Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on March 23rd, 2012 at 4:29 pm
After a full day that featured hundreds of face-to-face meetings between bike advocates and members of Congress (and their staff), attendees at the National Bike Summit came together in a Senate office building ballroom last night to share stories and toast their efforts.
Congressman Earl Blumenauer — who, in the absence of former Minnesota House representative Jim Oberstar has emerged as cycling's leader on Capitol Hill — addressed the crowd and explained how the bike movement has grown and matured to a point where our presence in D.C. each year truly "makes a difference."
"We can tell when you're in town. It is electric," Blumenauer shared, "I can't tell you how many people in the House came up to me yesterday and said, 'Your people are here.'"
Blumenauer then shared a story. Yesterday, one of his House colleagues (whom he didn't name, but said it was someone "who I would not think is the most sympathetic member of the House [to biking]") ran into him in the House locker room. "The cyclists are coming," the House rep said to Blumenauer, and then asked, "Do you have any bike pins in your locker?"
"I did [have some bike pins," Blumenauer continued, "And then I watched as he pinned it on his lapel as he returned to his office to meet with some of you."
The way Blumenauer sees it, this interaction happened because the bicycling message — and its messengers — are gaining in strength:
"Your passion, your vision, your commitment... It's making a huge difference at a time when, shall we say, Congress doesn't look its most functional. When you may have noticed a few people are, cranky; but you've got a message of the most efficient form of urban transportation ever designed. You have a message of burning calories instead of fossil fuels, and a broad agenda that encompasses not just people who cycle, but people who walk and people who deal with trails and mountain biking, and a new version of tourism, and economic development... It is a broad, comprehensive agenda. People are starting to understand what you are about.
I could not be more excited with how this feels and I will tell you that your presence here is going to make a difference in this session of Congress, exactly the way your efforts helped kill that goofy [House] bill."
From Blumenauer's perspective, America's bike advocates are getting better, more organized, and, "More focused about what they want, making deeper and deeper inroads into the fabric of what governs their communities."
Given the strengthening of our movement, it's clear that Blumenauer wants to use it to achieve real political change. He's hopeful that a strong showing for Democrats in November will set him up to leverage this advocacy power.
"Together, we're going to drag across the finish line at some point, a real transportation bill that'll take us to the next step and we're going to make your agenda part of the platform of every thoughtful public official in America."
Here are a few more images from the Congressional Reception...
L to R: Randy Neufeld, SRAM Cycling Fund; Anna Laxague, IMBA; Tom Archer, Northwest Trail Alliance; Gerik Kransky, BTA.