10 March 2011

National Bike Summit 2011: What are we Asking For?

Once again, Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) kicked off the opening convocation of the National Bike Summit by asking the question: “How many people, right this moment, in America, are stuck in traffic on the way to a health club to ride a stationary bike?” And once again, he brought a standing room only crowd of advocates, transportation officials, shop owners, industry leaders and legislative aides to their feet to offer thunderous appause.

Over 700 individuals are in attendance at the League of American Bicyclists' 11th annual National Bike Summit this week to meet with their elected representatives and discuss a number of America's troubles--climate change, energy dependence, the obesity epidemic, air pollution and congestion mitigation--that can be addressed with a suprisingly simple solution: the bicycle. Indeed, with reported 4:1 ratio of investment dollars (meaning for that every dollar spent on bicycle or pedestrian transportation improvements, 4 dollars are returned back to the communities from which they originate), one would be hard pressed to find other low-cost, high yield strategic transportation investments that foster healthy people and healthy communities.

Photo, above: left to right: New York City DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and League of American Bicyclists President Andy Clarke discuss what inspires them in their work.

Yet the atmosphere this year is cautious and protective at best. With a new Congress fiscally focused and looking to make major cuts to bugets across the board, advocates are charged with the task of educating new members of Congress (96 newly inducted in the last election, 35 of whom have never held public office beore) about what transportation options entail, and establishing or building good working relationships. "We're not making a big sexy ask this year, like the ACT Act or a big transporation re-authorization bill," states Andy Clarke, President of the League. Rather, delegates will meet with their local representatives to request they support continued dedicated funding for bicycling and walking programs in 3 target areas:

1. Transportation Enhancements

2. Safe Routes to School

3. Recreational Trails Programs

Photo, left: Oregon state delegates gather before visits to Capitol Hill on Thursday.
According to the League of American Bicyclists, "Just 1.5 percent of federal transportation dollars currently support biking and walking, although these two modes represent 12 percent of all trips in the U.S. Bicycling and walking improvements are relatively inexpensive, highly cost-effective investments that create significantly more jobs per dollar than road repair and upgrades; they also boost local small businesses and increase real estate values."

Armed with packets full of facts and figures regarding how and where dollars are spent in each local district for transportation enhancements, Safe Routes to School and both surface and natural trails programs, the motto of this Summit might well have been dubbed, "keep it local, stupid." Indeed, the Bikes Belong Coalition cites Minnesota as one prime example. Cyclists spend $481 million annually in the state. Before a local trail was put in, hospitality sales tax collected was $250,000; AFTER the local trail was built, bringing in increased bicycle tourism, food traffic to shops, hotels and restaurants, and a place parents could bring their children, the hospitality tax collected shot up to $4.7 million. As Gary Sjoquist, Advocacy Director for Bikes Belong points out, "BIKES MEAN BUSINESS."

Photo, right: Gary Fisher, in blue, a strong leader in the bicycle industry, is present to advocate on behalf of road users and trail users alike.

In addition to reminding elected officials that supporting bicycling and walking programs means supporting local businesses, fueling local economies and building healthy, sustainable communities, advocates making their visits on Capitol Hill today (Thursday, March 10th) re-stated Congressman Blumenauer's plea to his fellow representatives: "Don't cut what you haven't visited."

1 comment:

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