Monday morning, 3:30 am
Three-thirty in the morning on Monday, April 20, 2009 found 40 BikeDFW members boarding a bus for the four-hour trip to visit the Texas State Legislature in Austin at the Sixth biennial BikeTexas Cyclists in Suits Texas Bike Lobby Day.
Joined by about 40 other cyclists from San Antonio, Houston, Austin, and other Texas communities, many arriving in buses and van pools, they put on their suits, attended a briefing by BikeTexas staff, and headed to the House Chamber at the Texas State Capitol.
Almost lunchtime, 11:40 am
At twenty minutes before noon, the Cyclists in Suits rose up in the Senate gallery to head for lunch in the Capitol cafeteria, having received the second bike resolution of the day and a standing ovation from the senators. The bike resolutions were read in each chamber, and with about 80 people attending, all wearing neon bike pins, the group made for quite an impressive sight in the House and Senate galleries.
In the House, Woody Smith and Tim Harper from the Dallas area; Cindi Snell and Bill Shea of San Antonio; and Hill Abell and Robin Stallings of Austin were invited to join House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, and Linda Harper-Brown, R-Irving, on the podium of the House Chamber.
As Senator Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, gave his resolution in the Senate, the legislators seemed impressed, and this may have contributed to the sudden movement of the Safe Passing bill (SB 488) in the Texas Senate: it was brought up for a vote the next day, and passed 25-5. (Originally the clerk announced the vote count as 28-2, but this was later corrected. Click here to see how each senator voted.)
Capitol Wrap Up, 2:30 pm
At 2:30 p.m. the Cyclists in Suits attendees gathered on the north steps of the Capitol for a group photo. Like professional lobbyists, they had already completed their task: efficiently and effectively spreading throughout the Capitol to hand out info cards on Safe Passing and other bike bills, discuss cyclists’ legislative agenda with legislators and staffers, and hand out over a thousand of the popular neon bike pins.
House Transportation Committee Chair Representative Joe Pickett (D-El Paso) happened to pass by, and was quickly convinced to put on a bike pin and pose with the group for the photo.
Recap and Relax, 3:30 pm
By 3:30 in the afternoon, the party at the nearby BikeTexas offices was underway early as the last order of business: relax with tamales, soda and beer and recount the activities of the day. By 5:00 p.m. it was time to make the trip back home, capping off an eighteen-hour day for many, the cyclists tired but exhilarated by the success of the day.
In addition to the Safe Passing bill, other important bills under consideration by the Texas Legislature this session include a bill requiring bike questions on the driver’s license exam (SB 2041), a bill expanding the categories of electric bikes that may be operated without a title and license (HB 964), and a Complete Streets bill (HB 2883).
The final results of these efforts may not be known until June 15th, the last day Texas Governor Rick Perry can sign or veto a bill. But these Texas cyclists got their message out and had fun doing it. The 2009 contingent of Cyclists in Suits put on the best demonstration since the first Cyclists in Suits in 1999 that cyclists can effectively lobby and make a difference for cyclists in Texas.