Bob Davis: Politics on two wheels
May 06, 2012 | 3022 views |  0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The new mayor of Ogden, Utah, says regular exercise on a bicycle “was critical to setting the tone of the campaign, so I could stay calm and not have nervous energy with my staff.”

The mayor of Fort Worth, Texas, schedules regular bike rides across her city’s various neighborhoods in order to meet her constituents and introduce others to a different side of town.

Last week, the mayor of Huntsville encouraged that city’s residents to join him Saturday for the fourth annual Mayor’s Bicycle Ride.

Clearly, these and scores of other City Hall cycling enthusiasts and promoters are not your father’s municipal chief executives. The reasons are as varied as the reasons anyone ever rides a bike.

For big cities, bike lanes offer one more way to reduce the carbon footprint and get more cars off the already clogged streets.

Then there are the fitness and weight-loss benefits of getting folks off the sofa and exercising outdoors. “Cycling is just another way we can stay fit and healthy,” Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle said in a press release. “I just lost 18 pounds through diet and exercise as part of our Healthy Huntsville/Scale Back Alabama effort. Keeping active year-round is key to living healthy, and cycling is a fun way to do that.”

In Fort Worth, Mayor Betsy Price has — forgive me — spun a new way to meet the constituents, hear their problems and generally see and be seen. Her Tour de Fort Worth on Wednesdays during the warm months is designed for everyone; no one gets left behind and the pace is easy.

“It’s really interesting what people will tell you on a bike,” Price says on a promotional video hosted on the city’s website. “Because they get warmed up and they get loose and you feel friendly and accessible. That’s what we want. This is all about being real open and free with the citizens and letting them know we are here, and listening to their issues.”

Ogden Mayor Mike Caldwell, an accomplished athlete before his election, said in an article in last week’s Wall Street Journal that he uses exercise as a way to de-stress. In order to preserve time for conditioning, he said, “I labeled workouts as ‘meetings’ in my calendar during the election.”

For others, a cycling-friendly culture fits with a region’s eco-tourism dreams. (We’re winking at you, Anniston and other cities in Calhoun County.) Our region is in a prime position to become a hub for outdoor recreation, especially cycling. Experts tell us Coldwater’s extensive network of mountain bike trails currently under construction will lure avid cyclists from across the country who are willing to spend days riding. They’ll also be spending money right here, on restaurants, hotels and entertainment.

A little concerted effort could link the Ladiga Trail from its end-point in far north Anniston all the way into downtown. Then, the trail could allow ambitious riders to travel from Anniston to Atlanta on a bike trail largely free of automobiles. And let’s not forget the other assets — our active running community with the nationally known Woodstock 5K, the Alabama Scenic River Trail, the countless hiking trails, the Sunny King Criterium, which attracts professional riders, the Cheaha Challenge and so on.

Yes, it seems like a few ambitious local politicians might consider the examples in Huntsville, Fort Worth, Ogden and elsewhere, and practice a little spin control.

Bob Davis is editor of The Anniston Star. Contact him at 256-235-3540 or bdavis@annistonstar.com. Twitter: twitter.com/EditorBobDavis.
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