Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Notes from 2014 National Bike Summit

US Transportation Secretary
Anthony Foxx
The National Bike Summit was held yesterday and several FABB members attended. Here are my notes from the sessions I attended:

Opening Plenary

Congressman Blumenauer reminded the group of his oft-repeated quote: "How many Americans are stuck in traffic on their way to ride an exercise bike at the health club?" We would all be healthier if we had safe, connected bike routes. He noted that Houston recently allocated $200 million to build 150 miles of trails within the city.

His major point is that the 18.4 cents/gallon gas tax has not been raised since 1993. He wants to increase the gas tax by 15 cents/gallon over three years. Our infrastructure is falling apart and the highway trust fund will run out of money this fall. Federal funds for bike projects, formerly Transportation Enhancements, have been cut. The increase could lead to more funds for rebuilding our infrastructure, providing better transit options, and increasing funds for bike projects.

Representative Albio Sires of New Jersey spoke about his bipartisan bill, HR 3978. "The New Opportunities for Bicycle and Pedestrian Infrastructure Financing Act of 2014 (NOBPIFA) will allow communities to take advantage of low-cost financing for projects that make streets and sidewalks safer for all users through a new federal credit assistance program that would direct millions specifically for low-income communities."

Douglas Meyer surveyed local elected officials on their attitudes toward bicycling issues. The survey was conducted between Jan-Feb 2014. There was almost universal support for improving bike conditions and providing multimodal transportation options. The following reasons were cited: health, quality of life, to attract new, younger employees, and to compete with other bike-friendly cities. They resent anti-car arguments but support multimodal transportation choices. What's needed to succeed is a political leader, examples of projects that work, making connections, and allocated funding. We need better data to show the cost effectiveness and safety aspects of good bike projects. They are all aware of the bike sharing concept and many think it is a great way to increase bike use.

Bill Reduto, Mayor of Pittsburgh - During a meeting with President Obama he asked for the scaffolding on the Washington Monument so that cyclists can ride  the Great Allegheny Passage from the Monument in DC to the monument scaffolding in Pittsburgh. His goal is for Pittsburgh to be in the top 10 Bicycle Friendly Communities in the U.S. Even in Pittsburgh where streets are narrow and road space is tight, room is being dedicated to bikes. All new projects need to provide a complete streets vision.

Overcoming the Scofflaw Perception

Laura Solis of Bike New York discussed a campaign in New York City called Don't be a Jerk, a series of humorous videos on riding with traffic, staying off the sidewalk, and yielding to pedestrians. She noted that Bike Smart: The Official Guide to Cycling in New York, is available in eight languages and is given to most new bike owners when they purchase a new bike.

The following three speakers discussed bike education and traffic ticket diversion programs in which motorists and cyclists can avoid bicycle infraction-related traffic penalties by attending a bicycle safety class. Rich Conroy, also of Bike New York, said that Bike NY holds an hour and a half class each month for approximately 10 cyclists who have committed infractions, usually riding on the sidewalk, which is a misdemeanor, or wrong-way riding. He informs those cyclists of their rights and how they can contest a ticket that may have been issued in error. When the program began many cyclists incorrectly received tickets for not riding in the bike lane. Rich has attended Police Roll Call meetings to discuss cyclist's rights and to hand out a one-page flier. Bike New York also conducted 35 bike safety classes for over 700 new Citi Bike members.

Tyler Dewey of Bike Athens in Georgia discussed their diversion program. Their one-hour class is given once a month in English and Spanish. It costs $30 and if completed cyclists can avoid a $125 fine.  Fines for bicycle tickets are waived upon completion of the course.

Brian Botwin of Commute Options in Bend, Oregon conducts a monthly bicycle safety class as part of the city's bicycle diversion program for cyclists ticketed for running red lights and wrong-way riding.

Retailers Best Practices for Advocacy

Brian Drayton of Richmond (CA) Spokes, a community bike shop involved in youth training. Many riders who use the shop depend on their bikes for transportation. While most bike shops do not want to work on big-box store bikes, they are often the only bikes low income riders can afford. By helping these riders shops can gain important allies.

Jeff Koenig of Big Poppi Bicycle Company in Manhattan, KS discussed the importance of locally owned bike shops to their communities. He noted the loss of brick and mortar bike shops over the years, in part due to the commoditization of bike products. Bike shops and the advocacy community depend on each other and need to work together. Advocates need to understand that shops have very small profit margins and their cooperation means more than, and may not include, providing discounts or monetary contributions.

Chris Kegel of Wheel & Sprocket in Milwaukee said retailers and advocates need to get involved in the political process. A good way to influence the process is to form a Political Action Committee (PAC) to help elect pro-bike candidates (see Cascade Bike PAC as an example).

Lunch speakers

US Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx began his talk by showing a photo of himself riding a Charlotte bcycle bike. He noted that the 6th round of TIGER funding would soon be open to applications for bike projects. He said biking is about more than recreation, that we need all forms of transportation. Even though national crash fatalities are at record lows, bicyclist and pedestrian deaths have only had a small decrease. He mentioned the success of road diet projects in Charlotte.

Gabe Klein of the Urban Land Institute, formerly headed Chicago and DC departments of transportation. He stressed the importance of throughput vs. speed; we don't need to go fast to have efficient traffic flow. He has been able to create extensive bike infrastructure in DC and Chicago through hard work and persistence, funding from multiple sources, and support from the top. He prefers two-year plans with measurable results. Chicago's Vision Zero plan has a goal of zero ped, bike and overall traffic fatalities in 10 years through the use of 300 speed cameras, 20 mph residential streets, and other measures. Vision Zero is described in Chicago Forward and includes a goal that 5% of all trips of 5 miles or less be made by bike. Bike advocacy organizations are key partners in helping make change in those cities. Gabe thinks that when autonomous vehicles are in place they will be in near-constant motion and there will be much less need for parking spaces. These spaces can then be used for ped/bike facilities.

Matt Klein of Urban Land Institute. Discussed three factors and how they affect cyclists: Economics: Parking is dilutive to overall project returns, with structured parking spaces costing $45-85K/space. The real estate community supports reduced parking minimums and understands the importance of ped/bike access. Sustainability is an important issue with developers, who want to build LEED-certified buildings that include bike parking and access, especially since new employees (Millenials) are demanding these facilities. Mainstreaming: Established business organizations are not as supportive of bike access and facilities. Cyclists should reach out to them.

John Cayer of Kimberley-Clark, the main sponsor of the National Bike Challenge. The goal this year is 50,000 riders pedaling 30 million miles between May and October.

Making a Compelling Video

Max Hepp-Buchanan speaking,
Gary Fisher in the foreground
Michael Marinnacio, U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure’s Digital Director, showed an animated video explaining a complex piece of legislation. Compelling videos need to be simple, relatable, and include a call to action. Use simple language, let people know how the issue affects them, why they should care, and what they can do to help.

Yolanda Davis-Overstreet of Ride in Living Color showed a clip from the film about African Americans and other people of color on bikes that she has been developing for several years. Her goal is to promote healthy lifestyles in the African American community where one of very two kids born today will develop diabetes (vs. 1/3 of all kids).

Max Hepp-Buchanan of Bike Walk RVA in Richmond, Virginia showed his film of a visit of elected officials and local government staff to Arlington and DC to tour bike facilities. Most of the film was produced using in-kind donations from the filmmaker. FABB showed the video during the 2013 Fairfax Bike Summit.

General advice from the video group included: short (3-4 minute) videos are often the best; iPhone Voice Memo works well for audio recording (Gary Fisher noted that a small iPhone compatible microphone from B&H improves sound quality); always have contracts in writing; don't let cartoonists get too creative; use short sentences; spoken text is different than written text. Most used Final Cut Pro (the earlier version) for doing their editing, although iMovie is OK to start.

Many of the participants were on Capital Hill today meeting with their Congressional reps to ask them to support bike-related issues and to join the Congressional Bike Caucus.

Thanks to our FABB supporters whose contributions allowed me to attend the Summit.

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