Paul Andrews

Bikin’ Mike leads for mayor of Seattle!

In Bicycle advocacy, Bicycle Commuting, Obama Bikes on August 18, 2009 at 10:10 pm

With nearly half the ballots counted, “Mike Bikes” McGinn is the front-runner in the race for Seattle mayor, leading another challenger, Joe Mallahan, and incumbent Greg Nickels in a squeaky three-way dogfight separated by about 2 percentage points (and only around 1,000 votes) near the 25-percent mark.

Of the three, Mallhan is the most bike-unaware, although he seems teachable. In any case, Nickels is clearly finished as mayor of Seattle. Even if he makes it to the final, he stands to pull few voters from either Mallahan’s or McGinn’s camp to his side.

The cyclist dream final is Mike v. Greg. Both are strong cycling advocates, although McGinn wins on walking (riding?) the talk points. We at Bike Intelligencer have always felt that Nickels was in the game largely for political points and whatever extra funding comes with transportation projects featuring bike access as a strategic element.

Of course, if it is Mike v. Greg, then McGinn is in — for the statistical rationale expressed above.

At this point only Mike and his pollsters know the real reasons for his sudden surge in recent days, coming from a 9 percent margin to 16, then 18 and now near-27 front-running tally. A lot of it must have to do with McGinn’s people-to-people (word of mouth and word of Web) networking. The guy himself showed up at places like farmers’ markets, cycling festivals and civic events, doing the handshaking and button-holing thing. He had the social networking culture nailed.

When we posted fantasizing about having a mayor who actually commuted by bike, McGinn was quick to contact Bike Intelligencer for permission to link. I also volunteered to send a “Mike Bikes” message of endorsement out to around 1,500 names on various mailing lists I keep.

Over at SeattleLikesBikes, Michael Snyder did likewise, contacting around 2,600 folks by email. This isn’t easy stuff because ISPs limit the number of names you can include in an e-blast. But in the end, it has to be among the most effective ways to generate buzz and support for a candidate.

In any case, let’s hope the current trends stand through late absentee counts. If there is a big-city mayor who commutes by bike in the U.S., I’ve never heard of him or her. If McGinn’s a one and only, it can only mean good things for Seattle’s biking prospects and reputation.

Seattle Times election coverage. PI.com’s coverage.

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