Monday, September 13, 2010

Alliance For Biking and Walking Retreat Wrapup

The Alliance for Biking and Walking (ABW) leadership retreat happened this weekend before the start of the Pro Walk Pro Bike Conference in Chattanooga Tennessee. The retreat was based on the Delta Queen a Riverboat turned hotel. Chattanooga is a river city that has taken extraodinary steps to revitalize its Riverfront - most dramatic is the Walnut Street Pedestrian Bridge (the downtown street grid has some familiar tree streets - Chestnut, Market, Cherry, Pine along with Broad Street).

Photo - Walnut St Bridge 0ver Coolidge Park and the Delta Queen Riverboat hotel (center right)

With 166 organizations under its umbrella the retreat focuses on organizational development including membership and strategic planning. One of the hottest topics discussed was diversifying the movement which at this point is now dominated by the white middle class although several organizations are making some inroads. An important point to remember is that minority groups share a disproportionate percentage of bicycle and pedestrian fatalities.

The retreat ended with a long discussion about the current state of transportation funding in Congress and the soon to be published Cities for Cycling guide which will offer an alternative to the traditional AASHTO Guide for the Development of Bicycle Facilities.

One problem in Congress is the expected change in leadership in the House, this will require a change of strategy that will hopefully appeal to moderates in a Republican Congress. As one veteran advocate bluntly noted "...if we can convince Republicans to support bicycling and walking then it will no longer be considered a liberal issue".

The retreat closed with a Susie Stephens memorial tree planting adjacent to the Delta Queen. Stephens was a founding member and first Executive Director of the Thunderhead Alliance (the original name for ABW) and was killed by an illegally turning bus while crossing the street in St. Louis, MO at a pedestrian safety conference in March of 2002.

Special thanks to Outdoor Chattanooga which hosted the event.