Greetings from the Ronald Reagan building on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington D.C.! I’ve traveled to DC for the week to represent Memphis, specifically Congressional District 9, at the National Bicycle Summit sponsored by the League of American Bicyclists. I arrived mid-day yesterday, and plan to stay through the end of the summit into next week. In addition to attending the summit, I hope to spend next week volunteering with the League and checking out the “SmartBikes,” DC’s public rental bike program.
The program began this evening with a wonderful talk from Congressional Transportation Committee Chairman, James L. Oberstar. “When I started out on this committee, I listened quietly as representatives told stories about the major highway projects going on in their neighborhood,” he said. “Then,” he paused…”I became chairman of this committee. And I made it a point to tell anyone who walked through that door: don’t come boasting about anything but your bike and pedestrian projects at committee from here on out!” A typical politician catering to his crowd, no doubt, but it was amazing to hear such vigorous support for a bicycle friendly nation from the Congressional Transportation Chair!
As I listened to Rep. Oberstar, I sat in a room with more than 600 people: more than a hundred industry leaders (including the CEOs for Trek America, SRAM, and Quality Bicycle Parts), alongside more than 400 advocates representing 46 states. For the first time in its history, Memphis had a representative at this meeting. I scheduled a meeting with Steve Cohen’s office for Thursday, and I plan to meet with Senator Lamar Alexander in the morning and Mr. Cohen’s transportation adviser in the early afternoon.
I also had the distinguished honor to hear from Denmark’s Ambassador to the United States, Friis Arne Petersen and Mr. Andreas Rohl, Director of the City of Copenhagen’s Bicycle Program. They shared with us the tremendous progress that has been made in Copenhagen over the last few years. It would take too long to lay out the points of their addresses, but these two things stand out:
First, bicycling is a way of life for the Danes. The average Dane does not think of themselves as a “cyclist,” though the average Dane rides 4 miles to work each day. It is simply a part of their culture. This is the work that we have to do over the next few years.
Second, the Transportation mode share in the Copenhagen metro area breaks down like this: 36% bicyclists, 33% on public transit and 31% in cars. Mr. Rohl’s presentation detailed the perks and the challenges of a whole city that moves primarily by bicycle.
Tomorrow we begin the conference in force with a breakfast address from Ray LaHood, the Transportation Secretary for the United States. It’s pretty major to have LaHood address cyclists from all over that nation. Tomorrow, he plans to share his vision for a bicycle friendly America.
I will keep you all up to date about the Congressional meetings we have planned, the content of the workshops I plan to participate in, and the overall cycling agenda for America, which will be presented here at the Summit. Don’t hesistate to write with a question of comment, and for goodness sake, keep those wheels turning Memphis!
Best to you all,
In the coming days, we will need your help. It will make ALL THE DIFFERENCE IN THE WORLD if you write City Engineer Wain Gaskins and Represenative Cohen to let them know that you support my advocacy work in Washington on behalf on Memphis bicyclists, and that you hope they will join the best cities in the world in working to make bicycling an integral part of our city life. Stay tuned for contacts and pre-written emails….