Mike McGinn, the bicycling candidate for mayor of Seattle, must wonder what you have to do to get a bike club’s endorsement. McGinn rides his bike everywhere, including commuting daily downtown from his Greenwood home, he shows up at bike rallies like Bike to Work Day with his “Mike Bikes” stickers, he is squarely in the camp of alternative transportation choices. Face it, the man “gets” cycling.
But here’s the Cascade Bicycle Club, representing more than 11,000 members as the largest local cycling club in the nation, endorsing widely degraded incumbent Greg Nickels for re-election. Not even a dual endorsement, just “Vote Nickels.” In a hard-fought eight-way primary where every vote counts, Cascade’s snub has to hurt.
For the record, Cascade’s David Hiller, our favorite bike advocate in the known universe, says the club acknowledges McGinn’s contributions and “we wish Mike well”:
“While I am personal friends with McGinn and have no doubts about his commitment to bicycling, our adopted policy is to support friendly incumbents first. For what it’s worth, this approach to endorsements is shared by many organizations.”
It’s also worth noting that Nickels, for all his many faults (“As mayor I’ve made my share of mistakes,” says his TV ad), has been a friend to cycling. Hiller cites a litany of progress in Nickels’ eight looonnnggg years of office:
“It is also hardly disputable that Mayor Nickels has done more for bicycling that any mayor before him. If the mayor had not supported our changes to Bridging the Gap, including the Complete Streets ordinance and more funding for bicycling and walking, if he had not funded the Master Plan, if he had not come to the table on the Fremont Bridge reconstruction, if he had not reconsidered the configuration of Stone Way N., if he had not intervened to keep the Burke-Gilman Trail open past Suzie Burke’s property in Fremont – any of a number of decision points could have led us down a different path for this endorsement. However, in the end the mayor did the right thing on all counts and it would be unfair to walk away someone who has demonstrated a commitment to bicycling – or at least a willingness to listen and learn.”
For his part, McGinn is taking the brush-off in stride. He has stood side-by-side with Cascade on major campaigns such as the “No on Roads & Transit” a couple of years ago (which resulted in a true transit initiative, as McGinn prophesied), the Complete Streets movement and the Stone Way flap. (Re the last, despite Hiller’s nod to the mayor, remember: We never got the full bike lanes we were promised.)
And McGinn remains the sole mayoral candidate to oppose the horrific underground tunnel, which he rightly notes will drain valuable transportation dollars from cycling projects as well as funnel traffic into direct conflict on popular bike routes like Westlake, Dexter, Leary Way and Fremont Avenue. Nickels of course is a huge tunnel advocate.
Finally, McGinn actually rides a bike. Nickels admits he does not. Asked if he’s tempted to challenge Hizzoner to a two-wheel race, McGinn laughed. “I’m not a fast rider,” he said. “But I think I could take him.”
As for Cascade, “they made a political calculation,” McGinn said, noting the signal the club’s endorsement sends to “other incumbents to do the right thing, and they’ll be rewarded.”
BikeIntelligencer found one informal glimmer of redemption for McGinn. Polling several Cascade members and veteran riders privately revealed strong personal support for Bikin’ Mike. The club’s official endorsement may carry less sway for cycling cognoscenti than for the Voters Pamphlet types.
Cyclists, in other words, know who’s got their back.
At BikeIntelligencer, we admit to being taken aback by Cascade’s stand. We wish it could have been a dual endorsement. We also think a boost to McGinn in the primary, setting up a possible head-to-head with Nickels in the general election, would have been a cyclist’s dream of two strong cycling supporters to choose from.
That said, we recognize the political balancing act a major player like Cascade has to conduct come election time. And we think the community at large understands it as well.
So does The Stranger.