It's official. Congress has, for the moment at least, made bicycles part of the emerging national energy policy.
Friday evening the House Ad Hoc Energy Committee was meeting to consider amendments to the fiscellaneous provsions of Title II, complex energy bill is serious business.
Title II deals with such topics as the hotly debated gas-guzzler tax and the gasoline tax. It is almost 300 pages long.
So when Rep. Paul E. Tsongas (D-Mass.) distributed a proposed amendment entitled "Section 2076 - Bicycle Study," no one took him too seriously.
In fact, a lot of committee members laughed.
Little did they they know that, 14 pages of transcript later, they would have voted in not an amendment but a whole new title to the bill.
Title III, Bicycle Study, is just under 150 words long.
In it "Congress recognizes that bicycles are the most efficient means of transportation, represent a viable commuting alternative . . . and deserve consideration in a national comprehensive energy plan."
Title III also instructs the Secretary of Transportation to "complete a study of the energy conservation of potential bicycle transportation . . . and develop a comprehensive program to meet these goals."
The Transportation Department will have a year to comply with Title III's recommendation, provided Title III is still alive when the final national energy plan is signed by President Carter. The "comprehensive program" for increased bicycle use is required by the measure to consider, among other things, "construction grants."
"The construction grants, what would they go for?" mused Rep. John D. Dingell (D-Mich). "Construction of factories to construct bicycles?"
Dingell and some of his colleagues regarded the bicycle study measure was "not germane." But bicycles had other allies.Rep. Bob Eckhardt (D-Tex.) said he'd commuted from Georgetown to Capitol Hill for seven years. Eckhardt urged that the amendment was germane.
Chairman Thomas L. Ashley (D-Ohio), however, ruleed "not germane," as Title II related solely to tax matters.
So Tsongas changed his amendment to a title, saying, "I think it would be appropriate to have a roll call on this national issue."
But first, some members had some additions to suggest.
Walter Flowers (D-Ala.) mentioned mopeds, slightly powered bicyles."
"It just came to my mind," Flowers said, "I have a 10-year-old son who has been screaming to high heaven to get one of these things."
Clarence Brown (R-Ohio) mentioned roller skates.
"I make no attempt at humor," he said. "I think roller skates are very efficient. As a matter of fact, I have a couple of kids who use skateboards and make time on those. They may be appropriate, too."
But mopeds, roller skates, and skateboards didn't make it. Just bicycles.
Thus, amid call to order and a few chuckles, Title III was added to the House version of the comprehensive national energy bill. The vote: 16 to 11 in favor, with Brown observingthat he was "right on the edge of hysteria."