It was a snow emergency in Washington, DC, shutting down federal offices as well as local public transportation, but this would not deter the eager conference-goers in town for the annual League of American Bicyclists’ National Bike Summit, including us spoiled Californians. Trudging through 4 inches of snow with flakes falling and almost no souls on the street was a magical experience. Thus began three non-stop days of bicycles, bicycles, bicycles.
Day 1 was the Women’s Forum with sessions focused on strategies to engage more women in the bicycling movement. The day was full of energy with speakers from diverse backgrounds and all ages. The founder of Women Bike PHL spoke of creating a specialized bicycle safety patch for Girl Scouts troops; the Washington Area Bicycle Association outreach coordinator discussed using “roll models” to represent all their area’s demographics. There were also presentations about Kidical Mass, messaging to women, and bicycling fashion. The energy and enthusiasm of the day were contagious, particularly highlighted by a delegate that had biked from New York City to Washington DC the weekend before.
The second day went more in-depth in sessions regarding law enforcement, equity, creating coalitions and federal legislation. I learned best practices for bicycle diversion programs; Colin learned strategies for connecting to overlooked bike users. We were treated to a rousing speech by Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx, former mayor of Charlotte, NC, where he created a vibrant transportation system. At the end of the day, we met with all the other attendees from California to strategize about the Congressional meetings the following day.
By Wednesday, the sun had come out and the snow was melting. We met with staff from the four area Representatives, the Honorables: Jackie Speier, Mike Honda, Zoe Lofgren and Anna Eshoo; as well as staff for Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein. Part of our goal was to solicit support for three federal bills:
- Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Act (HR 3494) which would set a national target for decreasing bicycle and pedestrian fatalities
- Safe Streets Act (HR 2468) which would set a federal complete streets policy so that all modes of transportation must be considered when designing roadways (California already has a similar policy)
- New Opportunities for Bicycle and Pedestrian Infrastructure Financing Act (HR 3978) which would set aside funds from an existing loan program specifically for bike and ped projects
Most of our Representatives had co-sponsored at least one of these bills already and were interested in the others. Besides the federal bills, we also invited each of our Reps to participate in Bike to Work Day in their district on May 8.
After three cold days, the SVBC delegation was ready to return to the warm west coast, where we hope to put the many lessons learned to good use.