Last week I traveled to Washington, D.C., for the National Bike Summit. I started going to the Bike Summit 13 years ago and have always had positive Summit experiences. This year’s Summit didn’t disappoint—it was by far the best Bike Summit ever so I put together a little recap. First, one might ask why I’ve been to 13 Bike Summits and why I feel my attendance is so important?
Well, here are my Top Eight Reasons to attend the National Bike Summit:
1. Because I care about the environment. 70% of the pollution in our cities comes from cars and 40% of the cars on the road are traveling less than two miles, a perfect distance to go by bike.
2. Better bicycle infrastructure means more people cycling and less people driving. I believe that a motorist’s best friend is the bicycle—for every bicycle you see, that’s one less car on the road and one less parking space you have to fight for.
3. I believe the bicycle is a simple solution to our national health care problem. If you really want to bring health care costs down, you go to the root cause of the issue—unhealthy, inactive citizens! Politicians don’t like to talk about that because unhealthy people vote. A simple way to create healthy people is to develop safe bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure so people to ride and walk safely. With safer places to ride, more people will be on their bikes instead of in their car. Only 1% percent of trips in America are taken by bike, while in the Netherlands it’s more like 45%. The obesity rate in America is 35%, while in Holland it is only 3%. I believe these two figures are directly related. If the obesity rate in the U.S. were 3%, what would the health care cost savings be?
4. I LOVE Safe Routes to School! In 1964, 50% of American kids rode their bicycles or walked to school. Today, that number is less than 3%. I know because I am one of those parents who drove my daughter to school and sat in a line of 20 SUV’s to drop her off. A new program was in the last Transportation Bill which brought Safe Routes to School to all 50 states. There are thousands of schools around the country participating in this program with incredible results. For the first time in the last thirty five years, we are reversing the trend and more kids today are riding their bikes and walking to school then there were last year.
5. Because I love to ride my mountain bike. Five years ago we built some of the best mountain bike trails in the world at Trek. There is nothing better than a lunch hour ride on the trails. Unfortunately, some groups are trying to shut down mountain bike access to trails and I think that is a really bad idea. It’s difficult to believe, but most National Parks do not allow bicycle riding inside the park. I believe that it is better to appreciate the beauty of our National Parks from a bicycle saddle than from inside a car.
6. I go to SHOW UP. Someone once said that the world is run by those who show up. I could not agree more. What would happen if no one went to the National Bike Summit? What would Ray Lahood, head of the Department of Transportation and the most powerful person in the government when it comes to bicycling, think if he walked up to give the keynote address and looked out from the stage and saw only a few people sitting on their fannies? Luckily, this didn’t happen. Last Tuesday night he walked up to the podium and got a rousing standing ovation from 766 bicycle advocates. I guarantee that made an impression on the most important transportation policy maker in Washington, and it impressed me. We had over 20 people at the Summit from Trek and we had over 80 Trek Retailers from around the country attend the Summit.
7. Because in these difficult economic times, I believe that the bicycle is a cheap date. The federal deficit is a BIG issue that cannot be ignored. It is my opinion that the bicycle can be a low cost transportation alternative that saves the U.S. Government BIG dollars, in both road construction and maintenance costs. As I mentioned before, more bicycle riding can reduce health care costs and limit America’s dependence on foreign oil.
8. Because the Bike Summit is a great place to meet interesting people. Over the past thirteen years, there has been a great group of bicycle advocates from around the country and it is great to catch up with these people every year. As Summit attendance grows, so does the opportunity to meet intelligent, impactful, and conscientious individuals.
“If you want to get kids outdoors, get them on a bike.” -- Mike Van Abel, Executive Director of IMBA.
How did we Do at the 2011 National Bike Summit?
1. Awesome, it was the best Bike Summit ever.
2. Over 750 people showed up. The largest attendance to date.
3. We had over 20 employees from Trek and over 80 Trek Retailers. I was very proud that we are moving the meter. And the Washington Post took note, read more.
4. Ray LaHood the Secretary of Transportation was the keynote speaker. He was AWESOME. The Secretary let everyone know that the bicycle is a simple solution to a lot of complex issues. The Secretary rides his bike every weekend on the trails around Washington. He practices what he preaches. I was really impressed.
5. Ken Salazar, the Secretary of the Interior, talked about the importance of bicycles and the work that we are doing. The Secretary talked about urban parks and bicycles in Nations Parks. I loved the historical reference he used in talking about Lincoln creating the first protected land with Yosemite, and his comments about Teddy Roosevelt who created the National Park System.
6. In this era of government austerity I was really pleased with the reception we received from both Republicans and Democrats. The message that bicycles are a simple solution to many complex problems, and a cheap date on top of that, is being received well by decision makers in Washington.
7. After spending all day Thursday in meetings with Representatives, Senators, and the Department of the Interior, I have never been more optimistic about our chances to make America a bicycle friendly country.
How You Can Make A Difference?
1. Show up at the National Bike Summit next year.
2. Attend your State Bicycle Summit. If you don’t have one, create one. If you need any help contact Trek.
3. Sign UP for PeopleforBikes.org and get your friends to do the same.
4. Contact your local Advocacy Group and Ask “How may I help you?”
5. Ride Your Bike.