I recently returned from a trip to Washington, DC where I attended the 2018 National Bike Summit, hosted by the League of American Bicyclists. As a bike advocacy geek, I love these kinds of events… panel presentations and lectures, statistics and case studies, and lots of networking with professionals and advocates representing a wide variety of communities.
I have attended the NC Bike/Walk Summit for the past few years but I hadn’t been able to make it to DC for the National Summit. Thanks to the support of BeersNGears and League of American Bicyclists I was able to attend this year.
It was a jammed packed trip. The two-day conference was full of presentations from diverse people doing innovative and impactful work all across the country. I also participated in “Lobby Day,” where we meet with members of Congress and their staffers on Capitol Hill to promote the many benefits of bicycling and lobby for the funding and policy needed to make bicycling safe and accessible throughout the state. And, I was able to ride my bike around DC and experience a Gold Level Bicycle Friendly Community, for myself. It is pretty awesome!
Here are the highlights…
Innovation & Experimentation
BikeFixation Wave Delineator
All across the country, cities big and small, are experimenting with new technologies and tools in an effort to make bicycling safer, more accessible and properly fund new infrastructure and ongoing maintenance. Things like Automated Speed Enforcement technology to improve safety, NACTO Urban Bikeway Design Guide which presents the latest design ideas, new semi-permanent structures like the Bikefixation Wave Delineator that help cities experiment with protected bike lanes, and a proposed miles-traveled tax (vs. the traditional gas tax) to save the Highway Trust Fund. Not to mention the ever-expanding world of bike share, both dockless and station-based systems.
All of this means more options for cities to experiment and discover what works for them. We need to take advantage all the tools in the toolbox to learn how to build and maintain more bikeable communities.
Educating the Next Generation
Today’s youth are the future of our society. Getting them riding bikes could prove to be one of the best things for our collective future. Given the many individual and group benefits of bicycling ranging from equitable mobility, economic and environmental sustainability, and improved health and wellness, it makes sense to empower youth to ride.
Positive Spin in Pittsburgh teaches youth how to operate bikes safely and navigate city streets, trails, and parks through adult mentorship and they engage in local advocacy projects. The Major Taylor Project in Seattle, not only teaches about bikes but provides the real-life opportunities for young people from diverse backgrounds to connect, learn, and grow together while riding bikes. These experiences set the course for a lifelong love of cycling and healthy engagement in their community.
Positive Spin Participants
If we want a more bike-friendly environment we should invest in and support youth programming that empowers young people to play active roles in their personal health and the vitality of their communities through bicycling.
Inclusion is Key
Source: People for Bikes Equity Report
The good news is – bicycling has the amazing ability to make a positive impact on the lives of virtually anyone who takes advantage of it. The bad news is – not everyone is riding and worse, some people face major barriers in ever getting started. I don’t know about you, but I want everyone to ride and I want more cities where it is safe and commonplace to ride for transportation and recreation, in every part of the city. I believe making this happen will require a great deal of cultural competency, collaboration, and commitment. We need to take a look around and see who is missing from our local “cycling scene” and actively bring them into the picture. Maybe it’s women, people of color, seniors, immigrants, children. Let’s bring them to the table… invite them to ride, bring them to a meeting, if they don’t ride – ask them why. Let’s make sure they are represented in our collective work to make bike-friendly communities.
While the benefits of bicycling don’t discriminate, let’s be honest… the world does. We must come together, as diverse people with a variety of backgrounds, preferences, abilities and histories; listen to each other, ride together, and work together to address barriers, push for equity, and get more butts on bikes!
Representatives Need to Hear from Us
Bicycling, for transportation or recreation, is not quite mainstream yet so those of us who ride have to tell our stories and let our representatives know why we ride, where we ride, our concerns and desires for the future. We need to support initiatives that will invest in new infrastructure, increase safety, and improve policy. And we need to hold politicians accountable. It’s their job to represent all constituents and our wellbeing. For example, if there is a proposal that does more harm and than good, we must speak up. Locally, we should get to know our City Council Members, and make sure they know us. That relationship is vital to influencing action in our community.
Ultimately, we need to be involved. We shouldn’t just elect people to office and hope for the best. Let’s use our voice and speak about our experiences and things that matter to use.
The message I heard again and again during the National Bike Summit was “keep pushing.” Our individual and collective efforts are moving the needle. Slowly, but surely, we are making a difference. Ridership is up and diversifying. More and more cities are buying in and dedicating resources to improve bikeability.
We cannot give up, we cannot despair, we cannot slow down. We must keep pushing for the world we want to live in and it will come.
Me and Mike Sule from Asheville On Bikes during Lobby Day
I am so grateful that I was able to visit DC and attend the Summit. I was informed, inspired, and connected with so many great people.
The climb towards a bike-friendly Winston-Salem will not be short or easy. Progress seems to come in waves; with many challenges and a few well-fought victories. It requires continuous creativity, collaboration and perseverance but I am confident that together we will reach the “summit” and be proud of the work we’ve done in our city.
I plan to attend the National Bike Summit again in 2019 and I hope some more folks from Winston-Salem will join me! In the meantime, please consider joining the WS Cycling Advocacy Network and making a difference here in our town.
If you have any questions or comments about this blog post please feel free to send me a message.