RIP: Jim Oberstar

A true Velominatus
A true Velominatus

This week we mourn the loss of a true Velominatus, Jim Oberstar. The vast majority of you will have never heard of Jim but if you ride a bike in the US you have him, in large part, to thank for the infrastructure you ride. Jim died this weekend, unexpectedly, at a spry 79.

Mr. Oberstar served a nearly 40-year tenure in the US House of Representatives from Minnesota’s 8th district, my home. His contributions and legacy to Minnesota are hard to understate. Without going into detail about his political career it’s worth noting his commitment and action to cycling. Jim unabashedly, vehemently, and systematically included bikeways into legislation he championed as head of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. He led from the front on this issue. To him, bike paths, cycleways, and lanes were not included into transportation plans as an afterthought or only if the political desire was there. Jim planned roads, rails, and busses around bikes. He believed we needed to move transportation from a “hydro-carbon based system to a carbohydrate-based system.” I’m proud to say I voted for Jim on numerous occasions and had the pleasure of riding with him one time at a charity event.

What strikes me lately is all the conversation, links to news stories, and heated debates we are all embroiled in concerning cycling and sharing the road. The recent uptick in cycling globally has meant that there are more conflicts and sadly more serious and fatal accidents on the road. On the weekly, we see stories from Australia, to North America, to the old world about this tension and these tragedies. We also see a global obesity epidemic. Fat people raising fat kids developing Type II diabetes at 12 cannot be ignored. People like Jim Oberstar saw this coming and did something about it.

We all contribute in our own way to a better place as we walk the path. The mere act of kiting up and going for a ride makes cycling more visible and may inspire someone to dust off their whip and check out the local trail. Taking a Pedalwan on and acting as a Sensei may have a multiplier effect. Teaching a local kid how to fix a flat may lead to a lifetime of riding. People like Jim Oberstar, especially at the time of his passing, remind us how riding a bike can be more than looking fantastic and having a blast while we take the piss out of ourselves.

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10 Replies to “RIP: Jim Oberstar”

  1. Marko, 

    A peaceful, beautiful obit that turned me on to someone I now know I should have been thanking every day riding through our urban landscapes. RIP Mr. Oberstar.

  2. Marko,

    At first I wasn’t sure this was about the Jim Oberstar I was familiar with because why would a story about a politician be here? I liked his manner, of an era prior to the present vitriol and gridlock. I was not aware of his cycling advocacy. Thanks Marko, and thank you and RIP Mr. Oberstar.

  3. RIP Jim. You did good things. (Know about his work, even though I live on the left coast).

  4. Marko,

    A-Merckx. More like Rep Oberstar are needed.  Carbohydrate power may be the remedy for many of the world’s ills. Thanks for posting.

  5. Well said,  I really cant understand all the anger pointed at us cyclists, we see it daily here in Oz.

    The latest is registration for bikes, not really sure how that will achieve anything.

    Hatred is everywhere, but this force is strong in this one, I wont be led to the dark side !

    Great post

  6. Thank you, Marko.

    RIP, Jim.

    I’m a part of Bike Durham here in Durham, NC and we’re all in a better place thanks to Big Jim!

    Best wishes and fast pedaling, Mr. Oberstar!

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