Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on April 14th, 2007 at 12:05 pm
Oregon Bicycle Summit.
Andy Clarke, the Executive Director of the Washington D.C.-based League of American Bicyclists opened the second annual Oregon Bicycle Summit last night.
He addressed a packed audience of 125 advocates from around the state at the Fine Pine Lodge and Conference Center in Sisters. In his speech he said addressing an Oregon crowd was “daunting” because, “Oregon quite simply, rocks!” He said Oregon is
“setting the standard and leading the country in innovative policies and programs for bicycling.”
Clarke gave a recap of the National Bike Summit recently held in Washington D.C. and painted a picture that the bicycle movement has serious momentum on the national level. He implored us to take the opportunity to attach our values and ideas to the huge trend toward “being green” and showed a stack of mainstream fashion, business, and entertainment magazines trumpeting climate change and the environment on their cover.
After addressing the challenges and opportunities he relayed his feelings that bicycling might have reached a dangerous political crossroads.
“My sense is that we may have reached a federal funding ceiling. We have done well and seen the movement grow, but it will be tough to get to the next level.”
He cited charts that showed how, while federal funding for bicycle infrastructure and programs has increased dramatically since the 1970s, it has leveled off in recent years.
As an example, he pointed out a recent decision by Congress to rescind state’s transportation budgets. Facing a choice of which pots of money to pull from, many states (Oregon was one of the worst offenders) chose to send back money that had not yet been used to fund bicycle and pedestrian projects (from a program known as Transportation Enhancements).* [*This is big and complex issue I hope to write about more soon. Learn more here.]
Clarke kept asking “Why?”. Why are bicycle facilities given such a paltry share (1%) of the U.S. transportation budget pie? Why do we still have to fight against outdated (and frankly discriminatory) laws that discourage cycling? Why is the U.S. traffic fatality rate five times higher than European cities?
Clarke said the key to the bicycle movement going to the next level is to change our tone. He said we should be, “less passionate and more practical,” in communicating the benefits and joys of bicycling to others.