Climbing to the Summit March 26, 2012
What happens when you put 800 bicycling advocates and bike industry folks in a room to talk about the future of bicycling in America? Shit gets done, that's what.
This year's annual National Bike Summit in Washington DC was a great success by all accounts. Facing a Transportation Bill that proposes to gut all "enhancement" spending on such frivolous things as safer streets and sidewalks for cyclists and pedestrians, the mood couldn't have been more upbeat.
There were 5 of us in the RI delegation which attended a variety of networking events and panel discussions where we rubbed elbows with cyclists of all backgrounds and political stripes from every state except Alaska. While myself and my RI colleagues were being sent to visit with our sympathetic Congressional delegation (Senators Reed and Whitehouse, Congressmen Langevin and Ciciline), other less fortunate advocates were off to the slaughter of their own leaders (Bachman, Boehner, Cantor). The conservative faction in the House of Representatives are currently holding out for all but only the most "necessary" highway spending in their version. The rest of the House including the left leaning and centrist voters are waiting it out.
Why is support at the Federal Level important? Because funding assistance to States that can demonstrate a need, comes from the top. It also sends a message to transportation officials in the State DOTs that bicycle transportation is a legitamate component of our street network. It means better mobility in an increasingly congested world and a healthier population.
The irony of the Republican agenda is that riding a bicycle actually fits with so many of the principles they claim to hold so near and dear. Freedom for one. Independence from foreign oil, efficiency, self-sufficiency, family values, and on and on. Oh wait, those are Democrat(ic) values too. So what is the problem?
No problem. I feel the progress. I saw it in DC and I see it every day here at home. If you do too, keep on riding and voting and don't forget to write your Congresspeople and Senators and tell them that the bicycle matters.