Before he was the most unusual presidential candidate in US history, Donald Trump was the sponsor of what was intended to be the American version of the Tour de France. Dreamed up by future entertainment tonight co-host John Tesh, and organized by college basketball commentator Billy Packer, the Tour de Trump (later the Tour DuPont) featured cyclists such as 1995 and 1996 winner Lance Armstrong (who won in 1995 and 1996) and 1992 winner Greg LeMond and it passed right through the DC area.
“I’ve never been to a cycling event in my life. I don’t even know how to put air in the tires,” admits Packer, who announced every NCAA Final Four from 1975 to 2008. But when Tesh gave him the idea, he was intrigued. “I thought: Hell, Jersey’s got some mountains, and I had business investments in Atlantic City, so I know that the casinos would possibly be a sponsor,” the 76-year-old says of his original concept, which he planned to call “Tour de Jersey.”
Trump offered to be the cycling competition’s primary sponsor and partner with Packer on the new venture. As for the name, Packer threw out the suggestion of calling it the Tour de Trump. Trump agreed.
The Tour DuPont ran for five years, from 1991-1996. In 1993, a young rising cycling star named Lance Armstrong finished second. But DuPont pulled its sponsorship at the end of 1996 after planning delays for the 1997 race and after a legal fight caused a rift between Packer and Plant. (The end of the sponsorship also happened to come months after DuPont heir John du Pont murdered wrestler Dave Schultz.)
In 1992, the Tour DuPont held, on the "rim-jarring streets of Washington, D.C.", a time trial for the final stage. It appears to be a ride from RFK Stadium up to the northern portion of Rock Creek Park and back. LeMond won the race, but not the stage.
In 1993, newly elected president Bill Clinton and Vice-President Al Gore put together a Climate Change Action Plan (CCAP). The year before that, then-president George H. W. Bush had signed the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change which committed the United States to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2000. The CCAP was intended to lay out a comprehensive set of strategies - or actions - that would meet these obligations and "respond to the threat of global climate change and guide the United States toward environmentally sound economic growth." (And that's why climate change is no longer an issue. Wait, what?) Interestingly, CCAP doesn't mention bicycles or cycling at all. It does, however, mention parking and that is how bike commuting gets into the mix.
Action #19 proposed a cash-out option for employees who currently get free parking. Employees given free parking at work would have been given the option of retaining the parking space, or accepting a cash allowance equal to the market cost of the parking space. Because the cash-out would be taxable, this program would have the added benefit of reducing the deficit by $2.2B over the next 6 years. While this doesn't mention biking, it's easy to see how this would benefit bike commuters. This action was made possible, though not mandatory, with the Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997.
At the same time that the Clinton administration was addressing un-taxed free parking as a way of dealing with climate change, it was also dealing with the impending expiration of the 3-year transit benefit program (the "Mikulski Amendment"). That program had been offering some federal employees $60 a month in tax-free transit benefits in lieu of the $155 tax-free parking benefit since the beginning of the year as an effort to clean up the air, reduce energy use and reduce congestion. It had shown some success as 21% of the people taking the benefit had switched to transit once it was created. But the benefit was unfunded so only about half of all agencies offered it.
As a way to make the transit benefit available to more people, the administration submitted the Transit Benefit Program Act of 1993. It aimed to make the transit benefit program permanent and would have permitted Federal agencies to charge up to commercial equivalent rates for parking space and related services and then use that revenue to defray the cost of the transit benefit program. The idea was not popular with the federal employees unions, just as it had not been popular when proposed in 1979.
At the time the DOT bill was submitted and CCAP was completed Del Eleanor Holmes Norton held hearings on the mass transit subsidy program available to Federal employees and included in those hearings were bicycle advocates (like Allen Greenberg of LAB -then LAW- and Warren Stern of WABA) and others (such as the Campaign for New Transportation Priorities, the Surface Transportation Policy Project and who wanted to see the program expanded to include those who commuted to work by bike or foot. They also suggested that agencies be able to use some of the parking revenue to provide secure bicycle parking.
LAB suggested that the subsidy be offered to all commuters, except those who drive alone, regardless of commuting cost (which is basically a cash out).
The current policy of basing an employee commute subsidy on the employee's cost of a particular commute option doesn't make sense. By this logic, the highest subsidy would be provided to those commuting by helicopter and airplane and the smallest subsidy to environment-friendly bicycle and walking commuters who are frequently less affluent than their car-commuting coworkers.
Warren Stern of WABA testified that if commuter costs must be included, then the benefit should still be offered to those who commuter by bike or foot.
While I think that we all agree that minimizing pollution and energy usage is in the public interest, the net effect of the current employee incentive program is in many cases contrary to this objective. Employees that use the most polluting form of transportation, those who drive, receive the largest incentive. Employees who use the least polluting and the least energy intensive form of transportation — that is bicycling, walking — are excluded from the program. To me, this doesn't make sense.
Assistant Secretary Stoll of DOT testified last week that we needed to question the assumptions we have made that favor auto- mobile transportation over public transportation. I believe we also need to question the assumptions we have made that favor motorzed transportation of all forms over nonmotorized forms of transportation.
Secretary Stoll testified that incentives for use of public transportation should be extended and increased so that public transportation can compete effectively on an equal basis with automobile transportation. Mr. Mead of the GAO testified that by making the playing field more even, agencies participating in the program were able to encourage people to ride Metro. That is, if by minimizing the disadvantages of one form of transportation; that is, the cost associated with driving, it obscures the benefits of other forms such as bicycling and the use of public transportation.
We at WABA believe that the administration's proposal should be expanded to provide a comparable subsidy for bicyclists. We believe that bicycle commuting is a legitimate form of transportation and should not be excluded from Government support. We believe it should be treated in the same way as public transportation is treated. While bicycle commuting isn't for everyone, it deserves a level playing field with other forms of transportation.
Madam Chairwoman, there is no form of transportation that meets the societal goals that we all support better than bicycle transportation. Every person who commutes by bicycle is not in a car or another polluting form of transportation. The benefits of bi- cycle commuting don't stop there. Bicycling is healthy. This is advantageous — this advantage is becoming even more important in light of the Federal efforts to deal with our current health-care crisis.
We simply propose that bicycles be treated on a par with public transportation, that the Government subsidy policy be neutral as it relates to public transportation and bicycles. Whatever standards of accountability are required for the public transportation subsidy can also be met by bicycles.
Some assume that bicycle commuting is free and, therefore, it does not deserve a subsidy. This is a false assumption. I have submitted to the record some estimates I have made, and these actu- ally fall very closely to estimates other groups have made for bicy- cle commuting costs. I would be pleased to answer any questions you might have on this estimate, but the bottom line is that it costs roughly $600 per year to commute by bicycle. These costs break down into roughly $50 annualized for a new bicycle each year, $350 for normal maintenance and part replacement, and $150 a year for access to showers. This is an important point. Federal agencies, at least the one I work for, offer free parking, but for those people who bike to work or walk to work and may desire showers, they have to pay for it.
Stern went on to talk about how much shower access cost ($50 a month) and the time spent maintaining a bike. Norton questioned him on that part "You want a subsidy for keeping your bicycle in decent shape? You think that really should be included in what the Government would pay for?"
Norton then went on to question the group of speakers who wanted to expand the benefit to those who don't take transit. It seems like she was trying to hear the arguments she would need to expand the program, because she later states that.
I would like this legislation to be as comprehensive as possible, and I would like to get it passed, and I would like not to see some amendment to strike part of my bill. I would like to see recognition of cycling and walking in this bill, and I think that would be a breakthrough.
And I would like to see ideas — not that cash-out ideas that won't flow because we don't have the data and, even if we did, we don't know if we would apply in a given situation. We are experimenting with whether or not we will even get pay for parking, and of course we need to get it in the agency^s own budget. But what I do think is missing are enough specifics on what the bill might say that could be written into it this time indicating that the committee wants agencies to recognize the entire spectrum of alternatives to the car. And I would ask you — since I am going to vote and I am going to end this hearing now, I would ask you, to the extent that you are able and have ideas that you might work through, to be in touch with the staff so that this bill could, in fact, for the first time be truly comprehensive.
At one point she is asking about the goal that is achieved through such an expansion and Stern notes that "the fundamental goal is to clean the air, and I believe that there is nothing that meets that goal on a per dollar basis better than including bicycles in the subsidy." Stern crtiticizes the administration for making transit expansion the goal instead of the means to a goal like clean air or better health.
She also tries to understand how the cash out is paid for, because getting one fewer person to drive to work doesn't make the cost of parking that already exists go down. "Nobody's going to sell off the land."
Stern drops in a nice statistic in support of funding bicycling,
a Harris poll...concluded that 18 percent of adults — that is several million people — say that they would sometimes commute by work by bicycle if employers offered financial incentives.
Regardless of the testimony and Norton's support, the Transit Benefit Program Act didn't become law, but the Federal Employees Clean Air Incentives Act did. It did not expand the transit benefit to include bike commuters, something that wouldn't happen until 2007, but it did allow federal employers to create programs to encourage commute means other than single-occupancy vehicles including allowing agencies to furnish space, facilities and services to bicyclists. It also made the Mikulski Amendment permanent (in 2000, a Clinton Executive Order would require all agencies to offer transit benefits, not just make them optional).
In response to last week's letter, a cyclist wrote the paper to say that though bike bells were the custom in London, they have been opposed here, because they might cause confusion. Making statements that you might hear today, the writer says that it is the responsibility of the cyclist to "know exactly where it is best to run" to avoid an "accident" (Crash not accident, Capt C. IB. C! Jeez!). And then goes on to say that while an approaching bicycle may be startling, leading the startled to think "what a narrow escape he had," a collision was never really that likely.
Also, people let their children run in the street aimlessly. C'mon! From June 28, 1879:
This letter to the editor from June 16, 1879 is interesting for several reasons. First of all, the writer is suggesting that bicycle be equipped with some sort of bell (if only such a thing existed) but a bell like sleigh bells that are jingling, ring ting tingling too. Sleigh bells were needed because sleighs are so quiet that people needed to be alerted to them, which brings us to the second interesting thing. The concern is for all the people in the streets, because of course this is 1879 and the idea that people didn't belong in the streets hadn't take hold yet. I wonder if this is how mandatory bike bells got put into place - at a time when people were often in the streets, and were used to having bells on quiet vehicles, they required them.Finally, this is the oldest letter I could find of a pedestrian complaining to the papers about the dangers of cyclists. A forebear of Washington Dame no doubt.
If this writer is concerned about bikes in the streets, just wait until cars come along.
The namesake of Noyes Education Campus on 10th Street NE, former City Councilman Crosby S. Noyes was the editor and publisher of the Evening Star. And I guess he really liked cyclists. From the May 30, 1879 Evening Star.
Here's an 1879 letter published in Washington's Evening Star entitled "In Praise of Bicycling." Much of it sounds like it could be written today.
I do not know anything that compares with bicycle riding as a healthful, invigorating, and fascinating exercise; healthful because it brings into energetic, but not excessive, action so very many muscles; invigorating on account of the fresh air, the rapid motion and the constant change of scene which are it's accompaniments; fascinating, because - how shall I express it or how can I convey to anyone not a bicyclists any accurate idea of the ever increasing delight to the rider of "the silent steed." ...The bicycle is a steed that always can be depended on; one does not need to learn it's gaits, it's tricks, every time a new steed is tried nor incur annual expenses of $200 to $500 for board and shoeing.
This one doesn't come from old newspapers, but rather the archives of the Architect of the Capitol, but it's still pretty fascinating. For starters, in the late 1800's and early 1900's the Capitol Crypt, located directly below the large circular room located directly below the rotunda used to be a bike parking area.
Here's what it looks like today.
Needs more bikes
The AOC has a whole page on this and the time they bought the Lawn Cycle Stand, a wooden bike rack that was only manufactured for a few years and is now sold by antique dealers, to provide bike parking.
It is nice to have a place on the veranda, the room set aside for cycles or wherever cyclists congregate, to store your bicycle. Finally, a way to protect my bric-a-brac!