National Bike Summit 2012
Day 1 – Opening Reception:
I started Day 1 with a self-guided tour of Washington, DC via the Capital Bikeshare. DC’s bikeshare system has 1300+ bikes at over 115 stations around the city. Buy a daily pass and you can use one for up the 30 minutes free to get where you need to go. More info at: http://capitalbikeshare.com/. What an amazing way to see the city, particularly the area east of the Capitol and the Eastern Market neighborhood. You can ride a bike lane all the way from the Capitol Building to RFK Stadium.
After I grabbed my registration bag, I wandered the booths in the lobby outside the ballroom. Many national bicycling orgs were represented: Adventure Cycling, Alliance for Biking and Walking, International Mountain Biking Association, along with summit sponsors. Well known bicycle blogger, BikeSnobNYC, was signing copies of his new book.
At the appointed time, all 800+ attendees crammed into the ballroom. It was pretty chaotic, as I try to search out some of the Michigan delegation. Eventually I choose a random seat, with the intent of meeting some new people. Turns out I’m sitting next to some QBP employees, including a man I later discover is one of the founders of the company. QBP is the largest distributor of bicycle parts in the country. What a cool experience.
The evening’s speaker, Mark McKinnon has run many political campaigns in his career for Republicans and Democrats. His take home message was the importance of having an emotional message that can connect to your audience, and being prepared for all possible questions.
Day 2 – The Breakout Sessions:
With six options during each of three breakout sessions, choices are difficult on the second day of the NBS. There are always multiple interesting speakers I want to hear. Luckily, many of the presentations are archived at http://www.bikeleague.org/conferences/summit12/index.php.
First up was “Building Successful Programs in Diverse Neighborhoods.” Panelists talked about Local Spokes, a program in the Lower Eastside and Chinatown neighborhoods of Manhattan that “engages local residents to envision the future of bicycling in our diverse neighborhoods.” With extensive grant funding, they have a coalition of local citizen groups gathering data, community input, and providing bicycle education activities to nearly 200,000 residents of this densely populated neighborhood. Watch their great promo video at http://www.localspokes.org.
My next session was “Boosting Economic Vitality in Cities.” Presenters talked primarily about how to increase bicycle friendliness in local business districts. One presenter, April Economides, was hired to help Long Beach create four Bike Friendly Business Districts. Additional bike facilities were installed, business owners were educated on how they could attract more bicyclists as customers, and each district was provided four shared bikes, including a cargo bike, that business owners could use to run errands. A similar program facilitated by the San Diego County Bicycle Coalition has also been successful.
Last stop of the day was “Diversify Your Portfolio-Fundraising Locally and Nationally”. This is an extremely important topic, as our communities try to figure out how to pay to install and maintain good bicycle infrastructure. This was probably my most disappointing session, as I don’t feel like I took anything away much new that could be applied here. West Michigan already does a great job of using diversified funding sources for our shared-use trails. A mix of private, state, and national funds are drawn upon to continue to expand our extensive network.
After the sessions we met with our state delegations to plan our Congressional visits for the following day. We wanted to make sure we visited staff for all the Representatives who had someone attending from their districts. I was excited to get to meet with both Rep. Justin Amash (R-3rd) and Bill Huizenga (R-2nd).
Day 3 – Congressional Visits:
I started my day on the Capital Bikeshare to get to my the Cannon House Office Building. I had meetings at the offices of Justin Amash and Candice Miller in the morning and Bill Huizenga in the afternoon. In between, the entire state delegation would meet with staff of Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow.
In general the staff in every meeting I attended recognized the value of the bicycle trails and other bicycle facilities in their district, and seemed supportive of increasing bicycling in their districts. However, when it came to asking for support for dedicated funding to build these facilities and continue the successful programs we currently use, the Republican Representatives were hesitant. Rep. Huizenga mentioned a museum project built with Transporation Enhancement funding that he did not believe should have been eligible and said that he did not believe that states should be forced to spend money in this way. The staff of Senator Levin was the most supportive, and we even got to meet Senator Levin himself.
The day ends with a Congressional reception with an open bar where you have the chance to do some more networking. I spoke a little with Andy Clarke, Director of the League of American Bicyclists and told him that he needs to visit Grand Rapids to see the progress we are making in just a few short years and how many bicyclists we have here. It’s a great to cap off the busy three days of the summit!
Finally, I want to thank the Rapid Wheelmen and the Greater Grand Rapids Bicycle Coalition for helping to offset much of my costs for attending this year’s National Bike Summit. I am proud to represent our great city in DC and this annual meeting is both energizing and inspiring, with lots of ideas we can, should, and are implementing here in Grand Rapids! If you have any questions about the summit, or are interested in attending, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.