Recap of the 2016 National Bike Summit
Executive Director, Dan Favre, discusses his trip to #NBS16
Last week, bike advocates and mobility leaders from around the country gathered for the 2016 National Bike Summit in Washington DC, hosted by the League of American Bicyclists. As a newcomer to the bike advocacy scene, I was excited to travel to our nation’s capital for three days of panels, speeches, informal meetings, and lobbying. Not to mention that I was able to easily ride everywhere on Capital Bikeshare!
National Bike Summit
From the opening plenary, I was inundated with great ideas, lessons, and stories from fellow bike advocates and throughout the entire conference, I kept engaging with concepts that could be useful to promote better bicycling in the New Orleans area. I’ve literally got pages of notes on ideas that we can potentially tweak and implement here in Greater New Orleans.
- I love the Civil Bikes model in Atlanta, where historical tours of civil rights locations are also educational safety rides.
- Hearing about Yay Bikes successful program in leading city officials on rides, I’m looking to take city engineers and leaders on a bike ride down St. Charles Avenue to truly ensure the perspective of someone riding a bicycle is incorporated into the discussion on improvements to the Avenue.
- The American Heart Association gave me lots of messaging ideas to help deepen the public’s understanding of the public health benefits of biking.
- With bike share hopefully coming to New Orleans soon, I went to a panel to learn the lessons of Pittsburgh, NYC, and other cities about how best to ensure bike share systems promote infrastructure, advocacy efforts, and equity.
- I took away some key points on using data analysis to drive equitable outcomes of a Vision Zero policy, which New Orleans is currently exploring.
National Bike Lobby Day
We also put ideas into action at the Summit Lobby Day on Wednesday. I walked around Capitol Hill and met with various Louisiana congressional offices – Senator Cassidy, Senator Vitter, Rep. Richmond, & Rep. Scalise – about current federal priorities. With the passage of the FAST Act transportation bill at the end of 2015, I worked to ensure our federal elected officials understood some of the new ways that federal funds can flow to the state for improving bicycling and walking, and I asked for their support to bring more funding for bicycle education and safety to Louisiana.
All the bike folks visiting congressional offices that day also voiced their support for the Physical Health Investment Today (PHIT) Act that would provide economic incentives for physical activity by allowing people to spend pre-tax dollars on bikes, bike classes, gym memberships, and other equipment/services that promote physical activity. In Louisiana, over 40% of adults don’t get the recommended amount of physical activity to maintain a healthy lifestyle. The PHIT Act can help reverse those sedentary trends!
My favorite meeting was with Senator Bill Cassidy, an avid biker, who opened up the meeting by telling me he had ridden the DC bike share, Capital Bikeshare, to work that morning! We discussed the potential for bike share in New Orleans and Baton Rouge, the importance of the built environment for safe bicycling, the health benefits of riding more often, and the details of some federal policies that will impact biking. It was a great conversation, and I look forward to working with the Senator and his staff to help bring the joy of biking to more people in Louisiana!
The Joy of Biking
Ah, the joy of biking . . . something those of us who are constantly in the weeds of policy, fundraising, and outreach sometimes forget to talk about. It’s my rides to and from work that keep me sane and grounded through long hours tackling our region’s mobility challenges. I had a blast riding around DC on Capital Bikeshare, passing by the Washington Monument, Capital Building, and other iconic architecture and even taking bike share to the airport!
It’s the joy of biking that can get more people to overcome the obstacles they face and get on their bikes, so we’ve got to be talking about it! In various panels, I also picked up other messaging tips on how best to convey the health benefits of biking, how to find the stories about biking and public health that resonate across wide spectrums of political views, and more.
Equity in the Bicycle Movement
The informal meetings and gatherings were also an important part of the National Bike Summit. I greatly enjoyed my dinner with a few other ED’s from around the country – one newer than myself in the role, and another who eloquently laid out the history of the bike movement as he’d seen it in his 14 years of involvement. We also discussed a big topic of the summit this year – equity – and I made a commitment to no longer speaking on panels that are solely comprised of white men.
The national bicycle movement is working to figure out how it can best promote social equity and how it can best represent the diverse communities of people who ride bikes. From the “Mobility as a Civil Right” panel and discussion of equity in Vision Zero to handouts detailing gender and racial breakdown of the Summit’s participants, the focus on equity showed just how much organizations at all levels are working to figure this out, and how far we all still have to go.
In Greater New Orleans, Bike Easy is working to find the best ways to equitably improve mobility for low-income communities and communities of color. From our Claiborne Corridor Ambassadors Program to providing low-income public school students with biking and walking safety training, we’re already getting started. With the region’s vast economic disparities, diverse racial and ethnic demographics, and issues with providing transportation options for all geographies, the work is clearly important. The coming bike share system in New Orleans, the prospect of a Vision Zero ordinance, enacting Complete Streets throughout the region . . . all must be fairly and equitably implemented, and I was glad to learn from and share ideas with leaders from around the country who are tackling these issues.
I’m already looking forward to the National Bike Summit next year, and I’m hoping to see many more Louisianans there!