Bikes on the Hill: Top Ten Highlights from Washington, D.C.

Well hello, summer!

There’s nothing like strolling around our country’s capital on an early spring day, the cherry blossoms popping and the police motorcades buzzing around with who-knows-what cabinet member inside.

With 75 degrees and sunshine the new normal for spring (and winter!) in D.C., I can’t help but imagine those cabinet members (or the President himself) probably want to be outside.  I don’t blame them.  It’s where the action is.  And it’s where Capital Bikeshare is.

Bikeshare staring down the Capitol on Pennsylvania Ave = awesomeness

Their Bikeshare system alone is enough to lure me back to Washington, D.C.; I wrote about its brilliance last year.  While I managed to truly use Bikeshare on several occasions—like racing to the capital in a suit slightly late for a meeting with one of our Senators—we were really there for the 2012 National Bike Summit.

National Bike Summit was a great few days of idea sharing, lobbying and celebrations and, instead of hashing out all of the details, I’ll reduce it to this: Bikes on The Hill: The Top Ten Highlights from Washington, D.C. Here goes:

10.  The aforementioned cherry blossoms. We certainly have ours here in Washington State right now, but where the heck is our warm weather and sunshine?

9. The Gen Y Guy, Jason Dorsey. Known for his hilarious delivery and big name clientele, his poignant observations about generational differences gave us much to think about in terms of reaching—and motivating—our audience.

Congressman Earl Blumenauer: not gonna give an inch

8. Panel presentations and sessions. I have to admit: I missed a few of these, mainly because I had set up a meetings with our national partners at their offices in D.C.  But I did give one of the presentations, and I think that one went well (or at least I was told.)  Quite the list of presentations.

7. Fun, engaging and informal conversations. As soon as I sat down for the opening dinner, a great guy from Arizona shouted: “You’re from Cascade!  How’s your endorsement process work?  Are you at 15,000 members yet?  What can you tell me about working with the legislature?”  Wow.  Not bad.  I guess people know about us in Arizona!  At breakfasts, at lunches, in presentations, over drinks, I had more inspiring and engaging conversations about bicycling than I can remember.

6. Campaign Wizard Mark McKinnon. A well-known political advisor and media guru, Mark has worked for Lance Armstrong, George W. Bush, Senator John McCain, and U2’s Bono.  He shared some of his magic with us on how to win campaigns.  He really brought down the house and I look forward to employing his insights.

Congressman Adam Smith of Washington's 9th: always well-informed and supportive on our issues

5. Earl Blumenauer and Ray LaHood. Along with Congresswoman Donna Edwards (D-MD) and Congressmen Tom Petri (R-WI) and Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Earl and Ray kicked off the summit.  Congressman Blumenauer is a champion for bicycling and is our keynote at our eighth annual Bike to Work Breakfast on May 4th.  Ray LaHood, the US Transportation Secretary, has truly been an amazing ambassador for bicycling and public safety.  I’ve written adoring words about him previously here.

4. A strong state delegation. Our group of 15 Washington staters was truly remarkable.  We had senior leadership from REI and Raleigh America.  We had bike shop owners.  We had the Transportation Director from the UW.  We had advocates from our friends the Bicycle Alliance of Washington.  And, of course, we had Cascade staff.  Together, we played a great tag-team in our meetings with Congress, drawing on personal stories, making the business case for bicycling and catching the ears of congresspeople and their staff.

3. Face time. Over 800 attendees from 49 states put together nearly 400 meetings with Congress while we were there! Our Washington State group met face-to-face with a majority of our federal delegation and with staff from all offices.  We even were led through the underground tunnels to the floor of the House where we met with Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Buetler in between votes.  Developing stronger relationships and making a strong case for dedicated funding for bicycling was our mission—and from follow up conversations I’ve had with congressional staff, we did well.

The late night monument tour by capital bikeshare

2. Bikeshare. At night.  With national monuments. Getting around D.C. by Capital Bikeshare is about as easy as it gets, even in the dark (the bikes have automatic lights).  Swipe a card, grab a bike, drop it at our destination, grab another one, repeat.  I can’t wait until we have a similar system in Seattle.

1. Killing H.R. 7. Yes, the House Transportation Bill, H.R. 7, was a nightmare for bicycling since it completely gutted funding for bikes.  Along with your help and in collaboration with our national partners, we laid H.R. 7 to rest.  It meant extending the current bill a ninth time and for another three months, but that buys time for the Senate and House to reach a deal that includes funding for bicycle infrastructure.  Our visit to D.C. helped make a lasting impression on Congress.  They heard loudly and clearly that bicycling is a legitimate form of transportation and everyone deserves the right to safely use the roads and trails across our country.