How Things Change: New Opportunities at the National Bike Summit
Alternate post title: Holy Cow! Frank Finally Writes a Blog Post!
From Frank Maguire, IMBA Mid-Atlantic Region Director:
I am finally decompressing from the 2012 National Bike Summit (NBS) in Washington, D.C., and am now able to put it all into some context. I first attended NBS in 2007, which in many ways was a dark period for cycling advocacy. To put it in perspective, the highest level executive branch speaker to address the 300 advocates attending that year was a deputy under-secretary for widjits or something from the Department of Transportation. And, if I remember correctly, we had just two Congressmen come speak to us.
Compare that to 2012, where Sec. of Transportation Ray LaHood addressed us for the third year in a row, the director of the National Park Service spoke to the entire audience, and five different Representatives from both parties kicked off the summit to tell us the impact our voice has had on the current transportation funding debate. The more than 900 people in attendance, including more than 60 folks representing IMBA, are having an impact and are getting things done.
A more illustrative story is comparing my first visit in 2007 with one Representative’s office to the visit this year. In 2007, my friend Chuck Anderson and I met with the chief of staff, a crusty old-timer who was entertaining in his total dismissiveness of our ask. For those of you who have spent any time with me, you may have picked up on the fact that smart-assed-ease is my preferred communication style, so I had a great, 20-minute sparring match with this guy. (Despite the futility, I quite enjoyed the candor.)
Fast forward to 2012, where I had a one-on-one meeting with the legislative director for Pennsylvania Rep. Glenn Thompson's office. He knew who I was before I got in, knew what my issues were and was genuinely interested in helping with a large project that IMBA is working on with the community of Warren, PA.
Bikes are no longer seen as a suburban or urban plaything, but as a means of having an economic impact as well as building livable communities across the country. If making this change has meant putting on a suit once a year for the past six years in a row to walk the same halls I used to slouch down as a bike messenger, then I am willing to make that commitment.