America Bikesby Martha Emmons, Chair of the Kentucky Bicycle and Bikeways Commission
The March 4-7th National Bike Summit in Washington, DC, was incredible.
League of American Bicyclists, Bikes Belong, America Bikes, Thunderhead Alliance and all the participating groups did an outstanding job of putting together one of the best conferences of any kind Iíve ever attended! After years of dealing with chaotic national bicycling organizations, the wholly professional organization of this event was mind-boggling!
This was the fifth Bike Summit, and the first one with the clout and attendance to be held in the Ronald Reagan Building, the largest government building in Washington, DC. There were nearly 400 summit delegates, representing 48 states, far more than any past summit, and we were able to take the Pro-Bike message to almost the entire Hill!
I was a total novice at the Congressional visits, but after the Wednesday sessions at the Summit, we were completely prepared. The planners did a superb job of teaching us what to expect and training us to talk to the Congress! The League equipped us with color charts and handouts, pertinent to our respective states, to leave with the officials we visited. Those were very well received.
Keith Lovan of Lexington and I visited with someone in the offices of eight of Kentucky's nine House and Senate members. In some cases, we talked with the member of Congress, in others a staff member, or both. Not one of the officials we visited had ever been approached at the national level regarding any aspect of bicycles. They seemed genuinely pleased to receive information and education. They asked intelligent questions and appeared positive. One transportation staffer rhetorically asked, "Who could be against this?"
Just before being called away to board his plane for the trip to Turkey, Rep. Ed Whitfield interrupted our presentation to say, Iím going to vote for this! I've since received a letter from him in which he strongly restates his support for bike projects. At each Congressional office, Keith and I presented five issues we would like our representatives to support, each of which would give bicycling a boost. Our conference training was the key in being able to do this concisely and knowledgeably. We asked:
It was quickly apparent to me that Congress is overwhelmed with groups lobbying on their own behalf. A big positive of the Bike Summit was that we were in Washington, not as a special interest group, but as a group acting in America's best interest.
As we push for the reauthorization of TEA3, the message we must emphasize is that accommodations for bicycles and pedestrians are in the public interest. Increasing bicycling and walking matters to the well-being of our country's future.
Everyone wishing to influence the direction of the next transportation bill should write letters to Washington. We found Congress is overwhelmed with e-mails. They pay more attention to old-fashioned US Postal Service letters. The Congressional staffers also said short informative articles that illustrate a particular point of view, or which spotlight model programs are helpful to them.
I encourage you to write to Anne Northup, your 3rd District representative, and Senators McConnell and Bunning and ask for their support of a transportation bill that protects transportation enhancement funding and strongly supports bicycling projects.
Rep. Anne Northup
Sen. Mitch McConnell
Sen. Jim Bunning
The way to build a strong America is to build a healthy America!
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web posted: 30 April 2003
last updated: 1 May 2003