National Bike Summit Highlights 2011

by Alison Graves, Executive Director

I became a fan of bike sharing at this year’s National Bike Summit in Washington, DC, both in terms of riding the goofy-looking-but-decidedly-enjoyable

Capital Bike Share bikes, as well as sharing stories about how people are changing their communities by making streets safer to ride. Despite last week’s blustery weather, I commuted daily to the conference and happily explored DC’s extensive system of bike paths, lanes, and cycle tracks. I joined more than 750 attendees from 48 states, in addition to Canada, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. We shared our ideas, questions, passion, energy, and support to ensure that our communities become healthy places where people of all ages can safely travel between where they live, learn, work, and play.

There were many inspiring people, sessions, and discussions at the National Bike Summit. Here are a few highlights that left lasting impressions:

  • Our local Congressman, Earl Blumenauer, encourages “bikepartisanship.” He promotes the benefits of bicycling as a solution to build livable communities at an affordable cost. He has found widespread support on both sides of the aisle. On a similar note, a bike shop owner from Texas recounted a meeting with a conservative who supports bicycling because it is a cost-effective way to travel.
  • Among the presentations on Wednesday, I was most intrigued by Robin Schepper, the Executive Director, of Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move Campaign. The campaign is building a network of individuals, families, and communities promoting healthy eating and active living. Let’s Move is offering a personal pledge and steps organizations and communities can take. She encouraged individuals and organizations working to promote healthy activity to sign up for the campaign. On a different note, I was surprised that despite the fact that Ms. Shepper has ridden STP (Seattle to Portland), she was apologetic about not being a “bicyclist.” I continue to be frustrated by this elusive and unattainable definition that people conjure up when using this term. I encourage all of us to reframe the name and diversify our internal image of who, how, and why people ride bicycles, like the Community Cycling Center’s I Ride Campaign.
  • A persistent challenge for the bicycle transportation movement remains its lack of diversity. While the conversation about broadening the movement has begun, progress is slow. This year there was a session that addressed social and economic equity, but the general conversation at the industry and policy level is lacking. Besides a few small circles, there is not much conversation about diversity, equity, and inclusion, and more importantly, what to do about it. I plan to reach out to other organizations who, like the Community Cycling Center, are working towards equity within the movement. I want to see continued discussions of how our work can promote these values, and I want to share these discussions with others, in order to provide both the push and the pull to keep things moving.

We must continue to share our experiences, broadening the movement from cities like Portland, New York, Los Angeles, Milwaukee, and Minneapolis so that we can demonstrate support, successes, and, ultimately, the healthy communities we all envision.

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