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Chuck & Iris on a Bicycle Built for Two

February 11, 2011

It’s amazing how much of a fan Senator Chuck Schumer and his wife, Iris Weinshall, are of livable, walkable cities and even bikes and bike lanes.  In fact, Weinshall has basically said that walking, not driving, is the primary transportation mode for her fellow New Yorkers:

”It’s not uncommon for New Yorkers to walk a mile a day.”

This is from an article that ran in the Times following the 2005 transit strike.  Also interesting to me, while not a direct quote, was this thought on bicycle use from the former DOT head and current Neighbors for Better Bike Lanes member:

The city has far more bicycle lanes and paths than it did in 1980, but Ms. Weinshall said bicycling was a less-attractive option because of the cold weather. The 1980 strike began on April 1 and lasted 11 days.

There you have it: Iris more or less admitting that people will choose biking as transportation if weather and other conditions, such as the availability of transit, allow.

Then there’s this 2002 article from the Times, Chuck’s Place, about the contrast between Senator Schumer’s “dorm-like” existence in Washington and his more comfortable home with his wife and family on Prospect Park West:

Despite casual family décor like the plastic yellow PreSkool table in the den and the pack of bikes parked in the living room, the Schumers’ three-bedroom apartment is still downright luxurious compared with the D Street house. Mr. Schumer sleeps in a real bedroom and even has chests of drawers.

See? Iris and Chuck like bikes so much that, like many New Yorkers with a lack of good storage space, they keep their bikes in their apartment, or at least they keep them around to give off a just-folks image to Times reporters.

Chuck understands the power of bikes so much that he uses his as a means of identifying with his younger constituents, no easy feat for someone very closely identified more with Wall Street tycoons than Bedford Avenue hipsters.  Here’s Chuck Schumer in 2009, in support of the Jelly concerts in Williamsburg:

“I happened to pass by the Jelly concerts when I was riding my bike through Williamsburg and was amazed at the thousands of people who lined the streets to come to the concerts.”

This is from a written statement, so it’s no accident that Chuck chose to reference his bike here — it’s political calculation.  He can’t exactly go on Meet the Press wearing skinny jeans, but he can say that he rides a bike to make sure everyone knows he’s just a hipster at heart.

In other political contexts Schumer knows that a bicycle can humanize the kinds of political figures who are too often seen as detached from regular citizens.  Here he is using biking as a litmus test for fellow New Yorker Sonia Sotomayor in 2009 before she was confirmed to the Supreme Court:

“She’s a bicycle rider. I’m a bicycle rider. We talked a little bit about our favorite routes.  She’s a very human person of great legal mind. And I think that’s the right person to be on the Supreme Court.”

I’m happy to add more examples of Chuck’s love for bicycles and Iris’ acknowledgment that New York is, for the most part, a walking city.  Please add what you can in comments or send me an email and I’ll update the post.

One other thing you can hopefully help me with is this: how can Chuck Schumer square his love of biking–to to mention his love of the bicycle as a political prop–with his work behind the scenes to get the bike lane that thousands of his neighbors love removed?

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2 Comments
  1. Steve permalink
    February 11, 2011 2:44 pm

    This is from a book Schumer wrote called Positively American. “I’m a numbers person. I read polls; I love analyzing data.” Wonder if he will analyze the dot data??

  2. Jayco permalink
    February 11, 2011 2:52 pm

    I don’t know if there is still the Senate Bike Caucus but ole Chuckie was on it.

    http://www.examiner.com/bicycle-transportation-in-national/politicycle-should-your-senator-be-booted-from-the-senate-bike-caucus?render=print

    “Bottom line: He’s probably the most bicycle-friendly senator in office.”

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