By Dorian Grilley & Nick Mason
Over 580 bicycling advocates from around the country attended ninth annual National Bike Summit in Washington, D.C. March 10 – 12, 2009. Minnesota was represented by 16 delegates from the bicycle industry, organizations and individual advocates. The event was presented by the League of American Bicyclists (LAB) with the Bikes Belong Coalition of the bike industry as the lead sponsor.
The conference focused on the America Bikes (a coalition of bike organizations with a national agenda) agenda for transportation policy and the communication of that agenda to Members of Congress. The International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) was also a major sponsor and presented several workshops and a mountain bike agenda.
For a bicycle advocate it was the place to be! There were many highlights including:
- A rousing welcome from Congressman Jim Oberstar, Chair of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. He is a true champion for bicycling and is truly proud to have the LAB’s Safe Routes to School Award named after him.
- The opening plenary comments from Ray LaHood Secretary of Transportation that “bicyclists have a full partner at DOT”.
- Congressman Earl Blumenauer, from Portland, Oregon and the author of the CLEAN-TEA bill told us “you are pedaling what America needs”. He bicycles everywhere. CLEAN-TEA stands for Clean, Low-Emission, Affordable, New – Transportation Efficiency Act.
- Congresswoman Doris Matsui from California and author of the current Complete Streets bill said she was “constantly looking for new ways to encourage people to ride bikes”.
- An inspiring presentation from Andreas Rohl, Director of the City of Copenhagen’s Bicycle Program Office. 36% of the trips in Copenhagen are made by bike… their goal is 50%.
On Thursday the March 12 , the Minnesota bicycle advocate delegation visited with Members and staff from the Minnesota Congressional Delegation. Our charge was to seek co-authors for the Complete Streets and CLEAN-TEA and bring Minnesota state and district issues to our representatives. Since we spent most of our time with staff we heard lots of “we’ll take a look at it”, but we believe many members will provide the continued support he have come to expect over the years. We were fortunate to actually get to meet with congressmen Eric Paulson and Tim Walz and Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann. Since he represents southeast Minnesota, members of the Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota extended a personal invitation to Congressman Walz to speak at the LAB National Rally/Twin Cities Bicycling Club Weekend on Wheels in Winona July 31 to August 2 in Winona. The added bonus is that he serves on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and will be on the front lines as the next version of the federal transportation bill is authorized.
It was a great opportunity to meet with our peers from other states and for the Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota to get some visibility and name recognition. It was also a great opportunity to visit with some potential national sponsors for the Rally/WOW in Winona and to get first-hand information about grant programs that the Bicycle Alliance could qualify for. But, most of all, it was a great opportunity to let our federal elected officials know that people and businesses in Minnesota strongly support federal policies and funding that facilitates and promotes the use of bicycles for transportation and recreation.
Nick Mason works for Dero Bike Rack Company and serves as the treasurer of the Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota.
Dorian Grilley has worked full-time for the Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota since Sept. 1, 2008.