I’m not much of a blogger, actually I’ve never offered a thought to digital space before, but I was so impressed by the recent National Bike Summit that I decided to write my first Interbike Times post this morning.
While I have been to other lobbying events in DC before, this was first my first experience with the bike industry. From the moment the Summit opened on Wednesday with inspiring words from House representatives Earl Blumenauer, Dan Lipinski and Doris Matsui, it was easy to see that cycling is getting a lot of government attention. This theme continued as several politicians made personal appearances over the Summit to thank the industry for its efforts and to outline new cycling-related legislation. At a Bikes Belong Coalition reception, Republican Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania was so close he actually grabbed my badge lanyard – now that’s personal interest from Washington’s elite. This slew of celebrity sightings really caught my attention, as my previous trips to Washington haven’t provided as many photo opps – most of the meetings and parties I had been to in the past were attended by aides and staff members, with only polite invitation declines from major leaders.
The cycling industry, though, seems to be able to attract the Hill’s firepower – which is an exciting position to help direct change. From California’s Diane Feinstein to Utah Oregon’s Jeff Merkley, it seemed that everyone was eager to put a bright bicycle pin on their lapel. I think this suggests two critical success factors for the industry – we have excellent advocacy leadership in Tim Blumenthal and Andy Clarke, and they have led Bikes Belong and The League of American Bicyclists to be at the forefront of cycling policy and have forged numerous relationships with key policy makers. Congratulations to both and all that supported them to produce such a world class event.
Furthermor, the political attention suggests that the cycling industry has an amazing opportunity – with all of the modern problems of traffic congestion, pollution, obesity and more – the bicycle really has an opportunity to be a tool that is used to literally change the world. Many prominent leaders already have the bicycle in mind to help drive agendas toward a more positive tomorrow with expanded bike paths and road infrastructure, less carbon emissions and children riding to school once again.
Next time the Summit rolls around, I highly encourage you to join the crusade. The more solidarity the industry can show Washington, the more chances we have to influence change. I think you’ll be proud to join industry colleagues and you really have the opportunity to be part of the legislative process – our timing couldn’t be any better to ensure that the bicycle continues to play a critical role in American history.
[Editor's Note: Andy is Interbike's Show Director]