Thursday, January 13, 2011

Legislative agenda

In her blog Lane Change, Kate Ryan, a reporter for WTOP, mentions the BikeMaryland legislative agenda. Well the title really says it all, "Potential 2011 Legislative Priorities (policy changes pursued when possible)." It's a good summary of what bicycle-related legislative or policy changes are needed in Maryland. I don't think we have the same in Virginia.

There are two statewide groups that could take this on, BikeWalk Virginia and Virginia Bicycling Federation. BikeWalk has full time staff and likely has the resources to put it together. They used to hold an annual or bi-annual statewide bike/ped meeting but it's been a while since the last meeting and I don't see anything about one on their website.

VBF does great work in Richmond once the short VA legislative session begins, but they don't have a similar, publicized legislative agenda before the session. They also don't have paid staff or the resources to hold a statewide bike meeting. Maybe the two groups can get together, bring together cyclists from around the state, and hold a statewide bicycle summit, not just for professionals, but for everyone; advocates, professionals, recreational clubs, etc. Developing a wish list of projects and legislative goals could be part of the summit. Maybe this is something to work towards in the coming year.

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Paid or not, we do have the staff, and resources, to host a statewide bike summit every year. We've been doing it - twice a year - with our fall retreats in November and winter/spring retreats in February or March. Not everyone stays the whole weekend, but we do get 20-30 people on Saturday. Sometimes a legislative agenda comes out of it, sometimes not. But we always make great connections with the agency folks who attend - VDOT, DCR, VTC, State Parks, etc., as well as our sister organizations - BikeWalk, Bikeleague, IMBA, Rails to Trails, etc.

I take your other comments to heart - I wish we could do a better job. What we need though, is not paid staff, but just a couple more earnest, capable, organized, and reliable volunteers like yourself, who are willing to type a couple of paragraphs for the website or send a letter out when it's called for.
FABB reps have attended the VBF retreat for the past several years. I hadn't really thought of it as a statewide bike summit, but it certainly is the best opportunity for VA cyclists to get together to discuss goals for the coming year. If possible it would be great to have more VA groups involved; in setting the agenda, and following up with a concrete legislative agenda on which most can agree. I'd be glad to help.

It would also be nice to have a statewide bike advocacy email list or forum. It would be easy enough to set up and it would be a way for advocates to discuss bike-related topics of statewide interest.

VBF has had a statewide email discussion list for Virginia bicycling advocates since the mid 1990s. It still resides at , and you're most welcome to post there.

Also, VBF's legislative accomplishments and Virginia's bicycling statutes have generally far outshined those in Maryland, which still has some of the worst bicycling laws in the nation. With Maryland's considerably longer legislative session, Maryland bicycling advocates have far more time to issue legislative agendas and hold legislative forums. VBF has been focused on legislative results and has usually achieved them.

Is the topica list being used? I have software that rates websites and it flagged as being dangerous, so I'm reluctant to search for the list, especially if it's not active.

I hear what you're saying about results; VBF has been very effective in promoting legislation.

Even with the short VA leg. session, it would be good to have a public bicycling legislative agenda beforehand, early enough that we can work with our local delegates to help gain support.

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