Beto O’Rourke Rode a Bike And the Internet Exploded

Be still our biking heart: Beto O'Rourke pedaling into the El Paso sunset.
Be still our biking heart: Beto O'Rourke pedaling into the El Paso sunset.

Add cyclists to the latest group that is going all dewy-eyed for Beto O’Rourke.

The junior Congressman who almost defeated Ted Cruz for a Texas Senate seat — and will soon announce whether he wants to try to do the same with Donald Trump in 2020 — was spotted cycling away from reporters on Thursday night, biking into the El Paso sunset on a single-speed Surley with pink bar grips.

It wasn’t Kim Kardashian breaking the internet, but bike Twitter was agape and agog.

“Sign me up to vote for him,” said Dale Schaper. “Cyclists are good, honest people. I will bet the man in the White House does not ride a bike.” [Good bet: President Trump has never been spotted on a bike, and actually removed a bike share rack from the presidential mansion and workplace.]

Twitter user Lara also added, “That’s it. I am officially on board. He bikes!!!!”

One video posted by newsman Eric Bradner had 14,000 views in a day. Another posted by CNN reporter DJ Judd had more than 165,000.

We’ve rarely seen this kind of two-wheeled excitement before. The Democrats’ 2004 nominee John Kerry famously biked, but also famously broke his femur biking — and also lost to one of the least-popular incumbents to be re-elected in recent years.

At least Kerry was serious about his cycling. President Obama liked being photographed biking on vacation (and on recreational trails) with his daughter, but very few candidates are willing to risk what they think will be national ridicule from the driving lobby by getting around on his or her own power. None of the existing 2020 candidates has been regularly spotted on two wheels, but O’Rourke “has been riding his bicycle to a makeshift office near San Jacinto Plaza” for the last few weeks, The Washington Post reported.

“Seeing a potential presidential candidate riding a Surly with a flip flop hub, helmetless, is a watershed moment,” said architect and bike advocate Jonathan Fertig on Twitter. (Several Twitter users mocked O’Rourke for biking without a helmet — but plenty more pointed out that car drivers, who never wear helmets, are far more likely to get head injuries than cyclists.)

Biking is clearly how O’Rourke likes to get around El Paso when he’s not campaigning statewide or nationally. And that’s pretty impressive because El Paso offers little accommodations for cyclists and is hostile to biking, despite efforts by tben-City Council Member O’Rourke. During his six years on the council, O’Rourke supported policies that would reduce parking, enliven downtown and add bike lanes. Thanks to O’Rourke and several colleagues, the city passed a smart growth plan that the Natural Resources Defense Council called the best in the country.

During his campaign against Cruz, O’Rourke hosted a “Biking Town Hall” in Dallas — and didn’t peel off early, either, completing the full 5.6-mile ride.

And if you need any more evidence that he’s a “real” cyclist, he got the endorsement of Lance Armstrong, who was known as the greatest cyclist in world history (until it turned out he wasn’t).

O’Rourke’s cycling is even more remarkable considering that his father, Pat O’Rourke, a former county commissioner and judge, was hit and killed as he rode a recumbent bicycle in 2001. According to the El Paso Times, the elder O’Rourke has been attempting a ride across the country. He had been writing about his adventure on a website run by his only son.

So certainly Beto O’Rourke gets props for riding his bike for transportation, but we would be remiss if we didn’t point out that he was arrested for driving — a car, not a bike — while intoxicated in 1998.

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