Friday, March 28, 2008

Nation Bike Summit Review

March began with the Nation Bike Summit in Washington DC. North Florida had only one representative attend. Miriam Gallet the General Director of the North Florida Bicycle Club. Bike Jax was lucky enough to have her supply us with a review of her time at the summit.

(Miriam is front row center)

National Bicycle Summit a Success
By Miriam S. Gallet
NFBC General Director

On March 4 -7, more than 500 bicyclists and industry leaders from 47 states landed in Washington, D.C. to attend the 2008 National Bicycle Summit hosted by the League of American Bicyclists in order to gain support from their elected officials in Capitol Hill. After devoting four days to learning about advocacy and how to lobby congress, hundreds of cyclists made their voices heard amid an intense election year consumed by fears of a failing economy, a housing crisis and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. I was one of them and I’ve returned to Jacksonville extremely invigorated and encouraged.

A very special THANK YOU to the NFBC Board of Directors and the two other sponsors that made it possible for me to be a part of this outstanding event.

Immediately after arriving in D.C. March 4, I wasted no time in getting to know the president of the League of American Bicyclists, Andy Clark and the rest of his team along with numerous other officials from various bicycling organizations, delegates from other states and CEOs from some of the largest bicycle companies in the U.S.

During the four-day event, we networked among ourselves and then headed to Capitol Hill where we established strong alliances with congressional members and staffers. Jacksonville Congresswoman Corrine Brown (D-FL), personally welcomed Florida Bicycle Association Executive Director Laura Hallman and myself and listened attentively as we explained the issues affecting bicyclists in Jacksonville. We urged her to join the Congressional Bike Caucus and support several resolutions.

The fact that we were able to meet and present our agenda to House and Senate members from 50 states, should be recognized as a big success. In some instances, the elected officials decided to immediately support our cause as was the case with Senators John Kerry (D-MA) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME).

The highlight of the summit was the introduction of a historic resolution (H.R. 305) by Congressmen Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), co-sponsored by Congressman James Oberstar (D-MN), calling on all members of Congress to support the creation of a national bicycling strategy. Also, the newly introduced Complete Streets Act of 2008 by Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) gave all attendees a reason for celebration.

Numerous workshops enlightened and speakers entertained us, but House of Representative Chief Administrative Officer Dan Beard (Nancy Pelosi’s Chief of Staff), received the strongest and loudest round of applause and cheers when he announced the creation of a bike sharing program at three different locations within Capitol Hill. The three bike stations, similar to those in Paris, will enable congressional members and their staff to use a fleet of bicycles to get around the Hill and other parts of the city.

At the end of the summit, determination prevailed over skepticism. We left Capitol Hill more committed and determined than ever to push the bicycling agenda at the national, state and city levels. And my biggest fear was not realized.  I did not crash my bicycle on the streets of D.C.  Instead, the concluding 15-mile summit ride around Capitol Hill and surrounding neighborhoods in 37° weather was an eye-opener.

This year is crucial for cycling. The next national transportation bill will be voted on next year and the issues affecting bicyclists must be included in the bill before it becomes law. Now, more than ever, we need every elected official to become a strong supporter of bicycling. We need them to publicly acknowledge our right to co-exist alongside motorist.

I suggest that the strength of cyclists in America will depend on our commitment to advocacy. I also submit to you that positive change will only be possible by our commitment to the sport and our continuous presence on the streets of Jacksonville and surrounding counties. It will sway seemingly daunting obstacles inside and outside city hall. Furthermore, our abeyance of all traffic laws is paramount to our success and our ability to earn the respect of all citizens. Happy riding!

Thank you Miriam for your report and your continued work and support of cycling advocacy.

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