It’s been a busy morning.
After negotiating Portland’s icy streets, BTA Policy Director Scott Bricker and I made our way down to Salem. For Scott, it was just another day at work, but for me it was an opportunity to learn more about how a bike lobbyist works the system to turn ideas for new bike laws into reality.
It’s only noon, and I’ve been on the floor of the Oregon Senate and have sat in on three productive meetings. The main priority of these meetings is for Scott to explain and get feedback on the BTA’s three bills they’re hoping to pass this session.
Our first meeting was with Republican Senator Jason Atkinson. Sen. Atkinson is a major bike nut who has been very supportive of bike-related bills in the past (especially the fixed-gear controversy). After giving Scott some helpful insight into the BTA bills, Atkinson gave us an update on the fixed-gear bicycle issue and shared some very exciting news about velodromes.
On the fixed-gear bicycle law, he expects to have the official draft of the bill any day now and he promised to forward it to me once it’s ready. Stay tuned.
And the big news is that Atkinson already has a bill in progress to build a new velodrome in Southern Oregon. Far from just talk, Atkinson is working with the State Parks Department to use Measure 66 Lottery money and local matching funds to make it happen. He hadn’t heard about Portland’s own velodrome visions, but was very excited when I told him about it.
The great news for Portland is that he would like to meet with the group behind our local effort to possibly add funding for a Portland velodrome into the bill. He asked me to set up a meeting with Steve Brown and he hopes that the Portland effort will add some traction to his bill. Atkinson — who grew up in Ashland — believes southern Oregon is full of track potential and says he’ll dedicate the Velodrome Bill to, “a future Olympic athlete from Oregon.”
I was amazed at how much work Atkinson had already put into this and how far along in the process it has already come. It just goes to show what a passionate legislator can do for a project.
After Atkinson took me onto the floor of the Senate (and insisted on taking this cheesy photo), we were off to the House side of the Capitol building to see State Rep. Peter Buckley. Buckley, a Democrat from Ashland, told us he rode in the recent Ride the Rogue event and his eyes lit up when he talked about the exciting Rogue River Greenway trail project.
Buckley sits on both the transportation and education committees so Scott brought up the BTA’s work on Safe Routes to School. They also discussed the BTA’s pedestrian bill and Buckley was very supportive. He said he would sponsor the bill because pedestrian safety is a big issue on the bustling main streets in his hometown of Ashland.
Our next meeting wasn’t with a legislator, but with another lobbyist. Wayne Shumacher represents two motorcycle groups; Bike PAC and ABATE of Oregon. As roadway users with many similar issues as bicyclists, Scott hopes to seek input and potentially partner with Schumacher on the BTA’s Vulnerable Roadway User bill.
Schumacher offered Scott many names of legislators he has worked with that might also be friendly to bicycle issues (very important information to have) and I’m sure he and Scott will continue to work together in the future.
I’m learning a lot (who’s who, legislative jargon, navigating the maze of hallways) and Scott has been awesome in teaching me how everything works. So far I haven’t made a fool of myself or embarrassed him (much) so I hope the second half of the day goes just as well.
For more photos, see my Salem Photo Gallery.