WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama may have gained a new chief of staff, but Washington has apparently lost what would have been its most powerful bike commuter.
In announcing the appointment of Denis McDonough as White House chief of staff on Friday, Obama addressed McDonough's children about the added demands of their father's new job.
"Dad will probably have to stop riding his bike to work," Obama joked. "As chief of staff, I don't think that's allowed."
According to a Bloomberg news report in early January, McDonough had already given up his bike commute. "His preferred mode of transport to work was a bicycle," Bloomberg reported, "until his wife forbade him from biking DC streets after an accident."
McDonough was one of nearly 10,000 workers in Washington who ride a bicycle to work, according to the Census Bureau's 2011 American Community Survey.
McDonough was not the only DC commuter to find that the demands of a high-profile job conflicted with commuting by bicycle. Energy Secretary Steven Chu told The New York Times in 2009 that he, too, was a bike commuter until his security detail overruled it.
"My security detail didn't want me to be riding my bicycle or even taking the Metro," Chu said. "I have a security detail that drives me."
Greg Billing, advocacy director for the Washington Area Bicyclist Association, told The Huffington Post he would be thrilled to see McDonough continue to ride his bike to work.
"It would continue to illustrate that this city is a city for riding," Billing said, "if everybody from staffers on the Hill to members of Congress to the chief of staff are riding, it's probably the best way to get around."
As noted by the web site DCist, McDonough may have been something less than a model cyclist. A recent New York Times profile reported that he would sometimes deliver angry missives to reporters while riding his bike:
Mr. McDonough is intensively protective of the president, and is well known for picking up the phone — or his BlackBerry — to take people to task, from reporters to Washington talking heads to other Obama officials who go off message. He spent the entirety of his bike ride home to Takoma Park, Md., from the White House late one recent night arguing on the cellphone with a reporter who he believed had mischaracterized an internal administration debate over Iraq policy.
"We'd probably encourage him to perhaps pull over when he's taking a phone call for his own sake," WABA's Billing added, "although current DC law doesn't prohibit it."