Recap of 2012 National Bike Summit – Day Two

Day two of the National Bike Summit began with two of the most influential and supportive political players tapping into the urgency that brought over 800 bike advocates to Washington D.C. The focus of the second day was to convey the seriousness of the bike advocacy movement and to fire up all the attending advocates for when they headed to speak with their elected representatives the next day.

The day began with the nation’s strongest elected bike advocate (and bowtie enthusiast) Earl Blumenhauer stating,

“my goal in working with you, these last 12 years in particular, is to make cycling a political movement,”

Blumenhauer for years has been the sole voice for bicyclists in Capitol Hill. His words and his presence were both appreciated by the thunderous applause that greeted him.

Ray LaHood, whose surprise, impromptu, table-top speech in 2010 endeared him to cyclists around the country, spoke next and he got right to the point and said,

2012 National Bike Summit
Ray LaHood at Wednesday's Opening Session. Photo: flickr/bikeleague

“The Senate bill is a good bill. It’s paid for. No more excuses. No more politics. Ride up there and tell them [the House] to pass the bill, if you do that you’ll be doing a good thing for America!”

LaHood later expanded on his short speech on his blog by writing,

Earlier this year, President Obama laid out his blueprint for “an America that’s built to last” – including his vision for a six-year reauthorization of the surface transportation bill. He committed to rebuilding and modernizing America’s roadways, railways, and runways – and to directing resources toward making livable communities a reality. Bicycles are part of that blueprint.

There will always be cars and trucks – and DOT will always be committed to keeping America’s roadways the safest and most efficient in the world. But, Americans want transportation choices – and as President Obama has said, that means an all of the above solution.

Now, I loved my first car, but I also loved my first bike. And whether we’re talking about a nation or an individual, just because we grow up doesn’t mean we have to leave everything behind. Bikes are still a terrific option, as are passenger trains, streetcars, and other parts of our transportation toolkit that we have ignored for too long.

Congressmembers Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and Tom Petri (R-WI) spoke next. Rep. Petri’s amendment to the existing House Transportation bill was key in garnering bi-partisan support. The goal of the advocates who had gathered in D.C. was to ask their elected representatives to support the Petri amendment which would be favorable to all modes of transportation including bicycling.

After getting fired up from the opening speeches, advocates broke into several groups to attend various breakout sessions.

The biggest highlight for me was attending the session titled, “Finally, the Racing and Advocacy Worlds Collide”. Panelists included pro cyclocross racer Tim Johnson who had just completed the Ride on Washington to successfully raise $100,000 for Bikes Belong, one of the three national advocacy groups that will eventually unite to become a single voice for everyone who rides a bicycle. Other panelists included Tim Miller, the Chief Operating Officer of Richmond 2015, and Eric Broadwell, President of Be Bike Friendly. The panel was moderated by Elysa Walk, the General Manager of Giant Bicycles.

The underlying theme of this discussion was about the minimal efforts made by the racing community to assist the bike advocacy movement in their efforts to both bring the benefits of bicycling to a wider demographic, and helping influence policy makers to effect change that would expand transportation choices for all residents.

National Women Cycling Forum
Elysa Walk (right), General Manager of Giant Bicycles. Photo flickr/bikeleague

Elysa Walk began the discussion by stating the tremendous financial impact that racing events brought to communities around the country. She stated that racers were the biggest users of the roads as they used them to train for events. Walk went on to describe that racers and their fans brought were responsible for a tremendous economic impact despite the lack of broad appeal in the U.S. As an example, Walk stated that in 2008 there were over a million charity events in the country that brought in about $535 from each attendee per event. This $535 figure came from travel to and from the event, hotel and other related expenses.

Eric Broadwell spoke specifically on how cycling events could help the bike advocacy movement. Broadwell described that every event increased the number of riders and thus helped grow the cycling community. This in result brought about broader public awareness and exposure on the issues that affected everyone who rode. Broadwell had a guide to depict how one could transform from a racer to someone who would adopt an active lifestyle. The analysis was in part based on financial impact (through a racer’s purchases of bikes and related accessories) which would result in the cyclist training for an event which would thus transform him into a commuter. This eventually would result in a racer incorporating an active lifestyle as well as being a promoter of bicycling as a mode of transportation.

Tim Miller spoke about Richmond 2015, an international world road cycling championship that the city of Richmond, VA won the privilege of hosting. This event that has to date been hosted by world renown cities, such as Copenhagen and Melbourne, gave Richmond an opportunity to enter the world stage to be a platform for change. Miller talked about how the possibility of garnering such exposure got the mayor enthusiastic about supporting bicycling and bicycling events.

Tim Miller from Richmond 2015 presenting

The final speaker was Tim Johnson who expressed being surprised in 2010 when he learned about the nationwide bike advocacy movement when he did the first Ride on Washington. He expressed that as a professional racer, he was unaware of what bike advocates did. He stated that he was aware of IMBA‘s successes primarily from being a mountain biker himself. He had many ideas on how bike advocates could engage the racing community including having the racing clubs adopt a school to encourage kids to ride, and he encouraged the League of American Bicyclists to invite one of the largest governing bodies of competitive cycling to the next National Bike Summit. Johnson also discussed the racing community’s ability to raise large amount of funds to help the typically cash-strapped bike advocacy groups in order to garner more clout and support. In what was turning out to be the theme of the year, Johnson repeatedly reemphasized the need for all who ride to connect and work together.

Velo News had an excellent writeup of this panel‘s discussion and I look forward to seeing more bike racers getting involved in the growing bike advocacy movement.