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The National Bike Summit: A primer

Posted by on March 8th, 2010 at 4:50 pm

crowds and random stuff at the National Bike Summit-4.jpg

D.C. here we come!
The Summit starts tomorrow.
(Photo © J. Maus)

Tomorrow is the opening day of the 2010 National Bike Summit in Washington D.C. (I hope on a red-eye flight tonight!). Last week I introduced you to the Oregon advocates that will make the trek to D.C. to attend. But, some of you may be wondering, what the heck happens at the Summit? Hopefully this post answers a few of your questions.

The Summit is, at its core, a lobbying event. The intention is to make the presence of bicycling felt on Capitol Hill, shake hands with members of Congress, and explain to them why bicycling is important and deserving of their support.

In addition to building strong relationships with our country’s most powerful politicians, the Summit is a chance to meet and network with other advocates and be inspired by their work.

Flip through an interactive version
of the official Summit guide!

The meat of the Summit happens on Wednesday and Thursday. On Wednesday, the opening plenary is usually anchored by Congressman Earl Blumenauer. He does his part to whip up the inspirational fuel that carries everyone through Friday. After that, there are three blocks of breakout sessions. Here’s the list of panels and workshops (some very interesting stuff!):

  • Jump Start Your State and Local Advocacy Efforts
  • Investing In Our Future – Will 2010 Be Our Year
  • Energy, Global Security and Sustainability
  • Best Practices in Youth Cycling Programs – IMBA Track
  • Broadening the Movement in Underserved Communities
  • Progressive Cities – When We Build, Will They Come?
  • Promoting Livable Communities – Can we Remake America’s Communities?
  • Mobilizing for a Healthier Transportation System
  • Taking Public Transportation to the Next Level and How Bicycling Can Boost Public Transit
  • Entrepreneurial IMBA-Growing Mountain Bike Participation
  • Traffic Justice – Don’t be Driven to Distraction
  • Maximizing the Role of Bicycle Retailers in Local Advocacy
  • Strengthening Safe Routes to School in the Next Transportation Bill
  • The Madison Story – Platinum and Beyond: How Do We Replicate it Nationwide
  • Complete Streets – Building on Momentum at the Local, State and National Level
  • Cycle Tracks to Pump Tracks – The Transportation-Recreation Connection
  • Dollars, Partnerships, and New Riders – How Tourism can Play a Role
  • Social Marketing – Real Potential for Advocacy

What sessions would you attend?

National Bike Summit - Day three-37

Team Oregon in full effect inside
Rep. Peter DeFazio’s office last year.

After a day full of information and inspiration, it’s time to hit the Hill. On Thursday, we rise and shine early for an 8:00 a.m. rally and continental breakfast on Capitol Hill followed by a day full of meetings with congressional representatives. This is the day when bike advocates take over the Senate and House office buildings to spread the good word. Each state visits their representatives to explain and build support for bike-related legislation. Sometimes the member of Congress will be present, but most of the time a legislative aide/staffer sits in and takes notes.

A very busy day on Capitol Hill is followed by a big party on Thursday night where triumphs are toasted and the real work of the Summit comes to an end. The next morning, advocates lead members of Congress and their staffers on a leisurely bike ride around the Capitol.

That’s a general view of how the Summit shakes out. I didn’t mention all the keynotes and other speeches by notable politicians, agency heads, and national advocacy luminaries that are sometimes the highlight of the event. Also, while the official agenda is full, much of the work of the Summit happens at parties and other, sometimes spontaneous meetings not on the schedule.

Also not on the official schedule are many lobbying and networking opportunities organized by each individual state. For instance, on Thursday night, all of us in the Oregon delegation will have a special dinner with Congressman Earl Blumenauer.

Stay tuned! I’ll be in D.C. tomorrow morning with camera in hand and notebook at the ready. Special thanks to Planet Bike, official sponsor of all our Bike Summit coverage. You can also follow my live updates and quick thoughts via Twitter.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

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beth htrekkerLink roundup: March 9 | Tucson VeloDaniel RonanJonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) Recent comment authors
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Nick V
Nick V

I’d be curious to attend the session about healthier transportation systems. If “healthier” means phasing out automobiles and trucks as the main focus of infrastructure, then I’d be all ears.

Good luck!

beth h

So Jonathan — are you going as a reporter, or as a lobbyist?

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Hi Beth… both!

In recent years, I’ve definitely gone as more of a reporter. This year will be a bit different because I’m going to be presenting in the Social Media/Advocacy panel. I’ll also be on a panel in front of Congressional staffers to share a report on how the bike culture figures into the of the impacts/accomplishments we’ve had here in the Portland/Oregon region.

beth h

So who will report on YOU while you’re not reporting? And how will you know where the fine line is when you’re simultaneously trying to cover news and are also a part of it?

I think this would be an interesting examination to do at length, because you DO report, but you also advocate. I think it would be great for you to craft a longer article on the sometimes delicate balance between journalism and advocacy.

Daniel Ronan

Thanks for keeping us informed, we appreciate it!



[…] The National Bike Summit: A primer […]


Beth #4: the “sometimes delicate balance between journalism and advocacy” you cite is a thing of the past. This site is a perfect example. BikePortland is one guy’s blog – nothing matter nothing less. (A very successful one at that.) Jonathan says and does whatever he wants, including advocate in a journalistic style five days/week. This is the new world media “order.” Ask the Oregonian.

beth h

Some of us are old enough to remember when the line wasn’t so fine, when journalists strove to remain as unbiased as possible in reporting the news and advocates were freer to simply advocate without having to explain themselves every step of the way.

With an ease that clearly shows his facility with the new media — AND his place on the generational timeline — Jonathan deftly straddles a line that my journalism teachers thought of more as a third rail. And he manages to do it while also presenting “news”. I think it’s very interesting and would welcome his perspective. His simultaneous coverage of, and participation in, the Bike Summit offers a great opportunity for this discussion to blossom.
Cheers —