The Bike Riding Secretary

Steven Chu (center)

Steven Chu is an avid bicyclist, bike advocate, and bike commuter. He also happens to be the new Secretary of Energy in the Obama Administration. Ironically, his new position is forcing him off of his bike and back into an automobile.

From Grist:

Is it true you don’t drive a car?
My wife does, but I no longer own a car. Let me just say that in most of my jobs, I mostly rode my bicycle.

And now?
My security detail didn’t want me to be riding my bicycle or even taking the Metro. I have a security detail that drives me.

How do you feel about adding carbon emissions to the air?
I don’t feel good about it.

I guess the president wants to keep you alive.
My wife is in favor of that as well.


11 Responses to “The Bike Riding Secretary”

  • beth h says:

    Inevitable, but sad all the same.

    One more reason not to hold national office.


  • david p. says:

    i think the weight of his position will allow him to offset the carbon emissions he may be making. this isn’t a sad story – but an encouraging one that bike-minded folk are in positions of power!

  • Alan says:

    I agree, having a bike advocate in such an important position in the government is fantastic! That said, Secretary Chu seems to truly enjoy bike riding and on a personal level it’s a shame he can’t continue doing something he loves.

  • yangmusa says:

    I don’t think it’s inevitable that people in powerful positions have to be behind plated glass. The Prime Minister of Norway, Jens Stoltenberg, bikes to work; as does the Major of London, Boris Johnson, and the leader of the English conservative party, David Cameron. To name a few!

    I think it’s deeply sad that Americans have created a society where people live in fear, for real or imagined reasons. As has been pointed out on Grist (see link below), continuing to ride a bike would be far better for Secretary Chu’s health than sitting behind plated glass.

  • Eddie says:

    People in positions of power, influence or notoriety can be at risk for harm from any number of people. Remember the Dutch film director Theo Van Gogh who, after having made a controversial film about Islamic cluture, was shot dead riding his bike in 2004? That was in relatively peaceful Netherlands. I’m glad Norwegian and British leaders can bike to work, but they don’t have to concern themselves with 200 million privately owned firearms in their respective countries (please – no gun-control flame intended). So if security experts here dictate the prudent employment of plated glass, I vote for Mr. Chu’s protection. Even if his well-being is a little inconvenienced, it is not compromised in the way it could potentially be otherwise. I’m sure he will still be able to effectively advocate the greater usage of and accommodations for bikes as transportation.

  • yangmusa says:

    @ Eddie:
    Yes, I remember Van Gogh. But lets also remember the fact that this was the Netherlands. It would be more surprising is he _wasn’t_ riding a bicycle ;-) Riding a bike is just a normal part of everyday life there for all people, film makers included. And that’s as it should be :-)

  • Eddie says:

    Of course, the bike riding was not unusual, rather the use of a firearm in a place like the Netherlands. In America it’s the other way around ;-)

  • Ken "DeltaTrike" Jones says:

    yangmusa is just wrong and Eddie is right. Please don’t compare the flat, compact and just plain Small Netherlands to the HUGE, spread out urban sprall that is the US – in any respect – much less the proclivities of the public to pedal. Completely differeNt culture with a completely different SET OF circumstances. In the Netherlands prostitution and hashish are tolerated if not outright legal – wanna open up those Can-O-Worms in the midst of the cycling vs. car debate? I didn’t think so!

    You honestly believe that a cabinet secretary SHOULD pedal through the streets of DC and that this is the Healthy Choice? For whom? His family? The energy hopes of a nation? For Secretary Chu? Please – think before you blog!

    Alan is also right – What a great thing to have a cycle brother in proximity to Mr. Obama’s ear – It is there that I want him to be. Please yangmusa, get real!

  • Ken "DeltaTrike" Jones says:

    OOps! Sorry yangmusa: Norway and England are COMPLETELY different from the Netherlands! These nations are very much like the US!?! Still, I mixed posts and I apologize!

  • yangmusa says:

    @ Ken Jones

    Actually, I do think a cabinet secretary should be able to bike through the streets of DC, without fear of being hit by cars (or bullets, as Eddie pointed out). I think that would be a healthy choice for Chu, his family and the nation.

    Maybe the realities are that right now that really isn’t possible (I don’t know DC). But if we can’t even imagine a better future, what hope is there of making it happen?

    And to answer your other question – Norway and England are not as bike friendly as the Netherlands, but not as car-dependent as the US either. Somewhere in between. Both have far less car trips though, because they both have extremely well developed transit systems.

  • steve says:

    Steve was a great bicycle supporter at Berkeley and was involved in helping set bike policy. He deeply understands why biking works in the Netherlands, Denmark and Germany – it isn’t geography alone. There are many policy issues that have helped as well as the recognition that bike safety is a complex matter. But it has paid off in many ways. You just don’t see fat Danish kids and young people and fat adults are rare. Plus many trips less than 5 km are very practical.

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