March 12th, 2013 |
, National Bike Summit
Like most people nowadays, I’m on social media. But I haven’t fully embraced it yet, nor am I a paid journalist. I only mention this because it explains why I am a few days late in sharing some of my reflections and takeaways from the 2013 National Bike Summit rather than running my thumbs and phone camera for three days as the world passes by. And it was a quick three days, so I am glad to have waited.
The 13th annual summit, which is put on by the League of American Bicyclists, ran from Monday, March 4 to Wednesday, March 6. This was the largest Summit ever, attended by more than 750 bicycling advocates from all 50 states, several Canadian provinces, and several U.S. territories. Similarly, Nebraska sent its largest and most diverse contingency ever.
The full Summit kicked off Monday night with a dinner and keynote talk by U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood. Secretary LaHood has been very involved with advancing bicycling since President Obama appointed him in 2009. He has traveled the country and visited communities both to hear about their issues and see the impact of bicycle projects supported by Department of Transportation funding or programs. My main take away from Secretary LaHood’s remarks is that bicycling is having an impact across the U.S., and that American’s are embracing the bicycle for recreation, transportation, and enjoyment.
Secretary LaHood was followed by a trio of leading thinkers in the bicycling community: New York City Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Kahn, President of Trek Bicycles John Burke, and Vice President of the Brookings Institute Bruce Katz.
The point that Ms. Sadik-Kahn made that stuck with me is that the public is ahead of the media and politicians when it comes to understanding the importance and impact of bicycle infrastructure. As evidence of this, she noted that the bike lanes in New York City are polling better than the mayoral candidates.
Mr. Burke chose to underscore the power of the bicycle’s ability to solve individual and communities issues related to health, as well as economic and environmental benefits. He also pointed out that the bicycle industry in the U.S. is large and growing larger as it includes companies designing and manufacturing bicycles and bicycle parts, as well as the retail and distribution chain.
Finally, Mr. Katz shared his observations of the trend of decreasing household size in the U.S. over the past century, and cited that as evidence and motivation for the urbanization of the suburbs. He also pointed out that in the past cities’ and states’ bicycling and pedestrian programs were at the mercy of federal funding, but that the recession has shifted the balance so that the federal government is now more in service of the movements and projects in cities and states.
For me the big idea from Monday of the Summit is that bicycling in the U.S. has more momentum than it has had since before the proliferation of the automobile in the early 20th century. And we really shouldn’t be surprised because the bicycle can address so many of the challenges our country faces today: community disconnection and sprawl; sedentary lifestyle issues like obesity and heart health; tight budgets at the household, community, and state level; traffic and parking congestion; and air pollution.
Without any major transportation legislation in Congress this year the League had a little more leeway to expand the Summit program. Although this was my first Summit, it seemed like the League used that expansion to focus and broaden the programs and speakers. Even after the first day, it was clear that people at all levels of the bicycling movement are proud of what they’ve accomplished and excited about the future. So even though it isn’t timely, I’d like make up for my un-timely un-hipness and compose a tweet to capture day 1 of the Summit:
Main idea from d1 of #NBS13: Bicycling mvmt poised to build on strong foundation to become a practical means to address our big challenges w/ #health #econ #envmt
August 23rd, 2012 |
Category: Activate Omaha
, National Bike Summit
This week, the cycling community lost a great friend and advocate, Leslie Bohm. There are people who knew and worked with Leslie much more than I did, and you can read their touching sentiments here. I only knew him for about 4 years; one of the really great things about Leslie was that he treated you like a dear friend whether he knew you for 5 minutes, 5 years or 50 years.
I met Leslie in 2008 when Kerri Peterson, Tammie Dodge and I made a site visit to Boulder to speak to people involved with cycling initiatives and to investigate this cool new Safe Routes to School program we wanted to potentially bring to Omaha. We showed up at Crest View Elementary in Boulder on a chilly October morning. A bundled, bespectacled man rolled up on his bike and started espousing the awesomeness that eventually became the Boltage program. After being blown away by the number of kids biked to school in the cold weather, Leslie invited us to a nearby coffee shop so that we could warm up and continue to chat about all things bikes.
Here’s the thing: One of my top 5 Gallup strengths is Learner. I’m sure that if Leslie were to take the test, his number 1 strength would be Communication. Give him a topic he was as passionate about as bicycling, put the two of us together, and we could probably talk nonstop for hours. I came prepared only to drink coffee and listen; before I knew it, I was borrowing his pen and paper. I wish I still had the notes I took at that coffee shop. I can remember very vividly what they looked like: every square inch of that piece of paper was covered in Leslie bicycle advocacy wisdom. Stars, arrows, underlines, more stars. I remember saying, “I feel like I’m putting a star next to everything I’m writing down!”
National Bike Summit March 22, 2012. L to R: Tania and John Burke, Rep. Earl Blumenauer, Leslie, Chris Kegel, and Leslie’s wife, Lynn (Photo credit: Leslie via CarePages)
Not long after that trip, Leslie came to Omaha as a last minute addition to the panel that we brought to town to speak to about why Omaha needed to start thinking about becoming more bicycle friendly. Trek Bicycles CEO John Burke, League of American Bicyclists President Andy Clarke and Bikes Belong board member Leslie Bohm proceeded to wow a room full of Omaha CEO’s and community leaders. We were on our way.
Since that time, Leslie has been on call for us whenever we needed advice. We loved catching up with him at the National Bike Summit every year. If Communication was Leslie’s number 1 strength, then Positivity was surely a close second. He never gave up hope that we could make this country more bike friendly. His wife, Lynn, was quoted in the Boulder Daily Camera this week, saying “He believed through cycling people could be involved in their neighborhoods, have access to each other and enjoy an active lifestyle.”
When we got the word last year that Leslie had been diagnosed with brain cancer, we were devastated. As we should have expected, however, he never gave up. His fitness from years of cycling, hiking and skiing helped him endure experimental treatment, and his positive attitude certainly played a role. When we saw him in Washington last March at the bike summit, his big smile and hugs were as bright and heartfelt as ever.
Leslie’s impact on us from that first chilly day in Boulder has shaped our work as we have worked to make Omaha more bicycle friendly. When he learned that the League of American Bicyclists had designated Omaha as a bronze level Bike Friendly Community in 2011, he sent a video message of congratulations to us. At the end of his message he said, “Congrats on bronze; now let’s go for the gold!” The Omaha city council voted on Tuesday, the day we learned of his death, to pass the Transportation Master Plan. That seemed rather fitting … that we were one step closer to gold with that milestone, and a sign that Leslie’s legacy of advocacy will continue.
He will be missed, and our heartfelt condolences go out to his wife Lynn and his two sons, of which he was exceedingly proud, Griffin and Cooper.