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With a Big Crowd and Bipartisan Support, Bike Summit Gets Rolling
Posted By Ben Goldman On March 21, 2012 @ 11:54 am In Earl Blumenauer,League of American Bicyclists,Pete DeFazio,Ray LaHood | 1 Comment
The League of American Bicyclists welcomed a record crowd to the 2012 National Bike Summit this morning. Over 800 attendees filled the basement of the Grand Hyatt Metro Center in Washington to hear remarks from federal lawmakers and officials about the state of bike advocacy in America — so large a crowd that president Andy Clarke said that next year the LAB’s sights are set on the much larger Walter E. Washington Convention Center, just two blocks away.
Clarke set the stage for the speakers by pointing out that on the cover of the House transportation bill — “If you can bring yourself to look at it,” he said — there are four photos of different transportation modes, and not a single human being in sight. The advocates in the audience, Clarke said, will be tasked with putting people back in the picture.
Rep. Earl Blumenauer, the Oregon Democrat whose zeal for bicycles is perhaps matched only by his zeal for bow ties, was first to speak. “My goal in working with you, these last 12 years in particular, is to make cycling a political movement,” Blumenauer said to a loud round of applause.
Blumenauer was optimistic about the demise of the House bill, which would have returned national transportation policy to the mid-20th century. “The House bill wasn’t just attacking cycling, it was backed by arguably the most powerful person on Capitol Hill — the speaker. You were a part of a coalition that stopped it dead in its tracks,” he said.
Highlights from the other speakers’ remarks are after the jump.
Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, who Blumenauer called “unequivocally the best transportation secretary we’ve ever had”:
Rep. Tom Petri, a Republican congressman from Wisconsin and cosponsor of the amendment (defeated in committee) to restore bike-ped funding in the House:
Rep. Pete DeFazio, Blumenauer’s fellow Oregonian and a staunch defender of bike-ped projects in the House, explained that the prevailing support for “devolution” — the notion that the federal government does not have an interest in a national transportation system — doesn’t come from “this kind of Republican,” gesturing to LaHood and Petri. “They turn back the clock? We turn back the clock,” DeFazio said, stressing the need to re-educate Congress as though it were 1991, when the bike-ped political movement was just getting started.
At one point, Clarke noted that Blumenauer wore his bicycle pin on the left lapel, whereas LaHood wore his on the right. In the spirit of bipartisanship, Clarke offered to move his own to the center, directly over his tie.
Rep. Donna Edwards, a Democrat from Maryland, told the story of how she came to consider herself a cyclist. She explained that it began by being first a student who needed a bike to get to school, then a working mother without a car who needed to get her child to daycare on the way to her job. Given her background coordinating advocacy days for nonprofits, she stressed that personal stories would help carry the message to members of Congress.
Finally, Jonathan Jarvis, director of the National Park Service, explained the long-standing, mutually beneficial relationship between cyclists and national parks. “I cannot think of a time when I didn’t have a bicycle,” he said, and riding through the system he now runs has taught him that “we haven’t been all that bike-friendly in all our parks over the years.” But he was pleased to announce impending changes to rules on mountain bikes, as well as the placement of Capital Bikeshare stations on the National Mall in D.C.
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