Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Maryland's 16th Annual Bicycle Symposium

Morning crowd at Bike Maryland Symposium
Over 160 people registered for today's 16th Annual Bicycle Symposium sponsored by Bike Maryland. Several legislators stopped by to greet the crowd and voice their support for bicycle legislation and in one case, their opposition to the proposed helmet law.

Jennifer Toole of Toole Design Group gave a good overview of some of the creative bicycle facilities being developed around the country in her presentation "Strategies to Increase Bicycling in the USA – What is Working?" Jennifer also suggested creating a symposium hashtag, #bikemd16. Check it out for more info about the talks.

James Wilson, Executive Director of Bike Delaware, discussed how his state (with fewer residents than Fairfax County) has been able to use federal air quietly funds for bicycle projects.

Staff from Bike Maryland discuss the Bike-MINDED program for teaching bicycle safety skills, and the Bike Friendly Maryland Program, dedicated to fostering bike friendly businesses, communities, and universities. A total of 4 paid staff work on these programs. Bike Maryland also has a paid Executive Director, Carol Silldorff.

Mayor McClement of Frederick discussed the importance of bicycling to the economy of the city. He's an example of how political leadership can make a huge difference in creating a bicycle-friendly community. "It's not as hard as you think." Bicycle tourism is important. The local bicycle advisory committee created a very popular 10-mile Bicycle History Loop. The town also hosts the only penny farthing race in the country.

Darren Flusche of LAB discussed the Bicycle Friendly America Program. Beverly Malone of the University of Maryland, a Silver level Bicycle Friendly University, talked about all the great activities underway there such as the bike lease program ($70/semester including maintenance, helmet, and lock), discounts on helmets, light giveaways, free U-locks, and bike raffles. They also hold a commuter challenge and provide free food at events (she noted the power of free popcorn to draw a crowd).

Howard County Executive Ken Ulman talked at length about importance of cycling to his community and how he works with Bicycling Advocates of Howard County to make the community more bike friendly. He made the point that compared to most transportation projects, bicycle facilities are very affordable; a little money goes a long way.

Delegate Cardin is founder and chair of the Maryland Bicycle and Pedestrian Caucus. He made the point that motorists need to slow down when they encounter cyclists and pedestrians. Motorists have a greater responsibility to be safe around vulnerable road users and to expect the unexpected. Speed definitely kills. Del. Cardin will be running for Attorney General and if elected his support for bicycling should have a very positive impact on cyclists in Maryland.

Michael Sonnenfeld, Bike Maryland board member, discussed the Bike Maryland's legislative agenda. He hopes to modify Maryland's 3-foot passing law, which has an exception that severely limits the effectiveness of the law. It does not apply when "The highway on which the vehicle is being driven is not wide enough to lawfully pass the bicycle, EPAMD, or motor scooter at a distance of at least 3 feet."

Bike Maryland has not taken a position on the controversial proposed mandatory helmet law, one senses due to lack of consensus on the board. Michael stressed the importance of developing the legislative agenda throughout the year to gain support and overcome potential objections early in the process. They solicit input on the agenda early in the year, and in the future they hope to get feedback online.

David Ferraro, President of MORE, Mid Atlantic Off-Road Enthusiasts, discussed the great work being done by their volunteers. They have doubled their membership, currently at 1200 members, in the past two years. Thanks to support from SRAM and a private donor they plan to hire a full-time executive director while at the same time becoming an IMBA chapter.

It was a good symposium and a model for what Virginia could do to bring advocates from around the commonwealth together to work toward a more bike-friendly Virginia.



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