By Karen Brooks
The League of American Bicyclists hosted a vibrant and vital National Bike Summit earlier this month in Washington, DC. This year’s theme of “Grass Roots Grow Together” was particularly apt—the current bike-friendliness of national government is uncertain at best, but through workshops, speeches, and lots of positive examples, attendees took away the message that the most powerful changes happen on the local level.
I kicked off my Summit experience with a cool Mobile Workshop—a tour of the University of Maryland via bike share. UMD’s College Park campus has been part of the League’s Bicycle Friendly Community program since 2011, and is currently at the Gold level, part of a select group of only 20 universities to earn this status. The tour was a great example of what making space for bikes can do for a university or town: there’s much less pressure for space for parked cars, students can get to class quickly, and connections to transit options are easier. The UMD program includes an on-campus bike shop, staffed by student workers, that offers basic repairs and accessories. There’s also a recreational aspect, with mountain bikes for rent and group rides on local trails. The best part was the bike share system—23 stations offer handy bikes (and easy parking) throughout campus.
Mealtimes were a chance to meet fellow advocates and find out what’s going on across the country while gleaning valuable nuggets of inspiration and wisdom from keynote speakers. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao announced a new multi-modal report from the Department of Transportation—this may sound boring, but it’s the first time that this DOT has paid much attention to bicycling. Our favorite “bike-partisan” representative, Congressman Earl Blumenauer of Oregon, reminded us that, of transportation choices, cycling has the highest rate of return for investment. Veronica Davis, founder of Black Women Bike DC, told the audience she was heartened to see kids out riding bike-share bikes around the city.
The most valuable session I attended was the last in my schedule, “Creating Representation of Diversity Through Content Creation.” The presenter, Ayesha McGowan, is on a mission to become the first African-American pro road cyclist in the United States, and to inspire other bike riders along the way. (Check out her site, A Quick Brown Fox, for more info). Ms. McGowan led the audience through exercises and taught via examples in what felt more like a graduate-level class than a presentation, designed to lead us to see different ways that an individual’s story can be told and to think about how best to do so without distorting or tokenizing their experiences. Some of the media examples she provided were downright painful, while others seemed OK on the surface until we began to delve deeper into possible implicit biases of the producers.
There is one notable absence at the National Bike Summit, this year as well as others: the bike industry. Aside from a few loyal supporters and sponsors (shoutout to Advanced Sports International, which always has a presence), there are very few bike companies who take the time to attend the Summit, to their detriment. It’s clear that with mini-revolutions like bike share, and communities cooperating to transform into bike-friendly places, people want to ride. But the typical industry stance is to preach the benefits of the next micro-trend product to an ever-shrinking choir, while largely ignoring the crucial work that goes on to ensure that there are places to use a bike. I challenge more bike companies to send people next year ,and promise you’ll learn a lot.Tweet Print
This is the final installment of the National Bike Summit Recap. We highlighted a tiny fraction of the organizations and people that attended this year’s event. Again, the role that these organizations play in bicycle and pedestrian safety is extremely important. So go support your local bicycle advocacy group; become a member, volunteer, go to an education class, attend and support hosted events.
Our last Q&A is with Jamie from The City of Fort Collins FC Bike Program. Jamie hosted a sessions called “Bicycle Friendly Driver” a successful education class that she hopes to share to the masses. The “Bicycle Friendly Driver” class teaches what is legal or illegal with photo reference, it teaches and emphasizes little things that can be done to prevent injuring a pedestrian or cyclist; open your car door with your right hand (makes you look over your shoulder), slow down and pass with care, what are the passing laws, etc. This is a program that Jamie and her colleagues have taken to the Fort Collins transportation service and has taught all the drivers how to be a “Bicycle Friendly Driver”, they have taken this to trucking companies, sanitation companies and more. Everyone who passes receives a sticker for their vehicle, and a certificate to show off. I’m sure we’ll hear more on this program’s success in the coming years.
Bike Summit Attendee: Jamie Gaskill-Fox
Organization: The City of Fort Collins FC Bikes Program
Tell me why did you attended the National Bike Summit? I attended the Summit because I was invited by the League to do a session on the Bicycle Friendly Program that we developed and have been implementing in Fort Collins since December 2015.
What are some easy ways for people to get involved and support an organization like yours? 1) Ride your bike and do so in a safe and lawful manner. Be the example – the more of us who are positive examples on a daily basis, the safer we will all be and the more support we will have in the long run. 2) Vote to support sustainable transportation. Our programs won’t exist without the support of voters. 3) Volunteer with our organization – we’re always looking for more awesome Ambassadors. Ambassadors help educate others about safe cycling and encourage others to ride. Plus, Ambassadors help reinforce the positive cycling community.
Why should people support organizations like yours? The work that we do makes roadways safer and easier to travel for ALL people. Our programming also helps meet much larger strategic goals such as climate action goals and reducing traffic congestion.
What was your #1 takeaway from the Summit? Even though there are great things happening across the country in regards to making our communities better for bicycling, we are at a critical time when we need to reflect on what we want the future to look like for people who ride bikes and to make it happen.. We need to find new ways to reach people through each of the 5 (now 6) Es. and engage them in a way that spurs them into action. Change is good – just as long as we grab it by the handlebars and steer it the way we need to go to make a better biking nation.
For the National Bike Summit Recap, we are highlighting some of the amazing organizations and people that attended this year’s event. The role that these organizations play in bicycle and pedestrian safety is extremely important. Go here to read the Part 1 Recap.
Bike Summit Attendee: Julie Mallis
Organization: Bike PGH, Pittsburgh, PA
Tell me why did you attended the National Bike Summit? I wanted to meet with other youth bike educators and LCI’s (League Cycling Instructor), connect with other women in the industry, discuss and challenge the equity of the work we all do, lobby our state senators for people-centric safer streets and to bike around DC! Being around a lot of bike advocates is empowering and fun!
What are some easy ways for people to get involved and support an organization like yours? Thanks for asking! It’s easy, you can: 1: Donate or become a member. You can become a monthly sustainer or contribute annually, 2: Get your business involved with supporting bicycling, 3: Volunteer at our big events like OpenStreetsPGH or parking bikes at the bike valets.
Why should people support organizations like yours? We are a membership-based organization and we need the support and participation of the community to keep up the work! Our organizational focus is on advocacy, community, and education. We work for policy change and transformation of our urban core by inspiring and advocating within communities to achieve bikeable/walkable streets. As we work together for safer streets, we also host large community events like OpenStreets that reimagine how a street could be used. We provide accessible education programs and printed resources for youth and adults to learn online or on-the-saddle bike safety and tips. There are a number of ways in which someone can support or participate in this work!
What was your #1 takeaway from the Summit? Youth are the future of bicycling and we must centralize their voices and experiences in advocating for safer streets. The Engaging Youth in Advocacy and Education was my favorite session. It was hosted by young people from Philly’s Cadence Cycling and Neighborhood Bike Works, Arlington’s Phoenix Bikes and DC’s Gearing Up. Everything the youth had to say was on-point, inspiring and direct. “Just because I’m a youth, doesn’t mean I don’t know what I’m talking about” – Theo of @GearinUpDC
Look forward to one more National Bike Summit attendee posts !
The National Bike Summit is a yearly advocacy event held by The League of American Cyclists. The point of this event is to gather bicycle advocates to coordinate and extend their voices to Capitol Hill and be able to attend sessions to give organizations the tools they need to make a difference within their community and beyond. The hope is to work together to advance the cycling movement as a united front.
Advocacy is not exciting to everyone. There is a lot of legislation talk, accessing state funding, bond money, fund raising, rumble strip and chip seal discussions, lobbying, non-lobbying, federal advocacy and much more. There are times when my eyes glaze over a little and I just want to run into any battle, sword in the air ready to strike. Action first, talk later, me angry, me use fist… you get it. My point is it takes a very dedicated and patient individual to stand up and fight for cycling/pedestrian infrastructure and safety.
Almost every state attended The Bike Summit. Some states had multiple people to march on the hill and make the case for infrastructure funding to their State Senators and Representatives. Some states had only one representative and sadly, some states were not in attendance at all.
Listen, I’m not going to stand up here on this website soap-box and shake my finger at anyone or anything for my concern of lack of attendance. That’s not going to help. Instead I want to share with you the people I met, why they attended, how easy it is for you to get involved and hope that they can encourage you to go out and contribute to your local bicycle advocacy club (or start one!).
Bike Summit Attendee: Kyle Lawrence
Organization: Shenandoah Valley Bicycle Coalition, Harrisonburg, VA
Tell me why did you attended the National Bike Summit? I have attended the summit for the past 7 years and think it is important to travel to Washington DC and to the halls of Congress. For us, it is part of a comprehensive strategy to connect with our local, state, and national representatives
What are some easy ways for people to get involved and support an organization like yours? Our organization is membership centered and the easiest way to get involved is to join or come meet us at one of our events or rides to learn about how bicycles can improve our community. We aim to grow the number of smiles and high-fives in our entire community. Like every bike/walk organization, our work touches on a number of aspects involving transportation and land-use planning, education, encouragement and more. Joining any organization is usually step one. Whether you join or not, you should come out to a trail work day, go on a group bike ride, or grab food and drink with us at our monthly social. Above all, you can bring your ideas and energy to our efforts. All groups want and need is new inspiration, high energy and diverse interests. An honest desire to have fun and improve the community are always welcomed with open arms.
Why should people support organizations like yours? Bicycling and walking are mere tools to build stronger and happier communities. We all walk at some point and likely it could be easier and more comfortable. Our organization aims to do the same with bicycle riding. Whether you decide to bike or not, we aim to make it easier and more comfortable to navigate the spaces between the buildings. We believe safer and more comfortable cities grow more smiles, break down barriers, and make our communities happier and friendlier places to live, work, and play. The bicycle just happens to be a nice way to make it all happen. If you believe in strong, friendly communities, you’ll believe in our work.
Keep your eye out for Part 2—more stories from all over the United States of advocacy groups and state organizations looking to grow cycling safety!Tweet Print