Jill and I attended this very important lobbying junket as guests of Bikes Belong, the fine folks who work tirelessly to make sure that the cycling industry gets a voice at the legislative table. Along with the League of American Bicyclists, these two organizations work to put together the National Bike Summit.
This year’s Summit drew around 450 attendees. People from all walks of the bicycle advocacy spectrum- industry, retailers, bike clubs, city, regional, state and national advocacy groups… you name it. Some were there to support Safe Routes to School, some were there to lobby for more trail access, others were there to get bicycle commuters the same sort of tax break/ incentives that other folks get for commuting by bus or carpool and then there were folks (like me) who were focused on the Complete Streets initiative. It was a very diverse group and all of us joined together for the greater good of cycling, in the broader sense. Altruistic as it sounds, it is the truth and I was very proud to be a part of it.
I don’t know how it is possible to go to DC and not feel inspired by the sight of our country’s legislative power in action. It was actually awe inspiring and this is coming from one of the least political people you’ll ever meet. I still came away from DC with a new sense of energy and desire to work towards greater cycling advocacy issues.
You will hear me talk more about advocacy here and at that other place where I talk my fool head off. Advocacy is going to become a bigger focus for me, so I hope you’ll put up with it. Here’s the thing; too few cycling industry companies participate in advocacy and only a handful of folks showed up to the Summit. John Burke from Trek was there, Chris Fortune from Saris Group was there, Ariadne Scott from Specialized was there (along with a couple other folks) and Don Palermini from Bell Sports was there. There were others who were there and I apologize for missing your names, those folks are the ones I remember off the top of my head. Needless to say, industry folks were outnumbered quite a bit by the other non-industry folks. The non-industry folks do a fantastic job of making our lives easier, but it is time that we- as a whole- stepped up and added more to the efforts. Since I know that I get quite a few industry folks reading this site, I am putting out the challenge and invitation to be a bigger and more vocal part of the advocacy process. I am going to keep asking for more folks to become involved and I will be working on local and regional things that I can help with as well.
Think of it very selfishly, all you industry wankers (which I am one of); without the efforts of bicycle advocates, we will one day be without an industry to work in. Without safe streets for folks to ride on, they will not ride. Without safe routes to school, kids won’t need bikes to get to school. Without trail access, our dirt-loving mountain bike friends will have nowhere to ride and no need for a new mountain bike. It’s a very simple equation really. We have to work together, putting aside petty brand squabbles, to help provide a future for our industry. Let’s face it, race geeks alone are not going to support an entire industry.
So here is my challenge and my invitation to my fellow members of the cycling industry; stand up and be heard! Lend your voice to the chorus. Contact your local Congressman or Senator and let them know the things that are important to you (and not just about cycling). Don’t just let “somebody else” do the work for you- roll up your sleeves and get a little dirt under your nails. Here’s one more immutable truth; when it comes to DC, money talks. If the industry stands united and says “we need this”, then we’re much more likely to see some results. Think a bicycle commuter tax break doesn’t apply to you? Think again… those commuters by a lot of product, from bikes, to tires, to fenders, to lights, to new helmets, etc. If they have a monetary incentive to ride their bikes, and not just the “think green” incentive, more folks will get out and ride. Add safer roads to ride on into the equation and that potential pool of money-spending commuters gets even bigger.
Please join me in trying to make a brighter future for our much beloved industry.
Chief Kool-Aid Dispenser
(Short UPDATE; I realize that the mandate for Bikes Belong is to lobby for the cycling industry and they do a great job. Tim Blumenthal, the Director of Bikes Belong, is the former Director of IMBA and has a history of getting things done. Things are getting done with Bikes Belong as well, but my point is that the industry needs to work closely together and form a coalition or trade group that lobbies for change as well. We need to be able to put aside differences and work closely to further protect our industry and its interests.)