May-June 2001 Newsletter
2001 LAB National Bike Summit
by Cheryl Brawner – VP Advocacy
Peloton Takes Capitol Hill by Storm!
It was rainy and dismal on March 28 when 170 cycling advocates pounded the District of Columbia pavement while taking part in the League of American Bicyclist's first National Bike Summit. Bad weather didn't deter our spirits as we made our presence known to our representatives on The Hill.
The Summit started on March 27th at 8:00 a.m. with Oregon Congressman Earl Blumenauer (http://www.earlblumenauer.com/bikes.html), who is truly a friend of cycling. What a speaker! He really got us pumped for lobbying! A bike commuter himself, he has recently proposed the Bicycle Commuting Act, which adds bicycling language to a bill which would allow employers to offer incentives to employees who use alternative modes of transportation as a means of commuting to work. Over six million people in this country regularly commute to work by bicycle (more than mass transit), so why shouldn't they, too, be rewarded for their efforts?
Following Rep. Blumenauer, Cynthia Burbank with the Federal Highway Administration spoke on behalf of Transportation Secretary Mineta. She also was a panelist in the next segment, Better Roads for the 21st Century, which also included Tony Kane of AASHTO (which wrote the book on bike facilities), Jennifer Toole, APBP (a noted bike facility specialist), and Martha Roskowski, a member of the board of the LAB. This segment was a "Q & A" brainstorming/informational gold mine!
Next, we all broke off into sessions. My biggest regret was not being able to be at two places at once! I chose Bicycling & Health, which was moderated by Rich Killingsworth from the Center for Disease Control. His panel discussed bicycling's role in CDC's initiative to fight obesity, which is a hot topic! The figures were staggering, and unfortunately, Kentucky was among the "leaders" in the data. In 8 years, the US went from having only half a dozen states (one was KY!) with a population that was over 15% obese — now, over 40 states can "boast" that statistic! Twenty-nine percent of all adults are considered inactive, 61% of adults are overweight — 27% obese! Hence, the CDC is very interested in activities that promote good health such as cycling, of course! He suggested strategies to change the image of bicycling in order to promote it.
Lunch was delicious, and informative! DC Mayor Anthony Williams spoke to us, as well as EPA Administrator Christie Todd Whitman. It was refreshing to find that both are avid cyclists! Mayor Williams has a penchant for Campy componentry and classic Italian bikes! Ms. Whitman, who is also the former Governor of New Jersey, is into mountain biking! Both were compelling speakers with uplifting words for cycling.
After lunch, the sessions began again. I opted for the Bicycling/Livable Communities Connection, which featured Claire Seaver with Blumenauer's office (he worked with the Clinton/Gore administration on the Livable Communities initiative (see http://www.earlblumenauer.com/livable.html), the Federal Highway Administration's Bike/Ped Program Manager, John Fegan, and Felecia Young, also from the FWHA. This segment dealt with how bicycles were an integral part of a community's livability (a good selling point for a politician to hear!).
Session Three was a tough one to choose — Safe Routes to School or Enhancements. I chose the latter, in that Kentucky is so far behind in obtaining funding for bike programs (Gov. Patton only signed off on 4% of our State's Transportation Enhancement (TE) allocation for bike-related projects!). We learned a lot about funding sources, heard from funding success stories about Chicago and Baltimore.
After a quick snack at 6:00 p.m., we all came together for a Lobby Day Seminar, where we went over all the issues we had covered that day — I think most of us were brain-dead at that point! Since I was a delegation of one at that point and had no one with whom to role-play, I opted to go to dinner with some new-found cycling friends from Knoxville to a wonderful Thai restaurant in DC's Chinatown.
The next morning came early at 8:30 a.m., when we all met at the Rayburn Senate Office Building for a quick continental breakfast to get us moving for our scheduled meetings with our Representative's offices. Unfortunately, my first scheduled meeting was at 9:00 a.m., so I had to miss Congressman Oberstar's address — my biggest disappointment of the event. He has been credited with the funding of American Cycling through ISTEA — the American cyclist's hero (http://wwwa.house.gov/oberstar/biking.htm), and I am sure I missed a super send-off!
Pep talk or no, I set out bleary-eyed across the Capitol lawn in the drizzle to Bunning's office, and met with a member of his staff, and then on to Senator McConnell's office across the street. Whew! My meeting with Anne Northup's Legislative Director was mid-afternoon, so I finally had a chance to catch my breath! I spoke to these bright young people (yes, Washington is being run by the very young!) about their constituent cyclists (like you and me!), our concerns, and requests. Those requests included having their bosses:
- join the Congressional Bike Caucus, headed by Rep. Blumenauer;
- co-sponsor (or at least support) the Bicycle Commuting Act, which would provide tax incentives for employees to commute to work by bike;
- to support and expand on the provisions of TEA-21 funding for bike projects;
- to vote for full funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund proposed in the President's budget which would fund the creation of state and local park and recreation areas; and
- to support Safe Routes to Schools programs which would promote the ability of our children to safely and conveniently get to school without having to be hauled there by a parent! (http://www.house.gov/transportation_democrats/press/000809_SafeSchoolRoute.htm).
As of this writing, I have no feedback, but look for updates in upcoming LBC newsletters.
It seems obvious to us cyclists that these are all legitimate requests that deserve their attention, but the only way we will get our point across is to write them and let them know how you feel. Please, take a moment and write a note to them and back me up. Make sure they know you are a constituent, you are a cyclist, and that you vote. It will be time well spent — guaranteed! For sample letters, please contact me at email@example.com. Here are their addresses for your convenience:
Rep. Anne M. Northup, 1004 Longworth HOB,
Washington, DC 20510
(For your rep's e-mail address, visit http://www.house.gov/writerep)
Sen. Mitch McConnell, 361A Russell Senate Office Bldg., Washington, DC 20210
Sen. Jim Bunning, 316 Hart Senate Office Bldg, Washington, DC 20515
It was an honor to represent the LBC and the Bicycle Coalition of Kentucky at this important event. The education and experience, as well as having my enthusiasm stoked by being among other like-minded folks was priceless! Thank you so much for the opportunity. I am already using my new-found knowledge and zeal to promote cycling-related causes, and look towards the future of bicycle advocacy with great optimism, knowing that the word is out: cycling is fun, healthy, inexpensive, environmentally-friendly transportation, and growing like crazy! Spread the word! Get out there and ride!
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Web posted: 29 April 2001
last updated: 30 April 2001
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