Editor’s note: Pima Association of Governments bicycle and pedestrian planner Ann Chanecka is spending the week in Washington D.C. for the League of American Bicyclists National Bike Summit. Attending the summit was something I hoped to do, but it didn’t work out with my schedule this year.
Chanecka will write a post each day keeping us informed on what she is seeing and doing. Chanecka’s week will culminate with a congressional bike ride honoring Gabrielle Giffords. Check out her thoughts from the first day of the bike summit.
Acting on a Simple Solution
(notes from the Bike Summit 2011)
What a clever name and sentiment for this year’s bicycle summit in Washington D.C.? Bicycling… it’s been around for over a century (1860s-ish give or take from everything I’ve read). Transporting yourself from point A to point B via your own muscle… it’s incredibly simple. And yet, all of us involved in the transportation field know that the complexities and intricacies involved with bicycle planning and policy are anything but simple. It’s so easy to forget that when you’re riding down the street with the wind in your face.
Fortunately I’m here at the National Bicycle Summit thanks to the amazing generosity of Jean Gorman and the Brad Fund. Jean’s commitment to the cycling community in Tucson and her advocacy efforts on a national scale have made a huge difference. After one evening of Summit activities, I understand why it is very important to her to have Tucson representation here. Thank you Jean.
I am particularly proud to be here and represent the Tucson cycling community this year because the Congressional Bike Ride associated with the Summit is dedicated to Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. She is not only a strong bicycling champion for the Tucson region, her work on the Congressional Bike Caucus helps communities throughout the country. The League of American Bicyclists, the organizer of the Summit, is showing their appreciation and support by honoring her for this year’s ride.
This is the first time I’ve ever attended the Summit and so the thoughts and comments I write this week are based merely on observations. As I’ve learned through traveling in the past, sometimes so much of your experience is defined by your personal interactions — what I conclude and feel compelled to write about is probably very different than another person who sits through all the same sessions I do this week.
That said… today I attended three main events. The take-home lesson I got from the day was UNITY. The first session was the First Timers Orientation. What struck a chord with me were the words of the guy from the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA). He started his presentation by saying something like, “A few years ago the mountain biking community had this revelation… that we are BICYCLISTS. He explained that IMBA had previously organized something similar to the Bicycle Summit but solely for mountain bicyclists. At some point they realized that as bicyclists — if they joined forces with the road cyclists — their unified voice would be much stronger.
The second main event was the opening dinner with the keynote speaker, Secretary Ray LaHood. LaHood talked about how he and his wife go on a bicycle ride every Saturday and how the bicycles their children used growing up are now used by their grandchildren. He joked about how there were likely some Republicans in the room, like himself.
Lastly, I went to a party put on by the Walking and Bicycling Alliance, the national group that supports local and state advocacy groups. The President/CEO of the Alliance Jeff Miller, commented on how change can be done at the local level by grassroots organizations. How every person interested in advancing walking and bicycling efforts can make a difference by being members of a local group working on these issues.
So for me… today’s blur of activities can be summed up with one main phrase, UNITY — Acting on a Simple Solution. Whether or not we are road cyclists, commuters, mountain bicyclists, BMXers, etc. Whatever side of politics we fall… if we can harness the joy we feel when cycling and come together as a unified voice, just think of what we might accomplish.