A newbie test-rides America’s bike advocacy infrastructure

Joel Maus didn’t know anyone when he came to the Summit. Now he’s got people.
(Photos: J. Maus/BikePortland)

Disclaimer: This post is about my brother.

For a movement to succeed there must be an advocacy infrastructure in place that newcomers can plug into; something that anyone with a passion and an idea can hitch themselves to and get pulled along until they become strong enough to roll on their own.

For the bicycle movement, that infrastructure has been built over the last century by the League of American Bicyclists. Since 2000, their annual National Bike Summit has introduced hundreds (thousands?) of newbies to the wonderful world of bike advocacy.

This year Joel Maus was one of them.

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Advocates hit the Hill for National Bike Summit lobby day

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Bikes — and the people who love them — are making their presence felt on Capitol Hill today.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

Hundreds of advocates are on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C. today to remind members of Congress that bicycling — and transportation reform in general — is a high priority for the American people.

Lobby day is one of the most important elements of the League of American Bicyclists’ National Bike Summit. It’s a time for advocates to make a personal connection with their elected representatives, share stories about why bicycling matters, and make specific “asks” for bills and policies to support.

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A ‘bicycle-friendly driver’ class changes hearts and minds in Colorado

(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

A lot of energy gets used up on safety education in the bike advocacy world. And most of it is focused on the wrong people.

After two bicycle riders died in the “Platinum” level bicycle-friendly city Fort Collins, Colorado in 2015, the main bike advocacy group held a town hall. Because both victims were riding legally and safety when hit, many people asked, “What are we doing to educate people who drive?”

That outcry led to a lightbulb moment for Jamie Gaskill-Fox, the woman who runs the Bicycle Ambassador program at the City of Fort Collins. The city was already teaching a bike safety class, but it wasn’t well attended. After that meeting, Gaskill-Fox and her colleague Scott Sampl decided to re-brand the class.

They called it the Bicycle Friendly Driver class. The number of people took the class tripled in just one year.

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Blumenauer urges advocates to use cycling as tool to save America

Congressman Earl Blumenauer at the Summit this morning.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

People who voted for Donald Trump in America’s rust belt (and other places) need to hear more about the role bicycles and cycling can play in the future of our country. And people who didn’t vote for Trump should see bike advocacy as a place to put their newfound energy for activism.

Those are two takeaways from a speech by Congressman Earl Blumenauer this morning at the 17th annual National Bike Summit this morning.

Blumenauer spoke about the “unprecedented levels of activism” seen in cities across America in January in response to Trump’s inauguration.

“Cycling,” he said, “Can be part of that menu where we try and give people something they can sink their teeth into. Something they can wrap their arms around that will make a difference in their community and will help shape and inform federal policy.”

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National Bike Summit: The health of the bike movement — and its future under Trump

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Sunny — but with a few dark clouds.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

Day one of the 2017 National Bike Summit is in the books. After a two-year hiatus, we decided to head back to D.C.

I was motivated to make the journey for several reasons. With the Trump era in full-swing, it seems like showing up for bikes in the nation’s capitol is more important than ever. Relatedly, I wanted to check the pulse of the national movement: If we do receive a major attack, will we be healthy enough to fend it off? Is it even possible to have a “we” anymore?

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Stakes have never been higher for upcoming National Bike Summit

DC bike scenes

You might want to consider showing up this year.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

As the reality settles in that we are just two months away all three branches of our federal government being controlled by Republicans, people who advocate for cycling need to take stock.

Yes I know, cycling isn’t always a purely partisan issue, but let’s not be naïve: The fact is a large majority of powerful, high-profile Republicans tend to strongly support transportation policies that favor the use of motorized vehicles.

Put another way, interest groups that don’t make cycling accessible infrastructure a priority see a friendly ear in President-elect Donald Trump. And early signs make it clear that automobile-centric interests are lining up to take advantage their new friend in the White House. To counter what could be a transformative era (to put it mildly) in national transportation politics, people who care about bicycling need to line up against — or figure out a way to align with — these forces.

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Change the focus, tell a story, take a seat: 3 takeaways from the Summit

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National Bike Summit

The League set up a photo booth
in the lobby of this year’s Summit.
(Photo by J. Maus/BikePortland)

—BikePortland’s coverage from Washington D.C. is made possible by Planet Bike.

Each year as I fly home from the National Bike Summit I think back to what trends and topics left the biggest impression. There are so many threads weaving through the bike movement right now that it’s hard to pick out just a few. That being said, below are my key takeaways from this year’s Summit…

Time to change the bike-centric lens

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Oregon advocates find warm reception on Capitol Hill

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Oregon bike advocates in the Capitol Hill office of Rep. Greg Walden (R-2nd). Left to right: Blane Meier, owner of First City Cycles in Oregon City; Harry Daalgard, Travel Oregon; Brian Potwin, Commute Options, Bend; Rep. Walden; Alison Graves, executive director of Cycle Oregon (seated); Brian Jorgensen, student at Lees-McCrae College; Dr. A.J. Zelada, advocate and former member of the Oregon Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee; Mike Cosgrove, gravel road riding evangelist from John Day.
(Photos by J. Maus/BikePortland)

—BikePortland’s coverage from Washington D.C. is made possible by Planet Bike.

Oregon advocates might have the easiest job of any of the state delegations here at the National Bike Summit. No matter which of the seven offices they entered during the annual bike lobby day on Capitol Hill, they were greeted with smiles and support.

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One big way ‘Women Bike’ is changing the face of advocacy

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Suepinda Keith, bike advocate.
(Photo by J. Maus/BikePortland)

—BikePortland’s coverage from Washington D.C. is made possible by Planet Bike.

There’s been a lot of talk in the hallways here at the National Bike Summit about the Women’s Cycling Forum. Started just two years ago as a single panel discussion before the Summit, it has turned into a full-day of programming with well over 400 attendees. The sessions were packed, the energy was high, and its success has led to interesting conversations about how it compares with the Summit, it’s larger and more established sibling.

To be clear, the Women’s Cycling Forum is a product of the League’s Women Bike program, an event to make the summit, and bike advocacy in general, more welcoming to women. It was launched in response to a growing awareness that American women don’t ride bikes nearly as much as their male counterparts.

When the National Bike Summit opened Monday night (just minutes after the Women’s Forum concluded), there was a palpable change. The faces in the crowd became less diverse, a bit older in age, and much more male-dominated. And the speakers at the big dinner and evening plenary were all men. Then the next morning at the Opening Plenary the speakers were also all men. This didn’t go unnoticed by many attendees.

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USDOT Sec. Foxx focuses on safety, politics and economics at Summit speech

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USDOT Sec Foxx at Bike Summit-2

US DOT Sec. Anthony Foxx at the
National Bike Summit.
(Photo by J. Maus/BikePortland)

—BikePortland’s coverage from Washington D.C. is made possible by Planet Bike.

U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx made his National Bike Summit debut today. The man that used to hold his job, Ray LaHood, was a crowd favorite for many years and had endeared himself with advocates for his pro-bike proclamations (sometimes delivered via tabletop).

Sec. Foxx was well aware of LaHood’s legacy and began his speech today by saying, “I have big shoes to fill.” Looking to bolster his cycling cred, Foxx showed a photo of himself riding one of Charlotte, North Carolina’s bikeshare bikes. Foxx oversaw the launch of bike share during his time as mayor of Charlotte.

After joking that the photo was of him competing in a stage of the Tour de France, Foxx said: “The truth is, I’m a huge fan of biking and my family is as well.”

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Blumenauer uses Summit keynote to rally troops around gas tax increase

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Blumenauer at the Summit-2

Time is right for a gas tax increase,
says Rep. Blumenauer.
(Photo by J. Maus/BikePortland)

—BikePortland’s coverage from Washington D.C. is made possible by Planet Bike.

Amid the backdrop of renewed optimism that a new transportation bill is coming sooner than later, Congressman Earl Blumenauer headlined the opening plenary at the first full day of the National Bike Summit. Blumenauer used the occasion to urge the 700-plus advocates to help him push a gas tax increase as a way to steer the federal government away from the impending cliff transportation funding is heading off.

It’s the first time in 21 years, Blumenauer said, that he’s stumping around the country for a gas tax increase. Why? Because the doomsday scenario of the Highway Trust Fund drying up are becoming very real, very fast.

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