Recap of 2012 National Bike Summit – Day Three

Day three of the National Bike Summit happened over a month ago. But between all the tragedies, I chose to put this on the back-burner until I had some time to do a writeup.

Day three of the National Bike Summit was the entire reason over 800 bike advocates had descended upon Washington D.C. The goal was to speak to our elected representatives, one on one, and ask them to support dedicated federal funding for bicycling and walking programs.

California Delegation to the 2012 National Bike Summit. Photo by Allan Crawford.

The San Diego contingent was six people strong. The goal was to meet and speak with our elected representatives from San Diego County: Senator Barbara Boxer, Representatives Duncan Hunter, Susan Davis, Darrell Issa, Bob Filner and, Brian Bilbray.

Our first meeting of the day was with Rep. Duncan Hunter’s Chief of Staff, Vicki Middleton. Although Hunter was in his office, he didn’t stop by to chat but instead pointedly ignored the six people who had flown in from San Diego to meet with him. Duncan Hunter raised eyebrows a few years ago with his vision for a fabulous future from sixty years ago. Middleton politely listened to our reasons for meeting with her and described her own joy in riding a bicycle with her mom in Florida. She then described the tremendous benefits she’s experienced from living in Arlington, VA – a city known for having exemplified the best in the smart growth movement, but she made no mention of the power and benefits that her employer could bestow on the San Diego region if he voted to preserve bicycle and pedestrian funding.

Our next meeting was with Rep. Susan Davis. This meeting couldn’t have been more different than the previous meeting. Susan Davis came out in person and spent 30 minutes listening and talking. She described her experience in going to Adams Avenue Bicycles to get a tune-up.

Susan Davis supports small businesses such as Adams Avenue Bicycles. Photo from Susan Davis' office

Davis intuitively grasped the tremendous economic boon that bicycling would be to cities and reiterated her support for supporting federal funding for bicycling and walking.

Our third meeting was with Rep. Darrell Issa’s staff member. This was the most enlightening meeting because Issa’s staff member mentioned that Rep. Issa didn’t consider bicycling or walking to be an issue that ought to be supported by federal dollars. Thus Rep. Issa wouldn’t be voting to support bicycling or walking at the federal level. The basic message from Issa’s office pointedly ignored the fact that San Diego’s very existence is due to Federal initiatives.

Our fourth meeting was with Rep Bob Filner, currently running to be the City’s next mayor. We met with Sharon M. Wagener, Filner’s Chief of Staff. Filner stopped in briefly to exchange pleasantries before heading off to a Congressional Session. Bob Filner promised to support Federal funding for bicycling and walking programs.

The final meeting of the day was with Rep. Brian Billbray’s Chief of Staff. As was the case with the first meeting, the staffer politely listened to us but reminded us that Billbray would essentially be following the party line and not voting to support bicycling and walking programs.

As the meeting with Senator Barbara Boxer was scheduled at the same time as the meeting with Brian Bilbray, our group of six split up to meet with the Senator. Senator Boxer has been a true champion on Capitol Hill and the goal was to thank Senator Boxer.

At the end of the day, I thought it was a true shame that something as basic as transportation has made some of our elected representatives in D.C. so short-sighted. But perhaps this was a reminder on the need to actually vote members in who were more willing to listen and change their minds instead of blindly following party ideology. I shall do a voter guide from the bicycling perspective before Election Day.