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Bikes Belong chief outlines a new “Golden Age” of bicycling

Posted by on April 5th, 2008 at 10:08 am

OR Bike Summit - Saturday opening-11.jpg
Bikes Belong Executive
Director Tim Blumenthal
(Photos © J. Maus)

Few people in the bike world have a longer, more diverse, and impressive resume than Tim Blumenthal.

He’s a former bike journalist, he led IMBA into new territory and helped them become a force on the national advocacy scene, he is the consummate industry insider, and he now finds himself steering the Bikes Belong Coalition into a bright future.

Blumenthal’s presence at this event helps give Oregon advocates and policy makers an important national perspective on the bike movement.

This morning, he gave a presentation titled, 10 Reasons Bicycling’s New Golden Age is About to Begin — and 5 Forces Threatening to Stop It. He then listed 5 things that are at “tipping points that could change the rules of the game”.

Here are Blumenthal’s three lists:

10 Reasons the Golden Age is About to Begin

1) Friends on Capitol Hill
We’ve got some very solid political chess pieces in place, but Blumenthal said we need more. “Find more champions,” he urged.

2) Federal Spending is Up
The trend looks good, but bikes and peds still only represent 1.4% of the total federal transportation budget. “We’re not even close to getting our mode share’s worth.” He also made the point that with increased funding, “pushback [from those who still don't think we deserve funding, or who think we're already getting enough] is coming.”

3) Obesity Crisis Needs a Solution
[Updated: 4/7, 8:17am]
Blumenthal mentioned a recent Johns Hopkins University study that found, with current trends, 75% of U.S adults and 25% of children will be either obese or overweight by the year2015. He implored the crowd — many of whom were taking notes — to commit those three figures (75, 25, 2015) to memory and use them in elevator speeches with decision makers.

4) Bike-sharing is on a Roll

He outlined the success of Velib in Paris and said soon, similar programs will be sprouting up all over America. He also mentioned that Bikes Belong will outfit the upcoming Democratic and Republican National Conventions with 1,000 free bikes. Blumenthal said he hopes it results in national media coverage of politicians and celebrities riding bikes.

National Bike Summit 07
Blumenthal spoke at the National Bike Summit in 2007.

5) Aging Baby Boomers Coming into Cycling
Not only is much of America’s population aging, says Blumenthal, but many of them are getting turned onto biking as a way to stay active and stave off injury. Among that population are many “influencers, business leaders, and policy makers,” who we need to support cycling.

6) An Invested Industry
He noted that the bike industry is (finally) beginning to put their money into advocacy programs.

7) A Viable Transportation Option
41% of all trips in the U.S. are two miles or less — a perfect distance for a bike ride!

8) Motivated Communities
Blumenthal noted the ongoing success and momentum of the League of American Bicyclist’s Bicycle Friendly Communities program (which Bikes Belong is the title sponsor of).

OR Bike Summit - Saturday opening-7.jpg

9) A Dynamic, Organized Movement
The recent National Bike Summit, according to Blumenthal, was a “phenomenal display” of the bike movement coming together to achieve our goals in a professional, organized way.

10) Smart Growth Alternatives
Blumenthal said that two growing movements — Complete Streets, and New Urbanism — hold major promise for bike-friendly communities. He also noted that they are attracting some no-so-likely proponents, like the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) and the National Association of Realtors.

The 5 Threats

1) Suburban Sprawl

2) Incomplete Streets
For a clear definition of the problem, see this “Stupides Bike Lane” video by Slate V that has spread around the web like wildfire in the last week or so.

3) Car Culture
It is powerful, Blumenthal says, and we are reluctant to give up our cars, but he also offered hope. Quoting an environmental activist (whose name escapes me), Blumenthal said, “Your most important ally, can be your most potent foe,” and he encouraged us to think about how to partner with the dominant paradigm (cars) to achieve our dreams.

4) Sedentary Lifestyle / Fear of Failure
One of the main reasons more Americans don’t bike is that they feel like they’ll look silly doing it, crash while trying, or that they don’t even feel good enough about their bodies to get off the couch.

5) Economic Uncertainty
In a climate of financial stress for Americans, Blumenthal told us, it will be even more difficult for bike advocates to make the case that investment in more bike-sensitive infrastructure is imperative in solving many problems our nation faces. [*Thanks to reader Matt Picio for sharing these.]

5 Tipping Points That Could Change the Rules of the Game

1) Federal Transportation Funding – “T4″, the new transportation bill

2) Bike Rental Systems in the US

3) Rising Gas Prices

4) Safe Routes to School

5) Bicycling Becomes Mainstream

========

After the opening presentations, participants chose from one of four workshop sessions. I’ll have a little report and some photos from those next.

– See the latest photos from the Summit here.
– Browse all my coverage of the event here.

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Comments
  • Kris April 5, 2008 at 3:00 pm

    Very inspiring presentations by Tim Blumenthal and the other keynote speakers at the bike summit. I felt bummed I had to run out early, but definitely hope to be there again next year when they have the Biek Summit in Salem.

    BTW: I believe that Tim paraphrased Amory Lovins (or Paul Hawken?) when he talked about turning your \”presumed enemy\” into an ally.

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  • Loren April 5, 2008 at 3:02 pm

    What about the price of gas? Why isn\’t that mentioned in the 10 reasons? Seems like every day when I bike in that\’s the number one thing people comment about.

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  • Daniel (teknotus) Johnson April 6, 2008 at 11:49 am

    So by 2015 everyone will be overweight, or obese? Or is obese included in the overweight number?

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  • Opus the Poet April 6, 2008 at 5:42 pm

    Out of the 100% of the population 75% will be overweight or obese, with 25% of the population actually falling into that obese classification. Either way you look at it, either number is outrageous, and has heavy negative connotations for the future. If we are to follow the logic on this, the 25% of the population that needs to use bicycles as transportation the most is also the least likely to use them.

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  • Matt Picio April 6, 2008 at 9:20 pm

    Loren (#2) – After the 10 opportunities and 5 threats, he identified \”5 tipping points\” that could change the rules of the game:

    1. Federal Transportation Funding – \”T4\”, the new transportation bill

    2. Bike Rental Systems in the US

    3. Rising Gas Prices

    4. Safe Routes to School

    5. Bicycling Becomes Mainstream

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) April 6, 2008 at 9:24 pm

    yep. thanks for that Matt. I didn\’t write those down, but should have. I\’ll add them to the article.

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  • Matt Picio April 6, 2008 at 9:27 pm

    teknotus (#3) – they\’re separate definitions. Jonathan erred slightly in his post – Tim Blumenthal actually said 75% of American adults and 24% of children would be overweight or obese in 2015. That part of the presentation was one I took careful notes on, since by government definitions I am categorized as obese.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) April 7, 2008 at 7:19 am

    Again, thank you Matt for clarifying those numbers. I have learned there are perils to reporting live from events and that I need to be extra careful with stats.

    I have updated this story and I apologize for any confusion.

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