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News / Blog Advocacy News A Letter from the Executive Director

A Letter from the Executive Director

Robin Stallings, BikeTexas Executive DirectorDear Fellow Texas Cyclists,

BikeTexas staff and board thank so many of you for your hard work on behalf of bicycle advocacy during the now-ended 81st Texas Legislative Session. We had hoped we could do so in light of a new Safe Passing Law in Texas. As you all know, Governor Rick Perry chose to veto SB 488 on Friday, June 19, 2009 at a time when the 176 supporting Texas Legislators (out of 181 total) had no opportunity for an override.

Our disappointment runs profoundly deep. We had worked very closely and very carefully with legislative members opposed to the Safe Passing Bill to address their concerns and to promote an amended bill that brought them on board. There were a number of twists and turns, but we were always able to work with them to navigate SB 488 successfully through the Legislature. In the end, the willingness of these legislators encompassing such a broad range of views to work with us was not enough.

Please show your displeasure with Governor Perry's veto by signing the Safe Passing bill petition.

BikeTexas has always worked with a big picture view of how to make Texas a better and safer place to cycle for all Texas cyclists, from the traffic-savvy "A" cyclists to the family, young and beginner "C" cyclists with the many "B'' cyclists in between. In the coming years, we envision a steadily improving cycling environment in Texas that includes a Safe Passing Bill. It will still take time and continued effort to bring this picture to fruition. BikeTexas will be unwavering as it continues this quest.

Successes for Cyclists in the 2009 Session

We did see success in the session. BikeTexas worked toward the passage of SB 2041, which requires questions about motorist actions around bicyclists on drivers' tests. This forwards the understanding of a bicycle as a legal vehicle on Texas roadways. Passage of SB 161 will provide funds through "God Bless Texas" and "God Bless America" special license plate sales to go to the BikeTexas Safe Routes to School program. BikeTexas successfully worked with the author to eliminate a clause in HB 736 that would have given county governments authority to designate bicycles as a nuisance and ban them.

Our other big success is the organization that Texas cyclists are building. This "legislative machine" functioned better than ever. We had major resistance from powerful members of both houses to the Safe Passing bill and a couple of very bold initiatives. In spite of the challenges we faced, we were able to combine thorough preparation, quick responses, compromise, carefully-developed relationships and political muscle to get three very important pro-cycling bills passed through a legislature that killed almost 6,000 bills.

So Many to Thank

The BikeTexas team included our volunteer board of directors, Texas bicycle industry leaders, BikeTexas staff and contract lobbyists, volunteer "citizen lobbyists," (from all corners of Texas), sister advocacy organizations and a responsive grassroots.

Several BikeTexas staff spent most of their time for the 140 days on the legislative effort. For the first time we added a staff attorney for the session, James Forrest. James was a valuable supplement to our own policy analyst and bill drafter, Mark Stine (with BikeTexas since 2003). Emma Cravey, our Membership Director and Denise Luckey, our Design Director, managed the grassroots communications and first-class printed materials. The grassroots were one of our most formidable weapons. You Texas cyclists really came through this session!

Legislative Team
We also had a new, highly effective combination of contract lobbyists, Jeff Heckler and Scott Gilmore. Jeff and Scott have twenty-five years of legislative experience between them. They opened doors, mended fences and helped guide our strategy. Two Texas attorneys answered the call for volunteer help with some heavy lifting. Doug Black of Fort Worth prepared the first draft of the 2009 Safe Passing bill. Jennifer Cochran of Austin moonlighted as the team legislative researcher. Former Executive Director Gayle Cummins Stallings was an active part of the brain trust, bringing years of legislative experience and institutional knowledge to the team.

As a team, we drafted bills, committee scripts, "one pagers", Q and A's, talking points and bill analyses to take some of the load off of the legislative staff and to insure that our bills kept moving through the process. It is important to recognize that the bills and amendments that do not pass take as much work as the ones that do get through the sausage factory.

BikeTexas staff visited the Capitol to talk to legislative staff and members almost every day. We also managed to get several representatives, senators and legislative staff on bikes! Quite a few participated in our "Shifting Gears" transportation policy luncheon and bike ride (hosted by Senators Rodney Ellis, Jeff Wentworth and Wendy Davis), our Sine Die Bipartisan Bike Ride (see hosts), or one of a series of "Capitol Wellness Club" bike rides (spearheaded by the office of Rep. Eddie Lucio, III).

Bill Authors
Without these great legislators, none of this would have been possible. A very special thanks to bill authors Senator Rodney Ellis and Representative Linda Harper-Brown. Thanks also to our coauthors: Senators John Carona, Wendy Davis and Kirk Watson; and to Representatives Carol Alvarado, Ellen Cohen, Jessica Farrar, Roland Gutierrez, Carol Kent, Eddie Lucio III and Armando Walle.

Bike Clubs
"Cyclists in Suits" BikeTexas Lobby Day had a great turnout, in large part because of the work of BikeDFW leaders and volunteers. BikeHouston, Bexar Trails, Austin Cycling Association, Permian Basin Bicycle Association, Woodlands Cycling Club, Northwest Cycling Club, Lockheed Martin Recreation Association, San Antonio Wheelmen, Plano Bicycle Association, Tyler Bicycle Club and the Citizen's Transportation Coalition also made important contributions to our legislative successes.

A very special thanks to Austin Cycling Association, Permian Basin Bicycle Association and BikeHouston for very generous financial contributions at the front end of the session. These funds were critical to put forth a first-class effort at the Legislature.

"Back at the ranch", BikeTexas still had the largest bicycle safety program in the country to keep running. Well-insulated from the legislative turmoil, Brenda Chuleewah, Freddie Summer and Chris Gardner kept the trains running on time!

Bike Shops
Texas cyclists need to know how their bike shops stepped forward. A few Texas bicycle shops have raised the bar nationally for their fellow retailers. They are Richardson Bike Mart (Dallas area), Bicycle Sport Shop (Austin), Bicycles Inc. (Fort Worth), and Bike World (San Antonio). Please make a special trip to visit these stores and thank them for their generosity and commitment to making Texas a great place to be a cyclist.

Other stores have helped significantly so do not forget to thank them also. They include, Cycle Logic (San Antonio), Peyton's Bikes (Midland), Bay Area Bicycles (Corpus Christi), Waterloo Cycles (Austin), Mellow Johnny's (Austin), B&B Bicycles (Cedar Hill), Texoma Cycling Center (Wichita Falls) and Bikesport (Houston).

Moving Forward

Governor Perry has decided that the special legislative session will take place beginning July 1st. Since the special session will focus on transportation, we cyclists need to be prepared to defend our right to the roadway and go on the offense to win a fair share of transportation spending and traffic safety funding for bicyclists and pedestrians in proportion to our fatalities.

Texas cyclists also face threats to Safe Routes to School funding and Transportation Enhancements (multi-use trail funding) in the 2010 federal transportation reauthorization. Without BikeTexas in the fight in Washington, DC the odds increase that hundreds of millions of dollars will go to build more sprawl instead of making our communities more livable and safe.

Unfortunately the legislative session has left us depleted. We struggled financially to finish the regular legislative session. We have proven again that we are strongest when we unite. Please recruit your fellow cyclists to join BikeTexas. Renew your membership. Make a substantial legislative Warchest contribution. Let's use the momentum that we are building to take it to the next level.


Robin Stallings
Executive Director
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