Clarence Eckerson Jr. and Earl Blumenauer at the Bike Summit. Photo courtesy of Clarence E.
This Year's Congressional Bike Ride was in Honor of Gabrielle Giffords
The National Bike Summit in Washington DC is a golden opportunity for bike activists to meet with lawmakers. Usually the pitch is for more funding, but in these times of growing austerity, this has been downgraded to simply asking for no cuts in funding for bike infrastructure. There was also a ride in honor of Gabrielle Giffords (see video below).Check out this video about the 2011 congressional bike ride. This year's edition was in honor of Gabrielle Giffords:
- The business aspect. America Bikes put together fact sheets for each individual district showing how much money that district has received for "transportation enhancements" (TE) like biking and walking, how much they've invested in Safe Routes to Schools, how many bike retailers are in the district, and how much money those retailers bring in. In most cases, the numbers show that retailers earn in one year about one-half to one-third of the amount spent on TE in the past 17 years - a pretty good return on investment, they'd argue. (Those district data sheets, which also include local legislation and advocacy groups, will be online soon at www.americabikes.org.)
- The local aspect. In their 400 meetings with Congress members' offices, advocates made the case that bicycling is important to constituents by talking in detail about the popular trails and busy commuter routes in each district, as well as the bike stores and local business. They invited lawmakers to join them for a bike ride, an event, or a ribbon-cutting for a trail as a way to get the member to have a personal connection with biking in the district. Their motto was "don't cut what you haven't seen."
- The ask. Lots of members of Congress will tell you how much they love biking. They'll go on at length about how many miles they put in each week, how they ride to their district office in spandex, how they've taught their kids to ride bikes. But do they support continued dedicated funding for bicycling and walking programs like transportation enhancements, Safe Routes to School, and the Recreational Trails Program? That's what advocates were trying to pin the offices down on. "If they say they support biking but they don't support funding for these programs, they don't support biking," said one movement leader.
Indeed, investments into biking are very cost-effective and they can actually gain in value once a certain threshold is met; the more miles of interconnected safe bike lanes you have, the more useful that network is to cyclists (so they use it more) and the more attractive it is to potential riders. It all snowballs from there.
If the government wants to save money, nothing's more frugal than the bicycle. It certainly beats spending money on fossil fuels that then disappear in smoke...
Via Streetsblog, Streetfilms
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The 2011 National Bike Summit in Washington D.C.
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