Wednesday, April 13, 2011
Dan Moser's Florida Weekly Column: We spoke, but did they hear?
April 6, 2011
I went to the National Bike Summit expecting to be less than encouraged, but it was impressive and uplifting in more ways than I imagined. About 800 advocates for improvements to the cycling and pedestrian environment took our case to Washington, D.C., for the 11th annual National Bicycle Summit last month. We had hundreds of meetings with elected officials, as well as numerous mass gatherings that featured U.S. Congressman Earl Blumenhauer; bike/ped’s champion from Oregon, Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood; Secretary of the Interior Ken Salizar; and New York City’s commissioner of transportation among others ,who are important to the cause.
At the federal level, we focused on the many and varied economic benefits cycling and walking enhancements reap, from reduced need for expensive roadway expansion to significant health care cost savings. In attendance at the National Bike Summit were an impressive number of independent bike shop owners as well as manufacturer and distributor representatives. We brought to our meetings with members of U.S. representatives district-specific data about bike shop employment, tax revenue collection and federal tax dollars spent on projects. We did the same on a statewide basis for senators. One need not be an economist to see that bike/ped expenditures provide a significant return on investment and should be supported on that basis alone, never mind the social, health, and ecological payback. At the risk of sounding overly optimistic, I’m hoping facts and common sense (as measured in dollars) mean more than politics when it comes to reauthorizing the various programs that fund bike/ped infrastructure and other programs that make communities a better place to ride and walk.
Admittedly it wasn’t quite the same, neither in numbers or energy level, when some of us headed to Tallahassee a week later for the third Florida Bike Summit. Nevertheless, we did our best to get similar messages to our state elected representatives. In this case, FBA had identified a number of priorities for this legislative session, which include: distracted driving legislation that makes violations a primary offense; enhanced penalties for violations that cause serious injury or death; clarification of Chapter 316 statutes to reflect present-day needs of motorists and cyclists including the Mandatory Bike Lane Law; bicycle access to limited access highway bridges; and opposition to efforts to eliminate the Office of Greenways and Trails. We also asked that federal monies and other dollars intended for bike/ped and transit not be moved into roadway capacity projects that benefit only motor vehicles, something that’s got real potential to happen in this year’s session.
Besides our advocacy efforts in Tallahassee, FBA announced the winners of its 2011 annual awards. This year three came from Lee County: Elected Official of the Year went to the entire Lee County Board of County Commissioners; Bike Club of the Year to the Sanibel Bike Club; and one of two Volunteer of the Year awards went to a couple from the Sanibel Bike Club, Norm and Helen Flemington. Congratulations to each of them and all other winners.
Although at both gatherings we were generally well received by the elected officials we visited with, it’s hard to say if that sentiment will translate into good news for cyclists, pedestrians or transit users at either level of government. Your input is still very necessary.
FCGU is the location of a new 5K, Skirts On the Run; the Caloosa Riders Bicycle Club is managing a new ride, the Immokalee Ride for Literacy , on Sunday, April 17 (there’s a 5K race / 1-mile run the day before); Taking it to the Streets is a multi-day, multi-event effort tied in with Earth Day on April 22. Finally, are you ready to ascend High Point Place’s 30 floors of stairs? Saturday, April 30, is the date for the American Lung Association’s signature event, Fight for Air Stair Climb.
Until next time, I’ll look for you on the roads and trails. ¦
— Dan Moser is a league cycling and instructor/ trainer and program director for the Florida Bicycle Association who cycles, runs and walks regularly for transportation, recreation and fitness. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 334- 6417.