(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)
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From a boom in bike manufacturing in Portland to increased economic vitality on streets with protected bike lanes in Manhattan, signs of how bicycling grows the bottom line are everywhere in America these days. On Tuesday during the National Bike Summit in Washington DC, a panel of experts addressed yet another component of this wave of good news: The major economic implications of bicycle tourism.
Some of the most important insights from the National Bike Summit (which wrapped up Thursday morning with a bike ride) came from an unexpected place. Douglas Meyer, a marketing and communications specialist with Bernuth & Williamson Consulting, shared research on Tuesday that delved into how bicycling is perceived by senior policymakers and Congressional staffers from both political parties. His findings underscore that the bike movement is evolving and its advocates must evolve along with it.
For years, advocates have fought for dedicated funding streams, they’ve asked for their “fair share,” they’ve evangelized the myriad virtues of bicycling to those who don’t “get it,” they’ve yearned for acceptance within mainstream culture and among policymakers, and they’ve proudly labeled themselves, “bicyclists.” According to Meyer’s research, that all needs to change. Many advocates also assume there’s widespread and entrenched opposition to bicycling on Capitol Hill. That mindset, says Meyer, is wrong.
‘Bikes mean business’ is the official theme of this year’s National Bike Summit; but that idea hardly needs any help in being put front and center. The economic impact of bicycling has become a mature topic that can now be backed up with statistics, studies, local success stories, and much more. For the Oregon advocacy team that made their way through the halls of Congress today to spread this message, bikes mean business was a natural and easy pitch to make.
At the first meeting of the day at Senator Ron Wyden’s office, Oregon bike advocates delivered the business message from several different angles. Wyden’s Legislative Assistant Alex Hackbarth (Wyden was unable to make the meeting and it’s common knowledge here on Capitol Hill that LA’s (as they’re known) are often more important to persuade than their bosses) set the tone for the meeting when she responded to the introduction of Rapha’s Chris Distefano by saying, “Oh yes, I’m intimately familiar with Rapha.”
For the bicycling agenda to have any chance of competing on Capitol Hill, it will take cash donations to members of Congress and direct lobbying. That might be an inconvenient truth to idealistic advocates; but insiders say it’s simply how the game is played.
On Tuesday night, 10 members of Congress showed up to a wine bar just blocks from the Capitol Building where Bikes Belong hosted their annual BikesPAC fundraiser and lobbying shindig. The event was an opportunity to, “cultivate long-term relationships,” said Bikes Belong President and emcee for the night, Tim Blumenthal.
After a successful debut last year, the League of American Bicyclists brought back the National Women’s Bicycling Forum. While the 2012 event consisted of just a panel discussion (albeit a great one), this year the League stepped things up. Yesterday 325 advocates —well over 90% of which were women — enjoyed an entire day of panel discussions, workshops, networking, top-notch speakers, and more. The improvements to the event, and the resources spent on it from the League, are emblematic of the organization’s rising effort to “change the face of bicycling.”
Below are some photos and thoughts on how it went…[Read more…]
Women entrepreneurs are riding the wave of two major American trends: a renaissance in urban bicycling and a surging demand for stylish riding apparel. At the National Women’s Bicycling Forum on Monday, the League of American Bicyclists hosted a pop-up shop full of vendors who see functional and stylish clothing as just another front on the effort to make bicycling more appealing to women.
Helmets are decidedly unappealing when it comes to fashion and they present a quandary for women who put safety first. Not only are helmets notorious for messing up one’s coiffure; but a big plastic dome can also ruin even the cutest outfit. Dr. Cheryl Allen-Munley of Bandbox Bicycle Helmets seems to have a solution. Her helmets look like hats that happen to come with a chin strap. The shells can be wrapped with all sorts of designs — from cowgirl hats to berets and everything in between. Women flocked to her booth all day snapping photos of each other and trying on the different styles.[Read more…]