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LaHood Kicks Off National Bike Summit

11:58 PM EST on March 8, 2011

On the first night of the National Bike Summit, Secretary Ray LaHood told an enormous hotel ballroom filled with cycling advocates about his childhood riding bikes in Peoria, Illinois and reminded them that they need to work harder than ever to convince Congress to support cycling.

Sec. LaHood immediately after addressing the Bike Summit. Photo by Clarence Eckerson.

Last year, he captivated the Summit crowd with his famous “Tabletop Speech” and his declaration that “this is the end of favoring motorized transportation at the expense of non-motorized."

Tonight, League of American Bicyclists President Andy Clarke introduced LaHood with the high praise, “He talks about bikes – not just with us – but with other people too!”

LaHood encouraged the attendees, who will be going to Capitol Hill to lobby their representatives on Thursday, to “talk to your member of Congress about the importance of making communities cycle-friendly.” He reminded them that Ohio Congressman Steve LaTourette went from ridiculing cycling to supporting it after hearing from committed advocates. (LaHood was polite enough to not mention LaTourette by name, but everyone in the room knew who he was talking about.)

“I want you to work hard on your members of Congress,” LaHood exhorted the crowd. “We really need your help more now than, maybe, ever before. Because you know that a new crowd is in town and they have a little different agenda and it’s being played out in a way that maybe doesn’t reflect the kind of values many of us believe in.”

LaHood gets a standing ovation at the National Bike Summit. Photo by Clarence Eckerson.

He didn’t talk much about the “big, bold” transportation plan proposed by “that fella I work for” (President Obama), other than asking attendees to “charge up to Capitol Hill” and push members to support cycling.

LaHood bolstered his own cred with the room full of cyclists by telling stories of how he and his wife go cycling on the C&O Canal trail every weekend (though I think he meant the Capital Crescent), and recounting his own early years riding a Schwinn all around town, and how he bought bikes for his four kids and his nine grandkids to make sure cycling was part of their lives.

“You have a full partner – many more than one partner - at DOT,” he told them.

After LaHood’s speech, participants migrated a few blocks away for a reception honoring Bike Pittsburgh as the Advocacy Organization of the Year, Jackie Douglas of Boston’s LivableStreets as Advocate of the Year, the New Belgium Brewing Company as the Business Advocate of the Year, the Michigan Complete Streets Coalition as Winning Campaign of the Year, the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition for Best Practices, the Willamette Pedestrian Coalition’s Stephanie Routh for the Susie Stephens Joyful Enthusiasm Award, and the Fairfax Advocates for Better Bicycling got the award for Innovation.

Tomorrow, the Bike League will announce this year’s Bicycle Friendly Businesses and Universities (a new category). NACTO will release its Urban Bikeway Design Guide, written to bring bicycle innovations long ignored by AASHTO and the FHWA into roadway design. And NYCDOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, seemingly unfazed after being named in a lawsuit by anti-bike-lane plaintiffs yesterday, will address the gathering, along with Congressional Bike Caucus founder Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. A representative from the First Lady’s Let’s Move! Campaign will be the lunchtime keynote.

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