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Over 400 leaders from the bike industry including bike shop owners, advocacy groups, researchers, and bike manufacturers gathered in D.C. for the 2007 National Bike Summit March 14-16.
Texas Bicycle Coalition’s national counterparts in the cycling world such as International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA), National Bicycle Dealers Association, Bikes Belong Coalition, Adventure Cycling Association, and various state federations and coalitions gathered to collaborate on ways to improve bicycling in America. Hosted by League of American Bicyclists (LAB), the summit sessions covered a variety of angles including national leadership, legislative communication, federal policy, and funding addressed many ways to promote cycling.
The Texas Bicycle Coalition turned out a good attendance of staff to attend this worthwhile event. Local outreach coordinators Durwood Mayfield, Sherman Phillips, KC Jones and Brenda Chuleewah, now head of the Teacher Training Program in Austin, all attended Safe Routes to School specific sessions.
The summit offered strategies for attaining the kind of success cyclists need to improve their communities. Part of the work included addressing legislative issues. Attendees visited their Senators’ and Representatives’ offices and spoke mostly with staff regarding transportation issues. The time spent with staff brought awareness to key issues such as the elimination of Enhancements by Texas Department of Transportation and other important issues that effect all states such as the Bicycle Commuter Tax Benefit Act (H 1498), which adds bicycles to the transportation fringe benefit already available to those who commute using mass transit or car pools. Another request made to Congress and heavily backed by IMBA would benefit hundreds of projects a year by funding the National Park Service: Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program. At the end of the day, everyone in congress was invited to join the Congressional Bike Caucus so they could work in a bi-partisan way toward solutions to the challenges of energy resources, traffic congestion, global warming and obesity.
KC Jones felt the best part of the summit was hearing the success stories from unexpected places.
“It was extremely motivating to be around more than 400 of the top movers and spinners so to speak. Hearing about success stories from speakers like the mayors of Louisville, KY and Spartanburg, NC about how they helped transform their towns into cycling friendly cities gave me hope for Texas. Oregon, California, and Colorado always seem to get the awards for bikeability and to learn that states in the good old south can transform transportation options really amazed me. I think I was a little jealous too. I mean, how do we get a Metroplex like D/FW to think about making it safe to cycle to school, work, and business not just recreation? I think we have to clone the mayors of Spartanburg and Louisville.”
Robin Stallings, Executive Director of Texas Bicycle Coalition, and Kristina Gaboury, Membership Director of Texas Bicycle Coalition, were instrumental in coordinating the schedule for meeting with members of Congress. Robin’s years of networking and actual experience walking Capitol Hill paid off. Organized into three teams, the Texas constituents were able to visit an impressive number of offices, approximately 20 (67% of our Representatives), in only one day. Seasoned by previous summits, Robin Stallings, Laura King, Twilight Freedman, and Preston Tyree helped the rookie Summit-goers perfect their lobby speeches in no time.
For years, Preston Tyree has been a leader in advocacy in Texas and is on the board of the League of American Bicyclists. “I led the first few meetings and the others just picked things up so fast. By the end of the day, they were pros.”
One of the most important factors that influence safe cycling involves city planning. An influential designer can have a significant impact by providing infrastructure that is engineered with cyclists in mind. Houston is lucky to have Clark Martinson creating places to bike. While representing both the TBC Board and www.energycorridor.org, Clark Martinson “wowed” the legislative staff with innovative planning that includes bicycles as a transportation option in a huge city.
The National Bike Summit provided a total emersion experience including networking, educating, and brainstorming. Cycling may not solve all of the world’s problems but it does alleviate many in our own part of the world. Now we each need to bring the answers home to our city streets by engaging decision makers so cycling is on their radar and in their thoughts as they plan for the future. Consider hosting your own local bike summit and get the wheel of change rolling through your neighborhood.