Four Lessons from the National Bike Summit

This March, ten Oregonians joined hundreds of advocates from around the country in Washington, D.C. for the National Bike Summit. We spent three busy days attending workshops, exploring the Capitol’s growing network of world-class bikeways, and meeting with Oregon’s elected representatives. Here are some of the highlights and photos!

(Left to right) Panelists Maria Sipin, an attendee, Tamika Butler, and Maryann Aguirre. © Rick Reinhard

(Left to right) Panelists Maria Sipin, an attendee, Tamika Butler, and Maryann Aguirre. © Rick Reinhard

1. Women of color are powerful leaders in the bike movement. The most memorable workshop I attended was “Defining Bike Advocacy through Women’s Leadership and Equity Priorities” with Maria Sipin and Maryann Aguirre of Multicultural Communities for Mobility and Tamika Butler of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition. These women are tackling the thorniest challenges in front of us today with bravery: forming authentic community partnerships, reconciling racism and police brutality with Vision Zero, financial sustainability of the movement and more. Women of color have always worked hard to help their families get where they need to go safely, and it’s time the bike movement fully recognized and supported their leadership. Here at the BTA we have a lot of work to do- check out BTA’s Women Bike program and Racial Equity Policy Statement.

Barbara McCann speaks at the opening plenary. © Rick Reinhard

Barbara McCann speaks at the opening plenary. © Rick Reinhard

2. We need to think about our “inside” and “outside” game. At the Summit’s Opening Plenary we heard from Barbara McCann, who founded the National Complete Streets Coalition and is now the Director of the Office of Safety, Energy, and Environment with the U.S. Department of Transportation. Nationally, the bike movement, like Barbara McCann, has moved from an “outside the building” approach (think rallies) to working “inside” as partners with government agencies. We need both strategies to achieve our goals and we need to get more sophisticated about how we choose where to work for change.

BTA's Lisa Frank with Senator Jeff Merkley at the National Bike Summit closing reception. © Rick Reinhard

BTA’s Lisa Frank with Senator Jeff Merkley at the National Bike Summit closing reception. © Rick Reinhard

3. A handshake is worth a thousand emails. Day three of the National Bike Summit is Lobby Day, when we visit our Senators and Representatives to discuss the benefits of bicycling and federal legislation that impacts our communities. Sharing our personal stories of bicycling with our elected officials and their staff has a big impact on policy and creates a true relationship that continues long after Lobby Day.

NBS attendees enjoyed getting around on Capitol Bike Share © Rick Reinhard

NBS attendees enjoyed getting around on Capitol Bike Share © Rick Reinhard

4. Bike share and protected bike lanes are truly transformative. Five years ago, we never would have thought Portland could learn much from D.C. – but Capitol Bike Share and a growing network of protected bike lanes are changing that. The percent of commuters biking in D.C. just reached 4% and D.C. streets are friendlier and safer than when I lived there four years ago. At BTA we are working hard to bring these options to Portland with the launch of BikeTown this summer and our campaign for protected bike lanes downtown.

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Comments (2)

  1. Maria Sipin Permalink  | Apr 30, 2016 10:12am

    Thank you for sharing this story about the Bike Summit. Our panel wanted to create a space even for a brief period during the conference to have an open conversation about challenges women and gender nonconforming individuals face in the bike advocacy world and beyond. The conversation continues on social media and in community spaces, and we hope to keep this going to transform the culture that isolates us.

    • Lisa Frank Permalink  | May 02, 2016 09:27am

      Thank YOU Maria for your work to organize this panel and keep this important conversation going.


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