Exciting Times at the 2012 National Bike Summit

Mar 28, 2012

The cherry blossoms were in full bloom and I thoroughly enjoyed the spring (or summer) weather while I attended the 2012 National Bike Summit at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Washington, D.C. last week. Things started off on Tuesday with a Women's Cycling Forum hosted jointly by the Alliance for Biking and Walking and the Association for Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals (APBP). (If you are interested in this topic, there is an APBP webinar today, March 28, at 3 pm EDT). Moving into the evening's activities, over 800 cyclists, retailers, industry professionals, and pedestrian advocates learned about the influential power of new media from Mark McKinnon, former presidential campaign and chief media adviser. Take away -- prepare your message and be authentic.

Wednesday, things started off with a rousing speech from Congressman Earl Blumenauer. The Congressman challenged us to work even harder in the coming months, to take our stories to the Hill and drive our influence as never before. As I looked around at familiar faces -- friends from the cycling community I have come to know, trust, and rely on over the past few years -- I realized for every familiar face, there were three or four new faces. One of the Congressman's earlier challenges, made several years ago, was to grow the movement. This is what happens when Congressman Blumenauer lays out a challenge, we as a community of like-minded individuals and organizations rise up to meet it.

Wednesday's interactive and dynamic sessions planned by the League of American Bicyclists set the stage for successful meetings on the Hill the following day. As we gathered stories of how cycling plays into the economic and social vitality of our communities and the important role cycling plays in making an accessible and equitable transportation system, we prepared our message.

We had several amazing speeches that morning, none more directed to action than that of Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, who called us to make our way to Capitol Hill with the demand for a transportation bill now.

The highlight of the morning session was the appearance of the Director of the National Park Service, Jonathan Jarvis. After working for months with the National Park Service Rivers Trails Conservation Assistance (RTCA) program leaders, the national agreement between Adventure Cycling and the National Park Service is on its way to the director's desk for a signature. Director Jarvis spoke of the National Park Service Call to Action and how cycling plays an important role in the National Park System's future. I was especially pleased to hear him mention the U.S. Bicycle Route System's role in connecting cyclists to parks and parks to communities and how cycling plays a role in meeting the economic, environmental, and health challenges faced by park units today. Director Jarvis highlighted some of Park System's great examples like Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, which will be part of U.S. Bicycle Route 35 in Michigan; and Mississippi National River Recreation Area which will be part of the Mississippi River Trail and USBR 45 in Minnesota. Both of these park units have done amazing work developing trail systems, access points, and even bike-share programs to make their parks accessible to cyclists. He also pointed out that bike share is now a part of the National Mall, which was met with loud approval from the audience.

I would be remiss to forget our luncheon speaker, Jason Dorsey, who wowed us with his research and insights to understanding and working with Gen Y, Gen X, Baby Boomers, and Traditionalists. I had never really thought about how to communicate based upon the date you were born, but as I laughed at his antics and generalizations, much of it clicked and I learned some valuable lessons.

After a full day of learning and sharing, Jim Sayer and I retreated to a couple of after-session gatherings to network and congratulate others on their great work. We started off at the East Coast Greenway Alliance (ECGA) party where we were surprised (and very excited) to receive the ECGA Partnership Award. Wow. All I can say is that ECGA is a wonderful project with amazing people working with and for the mission to provide a non-motorized path connecting cities and destinations along the length of the Atlantic Coast. My evening was complete when I attended a gathering celebrating the 2015 World Cycling Championships which will take place in Richmond, Virginia. This exciting event will bring advocacy and racing together -- something we saw happen this year with Tim Johnson's ride on Washington and the National Bike Summit.

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All said and done, the week in Washington, D.C. was full of good energy despite the turmoil continuing to boil on Capitol Hill. Most attendees reported that meetings went well and that they felt heard. As usual, we ended the week with the Congressional Bike Ride -- there were so many of us we couldn't do the typical street ride, so we took to the residential areas and beautiful paths being constructed along the Anacostia River. A great ride with a great group. Thanks League of American Bicyclists and Bikes Belong for a great week in Washington, DC. And, thanks DC for the fabulous weather!

Photos by Ginny Sullivan.

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BUILDING THE U.S. BICYCLE ROUTE SYSTEM (USBRS) is posted by Ginny Sullivan, USBRS coordinator at Adventure Cycling, and features news and updates related to the emerging U.S. Bicycle Route System. The USBRS project is a collaborative effort, spearheaded by a task force under the auspices of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO). Members of the task force include officials and staff from state DOTs, the Federal Highway Administration, and nonprofits like the East Coast Greenway Alliance, and Mississippi River Trail, Inc.

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