Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Ghost Bike

Chris Shavers' ghost bike

The Sunday before last, the usual group for the ABC's Sunday afternoon ride were gathered around the outdoor tables at Community Bakery on Little Rock's South Main, cooling down from a fairly fast ride over to Cook's Landing and back downtown. Coreen met and chatted with one of her former students, who had stopped by on a bike as well. As the young fellow mounted his bike and rode away to the "Food Not Bombs" gathering over under the Broadway Bridge, Coreen noted the increase in people riding bicycles for transportation around town, and remarked, "We need to get them to wear helmets, that young fellow wasn't wearing one."

"We need to teach them not to run red lights, first" I replied, as I watched the young man sprint across the intersection at Main and 11th against a red light, causing two cars to brake hard to avoid hitting him.

"You've got a point there." said Coreen.

The next morning while coming in to work, I heard the radio announcers mention an accident at Woddrow and 7th; and Tuesday morning when reading the Democrat-Gazette before heading in to work, I read where a young cyclist had been struck and killed by a pickup truck at that same intersection. The truck was turning left as the cyclist entered the intersection, and as is quite frequent in these cases, the driver said he never saw the cyclist until he felt the impact of the collision. Scratching around for more information, I eventually found that the cyclist, Christopher Shavers, had run that red light, where the pickup had the green, and was turning left. At 9:00 p.m., it was fully dark, and Shavers was not wearing a helmet, nor did he have any lights, reflectors, or any other safety gear. No matter how oblivious the truck driver may have been, it's hard to see a cyclist in the dark when there's no lights or anything.

Shavers' car had broken down the previous Friday, so he had borrowed the bicycle to get around town. Obviously, he wasn't an experienced cyclist or even a casual cyclist as we would think of it, but just a guy on a bike who needed to go somewhere. I was a little touched, and scrabbled around in the storage shed until I found an old mountain bike frame my sister had rescued from a campus police sale several years ago, and I'd never gotten around to rebuilding it. A coat of primer and two coats of white enamel later, I had a "ghost bike," and took a little time Tuesday morning to drop by the intersection and chain it to a light pole where Shavers had been hit. It took a little longer, and circumstances required that I use a regular cable lock rather than the chain I had packed along, but there it was, with a crude placard that read "A CYCLIST WAS KILLED HERE."

Feedback came on the ghost bike before the end of the day... maybe as folks drive by the intersection and see that bike, they'll slow down a little bit and think about Chris Shavers, and the other vulnerable users of the road.

Sad to hear as I write this, three young boys were killed Thursday afternoon when they ran a stop sign on one of those little sport motorcycles at 22nd and Commerce, and out here in San Jose, a cyclist was killed yesterday when he ducked under a lowered railroad crossing guard and was hit by a passing train...

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The First Sharrows...

The first use of "sharrows," or shared-lane pavement markings, made their appearance on North Little Rock's streets this weekend, along stretches of the two-way street in Riverfront Park, and on the new "bike boulevard" on Brother Paul Drive east of Riverfront. Very nice to see them put into use!

Still a couple bugs in the system though... apparently we didn't take into consideration on-street parking along that stretch of Brother Paul, so riding on the sharrow puts you right square in the door zone... notwithstanding that the two cars shown here are parked way out from the curb in the first place... There's no sign prohibiting parking along this street, but I don't recall one saying it's allowed, either...

Looking east:


...and a look back west:

Now that we've got them going into place, it's high time to get some outreach going for the biking and motoriing public just as to what these things mean...

Friday, March 27, 2009

A Gap in the Loop...

The Arkansas Times ran a nice article in its 3/26/09 issue yesterday covering "the state of biking" in central Arkansas, or at least in metropolitan Little Rock. .

In it, Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola is quoted:

"Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola says the trail is technically complete, though not optimal.
“We've got some physical and geographical obstacles there,” Stodola says. “Nothing on this project has been easy. It's all been a challenge, but we're going to get it done.”

The Mayor doesn't ride much, obviously...

The problem with the River Trail crossing Cantrell/LaHarpe in front of the Episcopal School is a lot more than just an issue for “recreational” cyclists, because the trail and streets are used for much, much more than just recreation. A significant number of people depend on bicycles as their main transportation to get to work, or otherwise get around town. Ever look behind the various restaurants and hotels around the River Market area and see all the bikes parked there? They belong to the employees who work in those businesses. The River Trail and adjoining/connected streets are an important means for them to get to work, or wherever else they have to go.

A second issue is that the closure of North Street with no other street access between the Junior Deputy Park area and the other side of the railroad tracks near Cross Street completely severs the River Trail, and blows a big honking gap into what has become a major attraction for the city and county. All the millions of dollars spent on the Big Dam Bridge? Think about it… with the loss of connectivity east and west of Cantrell/LaHarpe, what are you going to do when you see this sign down there…

… turn around and go home?

The third issue is compliance with the state and city traffic codes. Arkansas law (A.C.A. Sec. 27-49-111) states that “Every person riding a bicycle or an animal, or driving any animal drawing a vehicle upon a highway, shall have all the rights and all of the duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle, except those provisions of this act which by their nature can have no applicability." As a cyclist, when you ride on the public roads and streets, you're subject to the same traffic laws as the operator of any other vehicle. John Forester (Effective Cycling, 1976) has distilled this down to what is referred to as the "vehicular cycling principle,"Cyclists fare best when they act and are treated as drivers of vehicles."

Little Rock has a number of city ordinances which are more stringent for cyclists. First of all, Ordinance 32-487 reinforces the state law directing compliance with traffic signals and signs, to include things like stop signs, one-way streets and lanes, and “Do Not Enter” signs:

Sec. 32-487. Obedience to traffic-control devices.
Any person operating a bicycle shall obey the instructions of official
traffic-control signals, signs, and other control devices applicable to
vehicles, unless otherwise directed by a police officer. Whenever authorized signs are erected indicating that no right or left or U-turn is permitted, no person operating a bicycle shall disobey the direction of any such sign, except where such person dismounts from the bicycle to make any such turn, in which event such person shall then obey the regulations applicable to pedestrians.

Ordinance 32-489 establishes a mandatory bike lane rule… if there’s a marked bike lane, cyclists are required to use that lane instead of the rest of the street. So, you have to follow the bike path, wherever it leads, in order to be "street legal":

Sec. 32-489. Riding on roadways and bicycle paths.
Every person operating a bicycle upon a roadway shall ride as near as to the right-hand side of the roadway as practicable, exercising due care when passing a standing vehicle or one proceeding in the same direction. Persons riding bicycles upon a roadway shall not ride more than two (2) abreast except on paths or parts of roadways set aside for the exclusive use of bicycles. Whenever a usable path for bicycles has been provided adjacent to a roadway bicycle riders shall use such path and shall not use the roadway.

(This MBL ordinance, by the way, along with the current problem with the Trail crossing Cantrell, is a factor that will work strongly against Little Rock’s petition to be designated as a Bicycle-Friendly Community.)

And while State law is silent upon the issue of riding on sidewalks (meaning that where not specifically prohibited by a city ordinance, you can ride your bike or even drive your car on the sidewalks in Arkansas), Ordinance 32-494 specifically prohibits riding bikes on the sidewalk in the business district and downtown area, with the exception of the City Police Dept.’s bike patrols):

Sec. 32-494. Riding on sidewalks.
No person shall ride a bicycle upon a sidewalk within a business district. Whenever any person is riding a bicycle upon a sidewalk outside of business districts, such person shall yield the right-of-way to any pedestrian and shall give audible signal before overtaking and passing such pedestrian.

The way the City’s Traffic folks have arranged the junction of the River Trail and its crossing of Cantrell Road at the Episcopal School places cyclists in direct violation on of these laws, and throws in a few extra foolish practices to further endanger the riders. Let’s take a look, from the cyclist’s point of view, at the specific hazards you face when following the River Trail west from the downtown area and negotiating the Cantrell/LaHarpe intersection:

Here’s the approach, going south on Cross Street, to the Cantrell by-pass. A cyclist here will need to cross two lanes of oncoming traffic in order to enter onto the sidewalk so as to properly follow the bike path they’ve laid out. This leads to what is pretty much a blind corner, and riders crossing the oncoming lanes in order to get up on the sidewalk here are subject to a sharp surprise and a head-on collision with motor vehicles turning right from LaHarpe onto Cross Street. In this case, the cyclist is made to ride the wrong way directly into oncoming traffic, placing him or her at fault in the case of a car-bike collision.

Note that the pavement here is none too good either, (inviting a fall hazard) but that’s another issue for another day.

Here’s a close-up of the actual turn you have to negotiate once you get on the sidewalk, with the traffic sign indicating the bike path follows the sidewalk. Once here, you’re now violating two traffic rules: 1) you’re riding on the sidewalk, and 2) you’re going the wrong way against oncoming traffic.

This is a view of the bridge/overpass crossing the Union Pacific rail line, with a bike shown for size comparison to show how narrow the space is There’s room only for one-way traffic, whether a bike or a pedestrian, since the sidewalk is only a little wider than your handlebars. The adjacent (and oncoming) traffic lane is narrow, too, so you’re going to be pretty (and uncomfortably) close to the cars coming the other way, and there’s little room for error… and an 8-inch drop from the sidewalk to the street, if for any reason you might have to leave the sidewalk.

Immediately after crossing the bridge, you make a sharp, 90-degree left turn down a roughly paved, steeply inclined path (often gravel-strewn). At the bottom of this hill, you need to thread the needle between these signs, placed to mark the end/beginning of North Street, in front of the Episcopal School. (This is the little stretch that they want to close to build the new elementary school in this space.) Again, a road bike is shown to show the comparative narrowness of this hazard. Making it more interesting, this chokepoint is usually strewn with loose gravel, both from the adjacent railroad bed and the debris that piles up at the end of this otherwise dead-end street. The gravel makes it easy to lose traction and skid, or if you hit a big enough rock, you can flat a tire or suffer a diverting fall should you lose control of your front wheel.

Brad Joseph was injured in a fall here back in August, so it’s a real hazard to cyclists.

Exiting North Street and coming back onto Cantrell/LaHarpe, the bike path signs direct you back onto the sidewalk running in front of the Episcopal School campus. The only curb cut made so that you can get onto the sidewalk here without bunny-hopping over the curb and grass is just at the edge of the street, where the red arrow is pointing. Note again the green bike path sign, “USE SIDEWALK.”

This view looks down the sidewalk/”bike path,” showing how narrow it is… again, this is suitable for one-way traffic only, and unsafe for simultaneous bike/pedestrian use. Fortunately, a good deal of the east-bound cyclists use their judgement as to the “usability” of the bike path, and ride the right-hand lane of Cantrell on up the hill past Dillards and the overpass, and simply turn right off LaHarpe onto Cross Street to pick back up on the bike route.

While you’re going westbound here, you’re back into traffic and safety violations, by 1) riding on the sidewalk, and 2) riding the wrong way against traffic.

A little more than halfway down the sidewalk, you have to negotiate the driveway leading into the Episcopal School campus, which is designed only for vehicle or pedestrian traffic, not bicycles. Again the only curb cut involves a very sharp, very short right turn into the exit lane (Arrow #1), then you have to get past the decorative island in the center (Arrow #2). The only way to do this is to go around the island to the right in the oncoming traffic lane, or do a U-Turn back toward the gatehouse to go find the single curb cut letting you back on the sidewalk on the opposite side of the drive. Both options take the rider the wrong way into potentially oncoming traffic – violation of both traffic law, and safe practices.

The curb cut on the west side of the drive is easily missed... so unless you can bunny-hop the curb and grass strip, this could put you to riding down the left side of the traffic lane, also the wrong way against traffic, in order to get to the next obstacle.

At the end of the Episcopal School property, the sidewalk abruptly ends, and puts the rider onto the shoulder of Cantrell Road, again on the wrong side riding into oncoming traffic (Arrow #1). To continue on the path, riders are directed down an alley way to the left of the Cantrell overpass and under the bridge, eventually emerging onto Gill Street, the road running in front of the warehouses on the north side of Cantrell near Junior Deputy Park. Please note that you’re being directed to ignore the “Do Not Enter” sign on this alley way (Arrow #2); and that there’s a good chance of running into oncoming traffic exiting the alley (Arrow #3) with no place to go…

Most of the most frequent complaints about local cyclists is that we ignore traffic law way too often… but then one of the most frequently-used bike paths has the City directing cyclists to violate some of the most basic safety principles… You should always ride on the right side of the road, never on the left against traffic. Wrong-way riding is the most-frequent cause of car-bike collisions and dead or maimed cyclists – accounting for 14% of all car-bike collisions, and you should never ride on the sidewalks. Cyclists ride on the road or street, where they’re mostly safe from pedestrians (who account for a little more than 1% of all bike accidents).

It may sound like a small thing in order to have connection between the two ends of the Trail amid two non-cooperative landowners, but what we’re doing here with the current work-around is reinforcing exactly the type of behavior that we need to be working against.

So... remember… y’all be careful out there. It would be nice to have a few more signs around like this one:

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Day 3 at the Bike Summit - A New View of our Guv'mint...

The usual schedule for the Summit was an early rising, get cleaned up and dressed, then head out for the Starbucks about 4 or 5 blocks down for the early-morning coffee fix and wi-fi access. Today was the assault on Capitol Hill for all the legislative meetings, and the key purpose for the Summit.

Remember, the Summit is all about the lobbying, and learning to do it effectively.


A nice thing about DC is that it’s a fairly easy town to get around in without a car. Having tried it one time several years ago, a car is often a liability to the traveler because there really aren’t many convenient places to park it once you have to get out of it. So for most of the Summit it was easier to get around by shank’s mare, or by using the Metro. I’m happy to say I spent the 4 days of the Summit shuttling around via the Metro for a grand total of $9.40, plus 10 bucks each way when I ran out of Metro line getting from and back to Dulles airport via the Wahington Flyer bus line.

Having gotten my early-morning caffeine fix, I hoofed it back down to the Metro Center station and took the Blue Line down to Capitol South station. I popped up less than a block away from my destination at the Rayburn House Office building, where we were all gathering in “Room 339” for a pre-meeting and pep rally before heading out to the individual meetings with legislators.


The key thing to learn about navigating around Capitol Hill is deciphering the room numbers. Each of the legislative bodies has a set of office buildings to either side of the Capitol building – the Senate on the west side, near Union Station, and the House on the east side. The House is probably the hardest to figure out, since offices have 4 digits – the first digit being the building number, the second being the floor in that building, and the last two indicate the particular suite. What you have once you get in there is long expanses of identical-looking hallways, with each suite marked by a state flag for the particular legislator dwelling within, and a little bronze plaque denoting name and home state. The Senate buildings are pretty much the same, but they’re prefixed with the building name, making it a little bit – but not all that much – easier.

I met up with Coreen and Gordon at Room 339, and we had coffee and bagels while the rest of the Summit attendees gathered. Matt Mihalevich of Fayetteville and his wife showed up soon after, and we made quiet plans for getting to the various meetings. Coreen, Gordon, and I were pretty much the core team, who would start off by meeting with Congressman Mike Ross’ staff at 11:00, followed by Congressman Snyder at 11:30, and Congressman Berry at 12:00 noon. Matt would join us at 1:00 p.m. to meet with Congressman Boozman, and then we would all go together over to the Dirksen Senate building to meet with Senator Pryor at 2:00 p.m. and Senator Lincoln’s staff at 2:15.


The League kicked off the morning meeting with a brief introduction and some final marching orders by director Andy Clarke, and then Congressman Earl Blumenauer came back to the microphone. He told us about a budget meeting he was in last night with President Obama. During that meeting, Blumenauer had a few minutes to present directly to Obama.

As he began outlining his ideas on the importance of alternative transportation modes, he mentioned funding challenges. At that point, according to Blumenauer, Obama piped up with, “You mean, there’s not enough money for bikes?!”. “The big guy’s on message,” Blumenauer said with a grin.


Blumenauer had also filed a “clean-up” bill for the Bicycle Commuter Act passed as part of the ARRA recovery/stimulus bill early this year. When the Bike Commuter Benefit Act passed back in October of last year, it was a shallow victory for advocates who had pushed for its passage for seven long years. Not only did it pass as a ploy to build support for the controversial financial bailout bill, the “benefit” it provides is small ($20 per month compared to $230 for parking a car and $120 a month for using public transit), and the implementation has been the source of massive confusion to employers across the country. Worse yet, the Bike Commuter Benefit Act included language that required bike-riding employees to choose between the bike benefit or the transit benefit.

Blumenauer has filed H.R. 863, the “Multi-modal Commuter Credit Act,” that he hopes will clean up the existing law. The new legislation would allow employees to receive a combination of the bike and transit benefits up to the currently monetary cap of the transit benefit. The legislation will also allow employers to administer the benefit exactly the way existing fringe benefits are administered, thereby clearing up much of the confusion over implementation of the current bike commuter benefit.

Using this new provision, people who ride their bikes to a train or bus stop and use both their bikes and transit to get to work would be able to receive both benefits in a given month.

Dan Beard, the administrative officer managing the House office buildings, was introduced, and explained that a bike sharing program he had announced at the Summit last year had been fully implemented now. He has placed 30 bicycles in three locations around each of the House buildings for the free use of House members and employees to use to get around the Hill, run errands, go to lunch, or for whatever purpose. So far this year, 175 employees have taken advantage of this service and the bikes are in near-daily use. So far, this is only available in the House; the Senate has not yet launched a companion program for their members and staff.


Our first meeting wasn’t until 11:00, so we went down to the Rayburn cafeteria for a second breakfast and hung out there until it was time to get to business. The first meeting, with Mr. Ross’ legislative assistant, Lee Stewart, went pretty well and served as a good warm-up. We combined efforts to explain what we were asking for, and made pretty much the same pitch to the various offices. As the day went on, we met with James Savage, legislative director for Rep. Vic Snyder; Chris Wallace, legislative director for Rep. Marion Berry, Andrew Grobmyer, legislative director for Senator Mark Pryor, and Patrick Davon, legislative correspondent for Senator Blanche Lincoln. We met briefly with Representative Snyder in the hallway outside his office as he was on his way to another appointment.

Meeting wit Representative Boozman was a memorable experience, as we were set to meet with Mr. Boozman himself. However he was on the House floor at the time for a vote, so he had one of his aides escort us out of the Longworth building through the tunnels and mini-railroad that links the office buildings with the Capitol itself, and to one of the cloak rooms behind the House chamber where real people usually aren’t allowed to go. We had a very productive meeting, and as we ran a little bit long, Mr. Boozman’s aide took us out through the tunnel on the other side and directly to Senator Pryor’s office for our next meeting. I’m normally not very fond of Republicans any more, but I was deeply impressed with the attention Mr. Boozman paid us, and the way we were welcomed by his staff.


Some notes for if I ever decide to try this again:

· Bring some business cards for BACA, or with my LAB stuff on them. What I usually have are my regular cards which say “ADEQ” and are wholly inappropriate for a wanna-be lobbyist in training. I’d been intending to have some made up for awhile with my LCI information on there, but it was a little late when I reached in my jacket pocket and remembered what I had in there ;-)

· When you’re briefing the folks from the ultra-rural 1st District, it doesn’t help much to talk about public transit and bus service in Little Rock. Save for maybe Jonesboro, the only buses that run through our district these days are Greyhounds bound for Memphis or St. Louis, or tour buses bound for the casinos in Mississippi. BUT… we do have compact little towns where using a bike to get around inside town will save you on a lot of gas and car insurance money, while making you healthier and more self-reliant.

· Tailor your pitch on how cycling can help your communities to the conditions in your home district… That’s who we’re really out there to represent in the first place.

· Be prompt, be earnest, and be brief. Especially brief! Meeting times are usually scheduled for 15 minutes total. Get your points down to 3, no more than 5 short and easy bullet points, and let your handouts do the deep background. Leave your contact information so they can get in touch with you in the future if they need more information.

We wrapped up the last meeting, with Patrick, a little after 3 p.m. or so. Matt took off to go find his wife, Coreen, Gordon and I adjourned to the cafeteria in the basement of the Hart building for a late lunch and some deeply appreciated ice cream while we filled out the meeting reports for the League as who who we met with, what we asked for, and any results from those asks. We went touristing a little bit around the west side of Capitol Hill before meeting back up in the Senate Caucus Room in the Russell Senate building for the wrap-up and reception.


The reception went well… for all the folks who were very keyed up early in the morning, the atmosphere was much more relaxed, helped along a little bit by a couple of open bars that had some really good red wine. There was beer available as well, but for an organization that had just given a platinum Bike-Friendly Business award to the New Belgium Brewing Company, I was a little appalled that they didn’t have any Fat Tire in sight. All in all, Andy noted that it was another record-breaking Summit, with more attendees (580) and more legislative meetings (350+) than they had ever had before.

After visiting with a few old and a few more new friends, I gave it up and headed back out shortly after dark, taking an easy stroll across the Capitol steps and back over to the Metro Station, enjoying the crisp air and the scenery of the National Mall at night, and thinking back over the past couple of days. Yeah, it was a lot of fun, and a tremendous learning experience… far better than my junior high school civics classes. Would I do it again? Not sure, but it’s planted the itch to be a better advocate and activist for biking, both back home and in other places. I’ve had my fill of hostelling for a little while, though…



The next morning was another early rising and getting out of the building for a long walk and some coffee. I had to catch a noon flight out of Dulles, though, so I didn’t have an opportunity to take part in the Congressional Bike Ride over at the Capitol that morning. As I grabbed my bag and headed back for the Metro around the ride start time, though, it was snowing… not sticking, but definitely giving things a wintry feeling.

Day Two at the Summit: Drinking from the Fire Hose

(March 11, 2009)
An early start today, rising in the dark, getting my stuff together, and heading out for a stop-off at the Starbucks on E Street for a caffeine fix and wi-fi hot spot to check mail and what’s happening back at the office.

The summit kicked off at 7:00 a.m. with a light breakfast buffet and a chance to tour some of the various booths and displays set up by summit participants. Again, for a new guy, it was a chance to mingle a little bit and learn to put faces and voices alongside those names I’ve been seeing in e-mail here and there.

If you’re ever a little confused about what the Bike Summit is all about, it’s not your typical annual get-together and convention. It’s all about the lobbying – placing 500+ informed, fired-up bike advocates on Capitol Hill at one time and swarming the halls of Congress. Today was the “informed” part of the deal, with a heavy schedule of briefings and pep talks by key Congressmen, and three sets of breakout sessions to provide the basic information behind and the key talking points for the specific “asks” that we will be making to the Congressional delegations tomorrow.

Amanda Eichstadt of CA, the chair of the League’s board of directors, led off the first plenary session this morning, and the first speaker up was the new Secretary of Transportation, Roy LaHood. Wearing one of the little colorful bike pins that marked the Summit participants this week, LaHood noted that during his confirmation hearings, the topic of “livable communities” was a constant and key topic. He then began by asserting, “I want all of you to know you have a full partner at the US DOT in working toward livable communities,” a promise that was repeated at least three times during his speech. The central theme of LaHood’s remarks was that he and President Obama will work hard help make communities nicer places to walk and bike. LaHood said that he and Obama, “Will work toward an America where bikes are recognized to coexist with other modes and to safely share our roads and bridges.”

LaHood is a recreational cyclist back home in Peoria, and is a big fan of the local Rails-to-Trails initiative. He promised that the Obama administration will work closely with communities and advocates for walkable, livable communities; to safely share our roads, bridges, and trails. He and the DoT are still developing the principles that he will share with the President in carrying out these commitments, but the new bill will preserve the qualities that make each community unique, and states will be expected to use this new flexibility and the new definition of cycling as a mode of transport to accommodate cyclists and pedestrians in public transportation projects. He closed with a promise of “new levels of cooperation on DoT’s part to incorporate and enhance ALL means of transportation.”

Next up was the venerable Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D, OR) from Portland. This guy walks the talk, as he rode down to the Reagan Building on Pennsylvania Avenue from his Capitol office on his Trek Portland commuter bike, and took the stage with his little reflective commuter band still strapped around his right ankle. Blumenauer started with a rhetorical question: “How many people right now are stuck in traffic on their way to a health club to ride a stationary bike?”


Congressman Blumenauer at the podium

He also noted that he would be contacting the City of Washington to inquire, “why, by next year on Pennsylvania Avenue, couldn’t we find a few resources to stripe a bike lane on Pennsylvania Avenue?”

He added:
· “We are pedaling what America needs.” Cycling will be a major part of America’s recovery from its current economic woes. Cycling project offer the most return per million dollars spent from the recovery funds. Cycling directly addresses and provides relief for three of our most critical issues: Health – with the positive effects of an active lifestyle; Education – specifically through the Safe Routes to School program, and Energy – as we “change from a hydrocarbon economy to a carbohydrate economy,” burning calories instead of fossil fuels.
· Families biking are an indicator species for livable communities. He noted that while the previous electoral candidates, Bush and Kerry, were avid recreational cyclists, one of the most telling images of the new administration was the pictures of Senator Obama and his family riding on a Chicago bike path.
· With Congressman Oberstar chairing the transportation committee, the “table is set for us” when it comes to writing the next transportation bill.
· We need to be relentlessly “bike-partisan.” There are no blue or red bikes.
· There are currently 213 legislators in the bike-partisan caucus. 218 would be a majority — and that’s a Summit goal.
· The Commuter Choice act will be taken up in this legislative session. The gist is it adds flexibility to the commuter tax benefits and allows the mixing of modes, e.g. biking and transit.
· New Clean-TEA legislation would set aside 10% of a carbon tax to help communities reduce the carbon-footprint of their transportation, making it more sustainable in the long term. The justification? One-third of greenhouse gas emissions are from transportation.  Cycling and walking can offset that. Clean-TEA would be an amendment to a climate change bill.

Congressman Dan Lipenski (D, IL) followed to the podium, where he confessed that he didn’t ride down from the Hill – he took the Metro – and pulled his membership card out to show that he is indeed a “card-carrying member” of the League. He pointed out that although 13% of motor-related fatalities are bicyclists and pedestrians, less than 1% of all Highway Safety dollars go to bicycle and pedestrian programming. More advice on what we should ask for--a fair share of safety dollars.

Congresswoman Doris Matsui, (D, CA) was next, having just filed the Complete Streets Act of 2009. A previous bill died at the end of the last Congress, but they are making an earlier start for this session.

A “complete street” (as defined in the legislation) is one that takes into account all users of the street, not just those in cars. Matsui — a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee - sees the bill as a way to solve three main problems: congestion, poor health, and air pollution. “Transportation should focus on all Americans, not just people who drive cars,” said Matsui. She spoke about how our transportation system must reflect that key American democratic ideal — choice.

Matsui talks about cars and our existing highway system (and the sprawl they have enabled) as if they’re an evil dragon that must be vanquished in order for peace and happiness to return to the kingdom.

· “Our outdated transportation system fosters reliance on cars…we talk about an epidemic of obesity, and the way we design our communities is partly to blame.”
· “Complete streets can re-invigorate corridors that are currently dominated by cars. We should transform these areas that are really nothing more than highways superimposed on surface streets.”
· “The days of irresponsible transportation investment are over. We cannot afford them any longer. We cannot afford more asthma, more congestion, and more climate change.”

Currently, federal law only recommends complete streets practices, but just a few states follow it (only 80 jurisdictions nationwide have officially adopted a complete streets policies). Advocates say the time is now to make this a federal priority.

Matsui said she’s optimistic that the political stars have aligned in this Congress. “We are going to transform this country, she said in closing, “and we are going to do it together.”

Tim Blumenthal, chair of the Bikes Belong Coalition, wrapped up the plenary session with a few remarks:

Cycling projects typically create 65 jobs per $1 million invested, more than comparable highway projects.

In turn, we receive $1 return on investment per mile cycled, once you figure in the health benefit of cycling.

The last Congress was a fairly tough one for the LAB and cyclists as a whole, even if it wasn’t all that bad in hindsight. The new Congress is much better, much more receptive;

We’re getting:
· more support and funding from foundations and corporations;
· 10% set-aside from the proposed CLEAN-TEA legislation;
· Promotion of bike/pedestrian activities by community and statewide groups, as well as mayors;
· Mayors are interested and dedicated to bike improvements;
· Bike-friendly designations are on the rise, despite tougher qualifying criteria;
· National Bicycle Route Network is gaining acceptance and momentum;
· Complete Streets policies at community levels, some states; now new Complete Streets Act has been re-filed;
· New media – Facebook, Twitter – to reach and coordinate with advocates
· IMBA – mountain biking is growing again, and getting involved in advocacy issues.

The Summit then broke out into three groups of five breakout sessions to discuss the details of the various “asks,” proposed legislation, and current issues. I went to the first session on the “America Bikes” agenda, which featured three speakers on the basic “asks” for the Summit:

Caron Whitaker, the campaign director for “America Bikes,” laid out the four basic concepts of the agenda. These are:
1. Enacting a Complete Streets Policy or legislation at national level to ensure that our transportation system serves all our citizens fairly and equitably, where all new and reconstructed roads are designed and maintained to enable safe access and use by all modes of transportation: pedestrians, cyclists, public transit, and motorists. Note that “Complete Streets” = “Livable Communities” in the Administration’s current agenda.
2. Completing Active Transportation Systems: Connecting our network if sidewalks, bike paths and routes, and trails – specifically in cities, towns, and urban areas -- to enable a greater percentage of short trips to be made by foot or bike. This includes maintenance of the Recreational Trails Program in the current transportation bill, as well as support and completion of the National Bicycle Route System
3. Investing in Safety: This will ensure that highway safety funds are spent proportionally to casualties/fatalities (currently bicyclists and pedestrians comprise 13% of roadway fatalities, but less than 1% of safety funding is directed toward making our roads safer for these users), as well as increasing support and funding for the Safe Routes to School program.
4. Promoting Biking and Walking as Modes of Transportation. This would formally recognize cycling and walking as formal modes in the U.S. transporation network, align our transportation and climate policies, and enable (require) DoT to measure, enforce, and encourage progress in increasing the amount of trip share from cars to walking or biking.

Jeff Miller, of the (Thunderhead) Alliance for Biking and Walking spoke briefly on the need and methods for increasing the number of short trips from driving to biking or hiking. A common thread is that more than half of the car trips made in the United States are 3 miles or less. A common problem is that communities do not commonly track or record bicycle or pedestrian activities in the same level of attention they pay to motor traffic. One source to use at this time is the Thunderhead benchmarking report, at least until we can establish consistent data collection in a particular community for all modes of transport.

Miller emphasized that a key tool at state level is a statewide, or at least a local advocacy organization that can speak with a single voice for these issues. Thunderhead will be providing grants in the next year to assist in the organization and development of statewide coordinating groups for bike/ped issues. He strongly urged attendees when they return home from the Summit to start building coalitions not only with fellow advocates, but with local leaders, especially the mayors, county judges, and other local elected officials.

Mike Van Abel, executive director of the International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA) spoke briefly (and passionately) on the role that mountain biking can play in transportation as well as the health/wellness component of the Bike Agenda. He elaborated on the Recreational Trails Program (RTP), which has been used to establish and expand the natural trails system around many communities. It’s a well-established program, and Arkansas has received a little less than $1.4 million so far to build and maintain some of our epic trails like the Syllamo and the Womble. The reauthorization of the RTP does not currently have a sponsor or “champion” in the new Congress, so this will be a major goal for IMBA at the Summit this week. He closed with an appeal, that getting kids on bike, on natural surfaces is a Good Thing, and combined with the preservation of natural and open spaces directly helps combat the fitness/wellness problems of the younger generation.

The time is ripe to place emphasis on building/restoring livable communities, and there are provisions for these in the recovery bill recently passed. There is still a great amount of outreach and education to be done; we need to be able to convey how biking and walking can contribute to our economic recovery.

CLEAN-TEA, the “Clean, Low Emission, Affordable New Transportation Efficiency Act”, would establish a 10% set-aside of funds from the current and future auctions of carbon emission allowances to establish a fund which would be used to fund projects in states, regional, and local governments that reduce emissions of greenhouse gases… these activities include public transit, bicycling, pedestrian, travel management such as van-pooling and telecommuting, etc..

A key question that came up afterward is, What would be the obligation of a State under the Complete Streets Act? Answer: The state will be given one year to enact legislation or coordinate and implement a statewide policy that ensures all transportation projects undertaken using federal funds comply with the complete streets principles, e.g. accommodating all modes to include pedestrians, bicycles, and transit, unless the project covers a roadway where these modes are prohibited (for example, freeways). If, after two years, a state has not complied by enacting such a policy, its access to appropriated highway funds would be sharply curtailed until it does so.

In making your “ask,” be a good listener as well. What information does your legislator or his staff need to support a particular bill? Get that info to them. And when you make your ask, listen closely for the answer.

Follow up on your ask. Listen to the small talk – who in the office or staff likes to ride bikes, or to hike? These can be key contacts.

Best manner to contact your congressional delegation is to directly call them, or use the FAX. After the anthrax scares several years ago, direct mail is no longer delivered to congressional offices in DC. E-mail is good, but working the telephones and Faxes is currently the best way.

The second breakout session that I attended was titled “Back to the Future: Affirming the Rightful Place of Bicyclists in Transportation Policy.” (Coreen went to a separate session focused on Complete Streets; Gordon went to a session on Urban Trails and Jump Parks.) I chose mine based on the list of who the speakers were, and it turned out to be a good choice. The session was chaired by Amanda Eichstadt, an LCI and currently Chair of the League’s Board of Directors, and speakers included LCI Eric Gilleland, director of the Washington Area Bicycling Association, LCI Barry Zalph, director of Bicycling for Louisville (KY), and Jeff Mapes, a Portland, OR journalist and author.

Amanda opened the session noting that several years ago she got frustrated at the actions of the many “scofflaw cyclists” in her community, which led her to join the League, and eventually get a grant to hold a number of Road I classes. She hired John Ciccarelli to do this, and eventually became an LCI herself.

When we teach the League’s Smart Cycling program, it’s crucial that we teach the role of driving a bike on the roadway. We also need to keep an eye on the legal system to ensure that we don’t lose our rights to use the roadways. We use paths when we feel like it, but the roadways are the main solution to getting where you need or want to go on a bike.

The League will be implementing a 6th “E” -- EQUALITY – in its Bike Friendly Community and State programs, and this factor will become important in the designation of such communities. Look for yourself – does your community and state treat cyclists fairly?

Eric Gilleland of WABA gave a presentation on “Enforcement – The Third Rail of Bike Friendly Status.”

· Safety, of course…
· Equality among riders, between riders and drivers
· Addresses the “fear” in cycling
· Impacts all the other “E’s” of bike-friendly status
· Shows commitment to better bicycling

Without equitable enforcement of the traffic laws, there is no “trickle-down” of cyclist rights.

· The final frontier for advocates
· Limited resources of organization
· Enforcement is not tied to transportation policy
· Because cyclists break the law as well.

Traffic enforcement is not a priority in DC. WABA was galvanized to act proactively by the 2007 death of Alice Watson a student who was doing everything “right,” but was still right-hooked and killed by a DC garbage truck. After her death, DC police started targeting cyclists for all sorts of minor infractions, while continuing to ignore aggressive or wrongful behavior by motorists.

WABA’s Response:
· Education, education, education
· Published and distributed pocket guide to DC area bike laws
· Published “Safe Bicycling Guide to DC” from Mr. Bike template, customized to DC
· Established a DC area Bike Advisory Council
· Negotiated community policing agreement with DC police
· Established “Pace Car” program (Driver “share the road” education; pledge of safe driving, with sticker placed on the vehicle)

Lack of understanding about traffic laws, for both drivers and cyclists, creates a perception of bias against cyclists, e.g., “bikes are toys.” Perception is reinforced by absence of overall traffic enforcement for current laws.

Incorrect police enforcement (e.g., police officers don’t understand bike laws, either) is also an issue. Police commonly cite cyclists for riding in the street and order them to the sidewalk.

In many cases, police will not prepare a report for bike crashes or car-bike crashes. And without a police report, you are normally out of luck with your insurance provider.

Likewise data collection is problematic. If you don’t know where and why crashes occur, it’s hard to make corrections to engineering and education areas.

· Contributory vs. comparative negligence in crash resolution
· Vulnerable Road User laws
· Helmet laws (tend to focus on wearing helmet vs. preventing a crash in the first place)
· Enforcement targets illegal, but safe, behaviors
· Idaho Stop laws

Next/Needed steps
· Enforcement MOUS with community police
· Better training of police officers in academy and in-service training
· Improved coordination between transportation policy makers and police departments
· Coordination between enforcement agencies and transportation departments to identify high risk behaviors and high-crash locations.

More at

Barry Zalph of Bicycling For Louisville (and one of my LCI instructors from the Louisville seminar… Barry’s the guy who got me into pulling out the tape measure all the time when setting up for the parking lot drills) gave an excellent presentation on “Changing State Laws to Improve Bicycling.” BFL recently led a campaign to establish a vulnerable road user law for the state of Kentucky, which would provide increased enforcement and penalties against motorists who run over bicyclists or pedestrians. The bill died in committee due to Kentucky’s short annual legislative session, but they will seek to revive the bill next year using the lessons learned from this year’s effort.

· Can help solve a statewide problem
· Can provide a basis for strengthening our various E’s for bike-friendly status
· Can build your membership and clout for the organization.
· State law gives you a stronger basis for demanding that the rules be enforced.

Activities like this can give you a substantial boost inactive membership for a statewide or community organization. Your group becomes recognized as a player in local issues; and you actually affect people and the outcome of events.

· Requires legal research resources
· Process may/will get out of your control
· Potential for adverse consequences
· Can deplete your organization’s resources
· Can reduce your organization’s credibility.
· Can have a lot more (or less) effect than you intended
· How will the law play out if it passes?
· Potential for unfriendly amendments

Know your sponsoring legislator. It stops being “your” bill and becomes “theirs” as soon as it’s filed. It can be amended at almost any time in the process to significantly change its scope and/or effect.

Massive amounts of time required to research, draft, and garner support for the bill.

Those speaking for the bill can sound like nuts (reducing credibility). Need to carefully craft, script, and present your message.

· Problem- clearly defined.
· Passion
· Proposal – credible and specific
· People – Leaders, strategists, supporters, connections
· Patience and Persistence

· Gather statistics supporting your case
· Gather compelling personal stories – you need a teary-eyed survivor who will testify and perform well before the legislative committees.
· Research existing law, and its shortcomings.
· Research good laws in place elsewhere
· Consider non-legislative solutions.

· Turn the map around – how might the bill affect those working in the field? Ask them. Anticipate and address weaknesses
· What do lawyers think of the proposed bill?
· Who stands to lose if the bill passes?
· Who might be offended if you don’t consult them in the process?
· Who usually opposes “this sort of bill”?
· Is the bill revenue-neutral?

· Recruit cyclists (LAB, local advocacy groups and clubs)
· Find non-cycling allies/partners
· Make your case to the general public.
· Learn from the experts (non-cycling advocates with strong citizen advocacy programs; legislators, legislative/research staff, lobbyists, cycling advocates in nearby states)

LAB advocacy and Thunderhead Alliance “Winning Campaigns” training can be a huge booster/preparation for this sort of project.

· “Legislator X” – the guy who sponsors and champions your bill
· Bill sponsor and co-sponsors
· Honest brokers, weather vanes
· Legislative staffers and bill drafters

Share credit with your volunteers and those who helped you with your campaign.

Jeff Mapes, a journalist with the Portland Oregonian newspaper and author of the recent book on the cycling movement, Pedaling Revolution, made a few comments on improving the public perception of bicycling. Jeff said a whole lot more than this, but he’s a much better writer than an organized public speaker:

· How do you get your message out to the general public? Make the conservative case for bicycling. Set a good, happy example. What good can riding do for you and others?
· You can change people’s attitudes about what they think about cyclists; upset their perceptions and change them for the better.
· Cyclists are perceived to be very much like home-schoolers, e.g., “so arrogant, want everything special for them, and out of sync with the professional education [transportation] lobby.”
· Cycling represents Choice – the freedom to choose your own course of action, your own means of getting from one place to another.
· Acknowledge that everyone breaks the rules out on the road to about the same degree. We have laws, rules, and then social customs about what’s acceptable to “get away with.”
· Consider hidden subsidies… e.g. free vehicle parking (all the parking spaces in the U.S. add up to a space the size of Connecticut). Oregon currently has the proposed bike registration law as a snipe to get cyclists to pay a larger share of infrastructure costs.

Jenn Dice, IMBA:

Bicycles are the #1 implement to get kids outdoors and involved in nature again.

Green space, urban parks provide an excellent opportunity to get even inner city kids re-involved with nature; wildlife observation trails, etc.

The third breakout session I attended was the one on Safe Routes to School. I was interested here because the League youth education agenda is currently being rewritten, primarily to support this program, and I was interested in seeing what may be coming down the road from this perspective. I didn’t get as much out of this one as I did the other sessions, since it was pretty much a straightforward presentation of the SRTS as a whole, and most of the successes presented here were for the walking part of the agenda… e.g. the “walking school bus” and related concepts; many school superintendents are apparently still skittish about bicycles on campus and letting kids ride there.

Currently, 4,566 schools actively participate in SRTS. $416 million was appropriated for the program, of which $370.6 million has been awarded by the various state highway departments. Of all applications, approximately 37% are funded.

SRTS projects that get funded are typically simple, and focused on specific issues or problems. The availability of federal funding can galvanize PTAs, so this is a key group to partner with and get them involved. The kids taking up walking and biking can be tough on Mom & Dad, so it’s critical to get parents involved and supportive.

Educational curriculum: LCIs can provide important assistance and support; as most of the champions of the SRTS program know little or nothing about cycling, especially vehicular cycling or the Smart Cycling program. LCIs can train PE teachers and assistants; but the LAB youth education program is still under revision/update.

SRTS projects and support thereof can create a valuable, physical presence of advocacy groups in the neighborhood schools.

Need to check and be sure that SRTS projects are written into/incorporated in the city’s master street or bike plan.

Funding is currently available for only about 7.5% of eligible schools; typically only part of a school system or district will be served by a particular grant. Current ask will be for $3 billion over the next 5 year. SRTS currently serves only grade levels K-8; there is a growing need as current biking/walking student move on to high school to make these schools accessible, too. Ask will be to expand the program to serve levels K-12.

SRTS grantees must also comply with all provisions of Title 33 for awarded funding; will seek to streamline and simplify the administrative burden of managing the grant in the coming federal legislation.

Many schools are cutting bus routes due to budget decreases. Cutting one bus route saves a district and average of $37,000. There is an opportunity/need to replace lost bus routes with an SRTS project to keep a good level of service to affected students.

Program supports community-centered schools and livable communities, augments/depends upon Complete Streets for implementation, should be associated with the school’s Wellness program or policy.

A key point that I brought away from here is that STRS is a very different program than what DoT and state highway departments are used to dealing with, as it is principally dealing with people rather than pavement.

Following the various breakout sessions, the League held a short pre-brief for the State coordinators, who then set up coordination meetings to affirm schedules and get together to coordinate for the office visits on Capitol Hill the next day.


The Arkansas delegation convened with a total of five delegates. The 3 BACA representatives planned to attend each of the six meetings provided that we were able to get between all the offices in time, Matt & Terry from NWA would join us for the meeting with Rep. Boozman (3rd District) and the senators. Whoever was the particular constituent from that district would lead the discussion in that particular meeting.


Following the state caucuses, the League presented one last effort at advocacy coaching, with a skit titled “Summit Idol” where designated members made one of the specific asks to a panel very similar to that of the “American Idol” judging staff… very much a demo of what not to do when you got in your Congressman’s office… but highly entertaining and informative at any rate.

I bailed out at 6 p.m. to go to the IMBA wrap-up meeting, so missed out on most of the evening social hour… I had run into these folks through the day in the various sessions, but the wrap-up was very well done and a good pep rally to get out and promote mountain biking and the IMBA principles…

IMBA is re-aligning its organization to be better organized on a regional basis. They see this as their next level of growth, nurturing teams of “passionate, committed, dedicated volunteers.” They are a partner with the League, the Alliance, and SRAM (sponsor) to provide more locally-effective, grassroots advocacy. This advances the advocacy issues of the various groups, SRAM and Specialize see this as a great means to get more trails, quicker, and thus more places opportunities for people to ride their bicycles.

IMBA will be organized ona regional basis in the future. If you join one of the Regional districts, you’ll automatically be added as a member of IMBA at the national level, and vice-versa, if you join IMBA, you’ll also be included in the regional membership that serves your community.

An important event is “Take A Kid Mountain Biking Day,” typically held the first Saturday in October. 130 organized event this past year, looking to greatly improve on that in 2009. And when you take a kid mountain biking, take the parents too, and get them involved… an ideal situation is when we can get families out on trails, on bikes. [This is one project I plan to take on for BACA, using the new Pfeifer Loop down by the BDB as a gateway trail).

These sorts of gateway trails are excellent resources, look at them in the same manner as the skate parks, getting kids out on bikes, on trails, doing the same sorts of things and having the same sort of fun.

IMBA Ride Centers (mentioned in one of the Trails Symposium workshops) were promoted as a way to get more folks on bikes, and on dirt.

Fundraising: “Team IMBA” was mentioned as a quick way to raise local funds for trails projects… sponsored by SRAM and GT bicycles. One selects an MTB race, signs up with Team IMBA, and proceeds to raise funds for a trails project. If you raise $500, SRAM will match that with an additional $500; total funds are split 75/25 between your local trail project and one of the national trails projects. Other fundraising projects can be supported, or they may have a way to suggest a good method; call Rich Cook at IMBA.

National Mountain Bike Patrol (MNBP): Probably the fastest growing program in IMBA at this time. Look at supporting your local patrol, or starting one in your community if you don’t already have one. A great support organization for mountain biking in local communities.

I skipped the IMBA dinner and went back across the hallway to catch the last part of the League’s Annual Meeting. They were doing the Copenhagen presentation from the first evening again, followed by a short talk and reading by Jeff Mapes of the Portland Oregonian, author of the new book Pedaling Revolution. I stopped by afterwards to visit a bit with Jeff, as we had briefly met in the first morning session, and bought one of his books to read on the flight home.


On the way back to the flophouse, Gordon and I came upon one of the new SmartBike stations. Early last year, DC instituted a bike share program for the District, with ~200 3-speed bicycles pre-positioned at approximately a dozen places around town. SmartBikes are more or less oriented toward local residents, though… in order to check one out for use you need to apply for a special SmartBike Card, issued by applying on-line, paying $40 per year, and getting a special card that you swipe at the SmartBike rack to check out a bike. I saw a couple of these things cruising around town, so the project is apparently working… Maybe if I do this thing again next year, it’ll be worth signing up ahead of time for a SmartBike card… the $40 is pretty comparable to a one-day bike rental for the Summit’s closing day bike ride…


More or Less Live from the Bike Summit...

Greetings from a gray evening in downtown DC... This is the week that Gordon Fisher, Coreen Frasier, and I are representing BACA and the Arkansas Bicycle Club at the League of American Bicyclists' National Bike Summit. This is the third year that I've actually been a League member, and the first time that I've attended the Bike Summit. On the whole, BACA has been participating through the efforts of various members since 2004.

I had not originally intended to go to the Summit, but this year the League changed its process a little bit and sought out "State Coordinators" from each state to call and coordinate visits with each member of the state Congressional delegations. Someone reached out and grabbed me, and with a good bit of arm-twisting, I agreed to do it. The Coordinators were einvolved early on back in February, when the League used a consultant, Stephanie Vance (the "Advocacy Guru") to conduct two on-line training seminars for us. The first involved a detailed tutorial on how to get in touch with and make appointments with the various congressional offices, the second focused on what to do when we got there, and how to be an effective lobbyist (excuse me, ADVOCATE) for bicycling.

It started off as a hectic week. On Monday night, the North Little Rock City Council had its regular meeting at which it adopted the state's first Complete Streets resolution. (Passed unanimously, by the way, and now in full effect). That was on the tail end of the agenda, so it was pretty late when I got back out to Scott, only to rise with the rooster the next morning in order to make a 6:15 a.m. flight out to Washington DC, by way of St. Louis and Chicago. The connecting flight from Chicago was delayed for about an hour, which wiped out my attendance at the first agenda item, the League's tutorial for first-time advocates. Turns out this was pretty much the same deal Stephanie had given us late in February, so there wasn't much lost. I found the flophouse where Gordon and I would be staying in order to abide with BACA's budget, dropped off my suitcase, changed into a clean shirt, and headed out to go find the Reagan International Trade Center down on Pennsylvania Avenue. Right next door to the U.S. EPA, it turns out...

I signed in and picked up my paperwork, met a few friends (Anne Ellis and Barry Zalph from my LCI class in Louisville back in '07), then found Coreen and Gordon. The Summit kicked off at 6:00 p.m. with a very nice dinner, and our maxed table of folks from Arkansas, New England, and Colorado had some lively discussion. Also at our table was John Siemiatkoski, the League’s new Board member from New England, who shared an idea considered during the Board meeting earlier in the day… if the LAB has League Cycling Instructors, why can’t we enhance that program to also provide “bike-friendly Instructors” or “bike-friendly advisors” to assist communities in building programs, infrastructure, etc. in support of becoming bike-friendly communities?

The main program kicked off with a welcome by Andy Clarke, the League’s executive director, who in turn welcomed the Ambassador from Denmark, and then a demonstration of the role that cycling plays in Copenhagen, a city that's physically about the size of the Little Rock metropolitan area, has a population of a little over half a million, and where 36% of all trips are made by bicycle... Some 30,000 bikes daily hit the streets in the downtown area alone. 36% of people who enter Copenhagen daily for work or for school do so on a bicycle and among people who live in their city’s core, 55% bike to work. Another 35% take public transit, so cars are a minority there. Andreas Rohl, Copenhagen’s bike program manager, noted that when he took the, there was a tremendous amount of effort placed in managing cycling in the city. After he had been at work a couple of months, he began to wonder if there was a similar office in city government that dealt with automobiles the same way the city does with cyclists. (There wasn’t.)

Next up on the agenda was a welcoming talk from Congressman James Oberstar, (D, MN) who is the chairman of the House Transportation Committee that will be assembling the new highway funding bill this coming summer. Driving home several times that he’s the Chairman, he got a rousing bit of applause when he stated that it’s not a question of whether there will be bicycle funding in the new bill, only “how much.” Oberstar noted that “we have to make bicycling a node of transportation by law,” and noted a widely cited case in Illinois where a cyclist was killed in an accident caused by a defective road surface and state courts ruled that the roads weren’t designed or intended for cyclists, and his dependents then had no standing to sue for loss or damages caused by his death. Oberstar promised that the new transportation bill will clearly define bicycling as a mode of transportation; and cyclists as design users of the roads and streets. He then challenged us to “go out and make cycling so.”

The new administration sees cycling at the core of their concept of “livable communities.” Cyclists are people too, and they vote. Bike shops are small businesses, and support their communities in many facets.

The evening closed with a number of awards, from the national Safe Routes to School recognition, and five grants from the Bikes Belong Coalition to cities seeking to establish or upgrade their standing as Bike-Friendly Communities. These awards went to Denver, Atlanta, Boston, Pittsburg, and San Diego.

The Alliance for Biking and Walking, formerly known as the “Thunderhead Alliance,” announced their recent name change, as well as a round of grant opportunities for groups wishing to organize statewide bicycling or bike/ped coalitions. Deadline for application will be April 3, 2009.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2008 in retrospect...

Wow... Long time, no blog!

Things got more than a little busy back in the summer, and I was definitely doing a lot more riding than writing about it at the time. Maybe not a bad thing, but I'll make a resolution to keep things here a little better updated in the coming year, provided connectivity permits. Sometimes I'm grateful that they even ran electricity lines out here to Scott, much less any kind of internet service.

Last year's resolutions, by the way, went pretty well. I set around four goals, and actually met most all of them:

1. Mileage: This resolution for 2008 was two-fold - to ride at least 4,000 miles, and to have zero weeks duirng the year where I didn't log a bike ride. As of last night, I had a hair over 6,600 miles logged on, and there are zero weeks in 2008 where I didn't ride. There was that one week back in Frozen February this year where I got in "only" 40 miles, but that was the low point. Just before gas prices shot out of sight last spring, I started bike commuting regularly to work, so it wasn't that much of an adjustment when $4 gas came. Now that the stuff is back down to $1.34, prices not seen in more than 8 years, I still prefer biking to riding around in the old red pickup.

2. Group rides: I did the Hotter 'n Hell 100 again this year, and came in less than 6 hours (5:52). Tour de Rock ran for 66 miles earlier in the summer, and I had the form to pull hard most of the way around, and completed that one with a 17+ mph average. And in one of the wilder one-day adventures so far this year, I did the whole Big Dam Bridge 100 course back in September. All in all I rode 4 organized century rides, but missed most of the Arky 100 (I worked one of the rest stops instead of riding), and a dose of stomach flu on Halloween kept me out of the Tour da Delta. One major deal was the "Hot Hundred" and "Hot Wheels" rides leading up to the Big Dam Bridge ride, which was a lot of fun. I'll do that again this coming summer, but will probably start a lot earlier, focused on the earlier centuries like Tour de Rock (supposed to go for a century in '09) and my perennial favorite, the Hotter 'n Hell.

3. Turning in my annual activity report to the League a couple of years ago, I did a bunch of classes and reached a bunch of folks... enough to earn one of the 102 free copies of the new "Traffic Skills 101" course books the League sent out just before Thanksgiving. And where we had a total of 5 LCIs in the state at this time last year, we now have 17! I even got to sit in on and help out a little at the first LCI training seminar held here in Arkansas back the first of December, and learned just about as much as the new folks did there.

4. The one goal I missed was the one to "ride a race somewhere." About the closest I got to this was riding the course for the CARVE Crosswind Classic back in March, but I was a spectator rather than a participant. I did eventually sign up with US Cycling for a Cat. 5 racing license, but never toed the start line with a number pinned to my butt... at least not at a race. I did some alleycat runs and am getting a little better at sprinting and breaking out the hurt stick from time to time, but riding a race is still on the "to do" list for 09.

For next year (2009), I'm making pretty much the same goals:

1. To ride like a flahute through the winter months and onward, with no weeks in 2009 where I don't ride... at least a little bit. Keep up the commuting, enjoy and enhance the mileage, my real life permitting. I resolve to ride my mountain bike more... and to bring that joy to more young folks. And to enjoy riding for the simple pleasures of riding.

2. The group ride schedule is much the same: I plan to do the HHH again in '09 and try to match my time for '09. The hundred mile course for the TdR sounds like a good goal, and that will be my early summer aimpoint, with a warm-up (at least) down at the Tour de Hoot in McGehee. At McGehee I at least intend to make it as far as the Arkansas City stop, with the old courthouse and the oatmeal cookies. I'll leave my options open for the BDB ride... I'll ride it this coming year, but plans are to forego a lot of the volunteer work I put into that this past year and take some time to enjoy the ride more. And not to have flats.

3. 2009 is a big year for the bike education programs, I'm planning on a big push in North Little Rock to not only benefit the local riders, but also push the city farther along toward Bike-Friendly Community status. With a new crop of eager young(er) LCIs in town, I will likely work more on advocacy issues, and some of the more esoteric courses.

4. I still need to ride that race... If I can hang on to Resolution #1 above, I'll challenge myself to pin on a number and ride the Crosswind Classic, provided they do that one again in March...

So, there we go... more resolutions... now the art of the deal is to stick to them.