Last week, Georgia Bikes was fortunate to join other bicycle advocates from Georgia and around the US at the League of American Bicyclists’ National Bike Summit in Washington, DC. I got to return to the city that I’ve called home for most of my life and dive headfirst into ever-changing national bicycle advocacy and federal transportation landscapes.
We arrived on Sunday for the League’s annual membership meeting where we heard from League staff and Board about the recent changes at the organization as well as program and committee updates. This includes new initiatives on engaging bicycle clubs, hiring an education director, and the formation of a new coalition on federal policy, staffed by the League’s VP of government relations Caron Whitaker. Unfortunately, the League’s equity initiative is no longer active though the staff and board felt the initiative made a significant impact on programs and the future of the organization; we would like to see a more explicit commitment to equity at the League through staff positions and specific equity-based programming. It was great to see Georgia Bikes’ longtime friend Bill Nesper as the League’s Interim Executive Director – he may be a Gator but we are confident the League is in good hands.
Monday was the first full day at the Summit and Atlanta resident and Relay Bike Share Marketing and Community Manager Timberely Jones (pictured below) took to the main stage during the opening plenary along with 7 other women to tell their stories about how they got into bicycles and advocacy. It was great to see Georgia represented early in the program; Georgians on the main stage continued as Neil Walker of Cycles & Change was awarded the Educator of the Year award by the League Monday evening (pictured below Timberely). This is two years in a row for Georgia, as Georgia Bikes’ Nedra Deadwyler received the award last year.
Workshops continued during the week and Wednesday the Georgia delegation went to Capitol Hill to meet with our legislators. 9 people representing 7 different organizations and 5 cities met with staff members from 6 legislators (Senators Isakson and Perdue, as well as Representatives Lewis, Hice, Bishop, and Carter) to discuss the importance of including funding for bicycle and pedestrian projects in any transportation infrastructure package that comes this year. In addition, we encouraged House members to support HR 1266, the Vision Zero of 2017 (which would help fund local Vision Zero plans and aid in implementation) and funding for the Coastal Georgia Greenway. We were warmly received by the staff members, all of whom bike or walk to work and have embraced DC’s bike share system and many multi-use trails; we hope that this enthusiasm for active transportation makes its way up to our elected officials as transportation and infrastructure funding comes up in Congress later this year.
By Thursday, many Summit attendees had left town, but Georgia Bikes staff remained in DC for a half-day session on the new Active Transportation Leadership Institute; this new initiative aims to help fill the gap left by the dissolving of the local and state advocacy coalition, the Alliance for Biking and Walking. We were fortunate enough to take an active role in the day’s session, as we helped lead conversations on what kind of peer learning and best practices programming would be most useful to our organizations. The afternoon continued with a listening session organized by League staff on how the Active Transportation Leadership Institute could meet local and statewide bicycle advocacy organizational needs.
Thanks to the Georgia delegation members for making the long trip to DC and representing our state on stage and in workshops at the Summit as well as in meetings with Congress. We appreciate all the hard work of advocates who are trying to make Georgia a better place to ride a bicycle.