Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Big Takeaway from Last Week's National Bike Summit

Last week's National Bicycle Summit, an annual confab organized by the League of American Bicyclists, was an invigorating and innovative three days in Washington D.C. As reported in earlier posts, the Summit featured the terrific National Women's Bicycle Forum on Monday. We heard keynote addresses from Georgena Terry, Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth, and NYC Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan. (Click those links for videos of their addresses.) Tuesday's speakers included beloved and departing DOT Commissioner Ray LaHood, Bruce Katz from the Brookings Institute, and Indianapolis mayor Greg Ballard.

Tuesday also featured one of the most interesting parts of the summit, the presentation from Doug Meyer, of Bernuth & Williamson Consulting. Mr. Meyer was hired by the League to interview 30 Republican and Democratic hill staffers to get a sense of which messages delivered by the biking and walking community best resonate. You can read a summary of Mr. Meyer's findings here and his presentation here. Some of the key findings of his presentation:
  • Bicycle advocates as “sore winners”  (MAP-21 should be considered a win, not a loss, given that all funding was slated to be eliminated and we were able to save it.) 
  • Dedicated funding is not the be all, end all (The trend is for funding to be directed to MPOs and localities.)
  • The future is a multi-modal transportation system; embrace it and use it (Frame biking as a key cog in a larger multi-modal transportation system.)
  • Asking for a “fair share for safety” doesn't resonate (Asking for safer streets through performance measures — or a national goal — is far more compelling than asking for money.)
As reported by Bike Portland, the bicycle movement is evolving and the advocacy community needs to evolve with it.

A big takeaway from Meyer's research (and the Summit overall) is that bicycling should no longer be considered a fringe activity. From the huge positive impact of bike-sharing and the proliferation of protected bikeways in U.S. cities; to US DOT Secretary Ray LaHood's efforts to legitimize non-motorized transportation — the national profile of cycling has never been higher. That means advocates must shift their frame-of-reference.  "Bicycling advocates now have a seat at the table," said Meyer during an interview on Wednesday, "So instead of convincing people that they need that seat, now they need to sit down and start working together on solutions."

On Wednesday, despite a federal government shut-down (by a storm that ultimately skipped DC), we joined other PA residents in trooping through the rain to visit with members of Congress and their staff (those whos offices remained open through what turned out to be little snow and much rain). A big thank you to everyone who took the time to come down to DC to deliver the message that Bicycling Means Business, especially in Pennsylvania!

Pat Cunnane (Advanced Sports) & Joe Staffor (Bicycle Access Council)
 greeted Rep. Scott Perry (PA -09) on his way to a vote

 Rep. Jim Gerlach (PA-06) took time out of
a Ways and Means Committee hearing to meet with
Shayne Trimbell and Joe Lison 

Bucks County residents Gunnar Bergy,
Jennifer Polo, Scott Wueschinski,
Andy Hamilton and Steve Hawkins were warmly greeted by Rep. Fitzpatrick (PA-08)