dollars and laws to protect bikers.

Dewey said the group would be happy to welcome the House to its list and have “our policy leaders encourage their colleagues to come to work on a bike so that we can become that role model city for the rest of the country.”

Blumenauer praises the members of the bike caucus for some of the progress D.C. has made toward improving conditions for the city’s cyclists.

“I’d like to think that we raised the profile,” he said, referring to the niche group he organized shortly after his 1996 arrival on Capitol Hill. Blumenauer said the District’s bike climate has changed dramatically since then, thanks to the efforts of bike-friendly mayors and federal investments that have improved transit conditions.

“Nothing makes me happier than biking up the center of Pennsylvania Avenue on those bike lanes,” he said.

The project was launched during the league’s annual bike summit, according to Blumenauer, after a hectic commute. While cycling down Pennsylvania Avenue on his way to give a speech to the annual gathering of local and federal officials and bike enthusiasts, he was dodging traffic “and it just seemed insane. … [It’s] the first street wide enough to land a 747 jet on it and you were taking your life in your hands.”

Since then, conditions have improved dramatically, including on the Capitol campus.

“If you’re around Capitol Hill, you see just a parade of people coming to work in the morning on bikes,” Blumenauer said.

Petri also lauded the District for its success in developing a number of bike-related initiatives, including Capital Bikeshare. He uses his own bike to cycle out to Mount Vernon in Virginia and Harpers Ferry, W.Va.

“I’m not as avid, I don’t think, as Earl,” Petri said, “but I have ridden for a number of years.”