National Bike Summit Recap

NATIONAL BIKE SUMMIT
League of American Bicyclists / The League
March 4-6, 2013
Renaissance Hotel, Washington, D.C.

By Steve Schurtz of Mason City

The National Bike Summit was held in Washington, D.C., on March 3-5, 2014. The theme was “United Spokes: Moving Beyond Gridlock”, and the summit was sponsored by the League of American Bicyclists, now know as “The League”. The Iowa delegation included Mark Wyatt, Executive Director of Iowa Bicycle Coalition; Steven Schurtz, IBC Board of Directors member; Cheryl Schurtz, Mason City; Bob Oplinger, representing Bicyclists of Iowa City, and Anne Duggan and Larry Fitzpatrick, also from Iowa City.

Prior to the Summit, on Sunday evening, there was a newly offered session, Media Training for Bicycle Advocates. This session, led by reporters from various types of media, gave suggestions on how to best get our message across – dealing with reporters, issuing press releases, and using Twitter and other social media.

The 3nd annual National Women’s Bicycling Forum was held during the day prior to the opening dinner of the Summit. This meeting showcased women leaders and entrepreneurs in the bicycle industry and highlighted the economic impact and rising influence of women in the bicycle movement. This part of the Summit continues to grow each year.

The Summit officially opened on Monday evening with a dinner and opening plenary session. The keynote speaker was Phillip Darnton, Phillip Darnton, Executive Director of the Bicycle Association of Great Britain. In a delightful speech, he made these points:

• Get yourself a mayor.
• Start a long time ago and keep going.
• A plan without resources is a wish.
• Investment in cycling pays back.
• Build it. They may not come. Continuity is important.
• Train them early.
• Get women cycling. Then the kids will cycle.

He remarked, “Love cycling. Go Dutch.”

Other speakers on Monday evening were Andy Clarke, President, League of American Bicyclists, and Tim Blumenthal, Executive Director of People For Bikes The Tuesday session opened with an address by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon). After his election to the House of Representatives in 1996, he was a co-founder of the House Bike Caucus. The Congressional Bike Caucus (http://blumenauer.house.gov/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=280) is now bi-partisan with a mission to promote cycling as a transportation and recreation alternative in Washington and nationwide. Rep. Blumenauer rode his bike to the meeting and appeared in a suit and bow tie. He recommended raising the gas tax. “That hasn’t been done since before Barrack met Michelle”, he quipped.

Also speaking was Douglas Meyer from Bernuth & Williamson, who shared the results of 40 interviews with mayors and top city administrators from across the country.

• What messages aren’t working (or not working on a wide scale)?
• What messages are backfiring?
• What can we learn?
o Environmental protection: Not a major driver in the majority of cities
o Safety: To bring up safety can backfire if it’s seen as questioning the city’s commitment to an essential duty
o Equity: A positive impact and outcome, but not a critical issue
o Congestion: Not a pressing topic in many smaller or mid-sized cities
o If you have a “One Less Car” t-shirt, burn it. Anything anti-car, “adds fuel to a fire you don’t want to stoke,” Meyer said.
o Suggesting that bicycling is on par with other modes, like cars and transit, is simply not seen as credible.
o Mayors are driving the support for bicycling and shift to multi-modalism, but they need internal champion to “get in the weeds” of policy and implementation.
o Now that cities are buying into the bicycling and seeing themselves as supportive, advocates need to work as allies, refraining from undue public criticism.
o Having the support of businesses and developers has a big impact.

Also speaking at the breakfast session were Representative Albio Sires (D-NJ), Texas Senator Rodney Ellis, and Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto.

Following this, there were morning breakout sessions during two groups:

• Overcoming the Scofflaw Perception
• Who is the Urban Cyclist?
• Bike Advocacy as a Political Platform
• Rural State Success Stories
• Quantifying Bike Benefits
• Empowering Communities through Bicycling: Lessons from Los Angeles
• Moving Beyond the Bikelash
• Why Equity, Why Now
• Next Level Lobbying and Election Strategies
• Building a Broad Transportation Coalition
• If Local Control is Good, Would Devolution be Better
• Retailers Best Practices for Advocacy
• Federal Bikeshare Bill

The lunch keynote speaker was the new Secretary Of Transportation, Anthony Foxx. He was mayor of Charlotte, SC, and oversaw the start of that city’s bike share program. He is a cyclist. When he rides, he always hears, “On your left.” He also stated, “When I was the mayor, I helped oversee the development of complete streets in the City of Charlotte, and I also saw an uptick in bicyclist and pedestrian deaths occurring in our city… I didn’t tolerate it as a mayor, and as U.S. Secretary of Transportation we certainly won’t stand still and allow this crisis to slowly build up over time. Our roads should be safe; they should be easy places to travel, no matter how we’re traveling on them.”

Sec. Foxx urged advocates to get behind the President’s new $302 billion transportation proposal. Also, Foxx emphasized that he isn’t under the misperception that bicycles are solely for leisure and recreation; that we shouldn’t inconvenience road users with a Saturday morning pleasure ride. “I think that’s a false choice,” he said. “We can be for bikes and other forms of transportation, too. America can chew gum and walk straight.” He strongly recommended that we “talk to Congress, and make it local.”

Afternoon breakout sessions covered:

• The Role of Enforcement in a Vision Zero Strategy|
• Video Advocacy
• Leveraging National Health Goals
• Expanding Bicycling
• Rapid-Fire Victory: 10 Advocacy Wins from Around the Country
• Business People make the Best Messengers
• Equity in Practice

Wednesday was Capitol Hill Day. The Iowa delegation met Senator Tom Harkin at his weekly constituents breakfast. He visited with each group separately and is very committed to cycling and walking. One of his staffers kept tapping him on the elbow to keep moving to the next group, but he kept coming back to talk more about biking. Later in the day, Mark met with Sen. Charles Grassley and Rep. Dave Loebsack. Steve and Cheryl met with Alexandra Curry of Rep. Steve King’s office. She politely listened to our “asks” but had no questions or comments.

The delegation had three “asks” on the Hill. These were support for:

• The Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Act – HR 3494 and S1708
• The Safe Streets Act – HR 2468 and S2004
o The Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Act requires the U.S. Department of Transportation set a specific performance measure for non-motorized safety, as well as for motorized safety. Once USDOT sets the measure, states will set their own safety targets for motorized and non-motorized safety.
o The Safe Streets Act would ensure that all streets are designed, planned and built to with all users in mind. While the bills give guidelines and components to what a complete streets policy needs to have, they also give states flexibility to decide what a complete street looks like in their state.
• The New Opportunities for Bicycle and Pedestrian Infrastructure Financing Act (New Opportunities) – HR 3978
o The New Opportunities for Bicycle and Pedestrian Infrastructure Financing Act of 2014 would take steps to advance equity for bicyclists and pedestrians, and offer mayors and communities a new tool for funding for bike/ped projects in low-income communities. The New Opportunities bill will allow communities to take advantage of low-cost financing for projects that make streets and sidewalks safer for all users through a new federal credit assistance program that would direct millions specifically for low-income communities. There are still disparities in access to safe infrastructure for low-income communities and people of color across the country. Compared to white bicyclists, the fatality rate is 23% higher for Hispanic bicyclists and 30% higher for African American bicyclists.

The event ended with a Congressional Reception in Dirksen Senate Office Building, at which time delegates were able to share information about their Capitol Hill meetings.

Overall, it was an extremely well conducted meeting, with great speakers and lots of opportunities to interact with cyclists from across the nation.

Summit summary and links to presentations:

http://bikeleague.org/content/2014-summit