Balms Away! I'm off to Congress for Bikes

I’m heading to DC again to attend, participate, live Tweet, and blogify the National Bike Summit hosted by The League of American Bicyclists. The event culminates with a day of lobbying Congress for cycling programs.

I wasn’t certain if I’d be able to go this year. I put off even thinking about it.

But something weird kept happening.

I have this tube of lip balm that’s two years old. I bought it in DC at the Bikestation at Union Station where Bike the Sites rents bikes (plus bike child trailers, trailer cycles, wheelchairs, and even Segways) to tourists.

DC Bikestation
DC Bikestation | Photo: Silver Spring Trails

(I don’t use lip balm that often, so yes, it can last me for two years.)

And in addition to having a delicious coconut flavor, it’s kind of a memento of my first Bike Summit — the day Tom Bowden and I had burritos and solved the world’s problems.

One day this winter I must have stuffed that tube into my coat pocket on the way to work.

Coming home a few days later, I noticed something in the snow-packed gutter by the bike lane. It was my lip balm. It must have fallen out of my pocket, got buried in the plowed snow, only to be revealed days later as the snow was melting.

Bike the Sites Balm

I picked it up, put it in my jacket pocket and pondered two things:

  1. Should I think about going to the Bike Summit this year?
  2. Would it be gross to still use this lip balm?

And then I immediately forgot both of these ponderings. Also, before I reached my house, the balm must have fallen out of my coat pocket — again.

A day or two later, there it was — again! In the snow — again. This time just off the sidewalk near my house.

Listen to the balm, I thought.

So I checked in with my sponsors from last year. I know it’s kind of last minute, I pleaded, slightly embarrassed, but do you think we could do this thing again where I go to the Bike Summit, learn some advocacy stuff, act like a big shot lobbyist, and then blog about it?

And the answer was, Yes, Ted. Go forth and fight the good fight for bikes.

The other answer, from my wife, was, No, Ted. It’s not too gross to use that lip balm.

And the thing about the word balm is, as a verb also means to soothe and to restore.

Soothe and restore.

The theme of this year’s Bike Summit is “Bicycling Means Business.” The League says:

In pure economic terms, bicycling pours billions of dollars into the U.S. economy, creating jobs and boosting community development from coast to coast. In political terms, bicyclists mean business, too. The united voice of the bike industry, event directors, local riding clubs and advocacy groups is a powerful constituency.

And the context, of course, is that last year Congress slashed funding from the transportation bill for bicycling projects and programs. Not to mention the self-inflicted damage that Congress has just done to all Federal funding of everything in the form of a filibuster to stop a plan that would have prevented the dreaded sequester.

My goal — and the goal of the advocates converging on DC next week — is to convince Congress of the economic and business case for cycling. Which kind of assumes they would be positively inclined to hear an economic case for anything. (Remember: These are the some of same people who have just allowed a policy to go into effect that is economically harmful on purpose.)

But forth I will go.

If they say that cycling is for recreation, we will balm them with our charm and data on cycling for transportation.

If they say that cycling takes money away from essential transportation projects, we will balm them with hard numbers on the cost benefit of bike projects relative to projects strictly for motor vehicles.

I will be active on all of these social channels, so if you want to keep up on the Bike Summit, be sure to follow one or more of these:

  • @Commute_by_Bike on Twitter — for anything that occurs to me while I’m there. My usual penetrating insight into the soul of bike commuting.
  • Bike Shop Hub on Facebook — for anything that occurs to me, but mixed with cute bikey posts from other co-workers who are holding down the shop.
  • @FlagstaffBiking on Twitter — for good re-tweets, as determined by Flagstaff Biking Organization (see below).
  • Flagstaff Biking Organization on Facebook — for posts relevant to Flagstaff and Northern Arizona, as determined by yours truly. This may be a little more mountain-bike oriented than you are used to from me. (Tip: “RTP” refers to the “Recreational Trails Program” of the Federal Highway Administration)

And there will be a few posts to this blog as well.

Balms away!

My participation in this years’ National Bike Summit was made possible by these sponsors.

Bike Shop Hub Flagstaff Biking Organization Bike Virginia

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7 thoughts on “Balms Away! I'm off to Congress for Bikes”

  1. Sam says:

    I’d argue that the support and infrastructure that is good for transportation cycling is the same for recreational cycling. I’d want to balm them with, “yes, and . . .” in this instance. When I think of recreational cycling I think of my off days when I can ride to wherever I’m going but take the long route and have a slower and more leisurely ride.

    It’s worth considering the people who will never not drive their car to work but might ride their bike into town on the weekend. It’s the people who buy a bike on a whim but never feel like they get a chance to ride because of all the reasons it’s hard to ride. And if these people felt like they could safely traverse the distance from their home/neighborhood to the funky district with the cool restaurant they’ve been meaning to try, and they did it on their bikes. Wait till next weekend!

  2. Matt H says:

    Salve them with the balm of bicycles!

    Personally, I get tired of hearing my fellow car drivers whine when they see non-car infrastructure being built. A new parkway was completed near my home and the biggest complaint I hear is that it’s only two lanes for cars and has a walk/bike path next to it. Apparently everyone complaining expected a superhighway! (But refuse the government money to build the superhighway – go figure.)But come spring and these same folks will think that they deserve the bike path and embrace it as local “quality of life.” Before it opened people regularly used it, and even in these cold temperatures I see people walking and biking.

    I was disappointed (but not at all surprised) when a local railroad extension was defeated when it was revealed that it would require a toll on a perpetually jammed highway (The train route is planned to parallel that same highway.). “Why should we pay for a train?” was the cry from motorists (forgetting about the frustration in traffic so bad that a couple of years ago someone committed suicide after shooting at another in a road rage incident on that same road!) Clearly these same people forgot that for every passenger on the train it was one less car on that same highway – a mighty benefit to them – and speaking for someone who used to drive that road – worth paying for!

    Years ago when I used to raise money for universities I was involved in a project for “campus greening.” Students and faculty alike couldn’t stop their chorus over how “there are better things to do with the money” like higher faculty salaries or more financial aid – both worthy, for sure. But once it was done, they all acted like they deserved it and were behind it from the start. They would show it off to their friends and use it as a tool to recruit more and better students and faculty (thus better salaries and more financial aid.)

    Bikes and other transit are not “fringe” or “medicine” or “only for poor people” but real solutions to oil dependency and economic growth. Tell them that these are national security issues – which they are.

    Sorry for my rant. Have fun, learn a lot and when you visit Congress, tell ’em the truth!


  3. Shanna Ladd says:

    I’m so glad you are going and hope you are able to convince them!

    1. Ted Johnson says:

      Shanna: Today is the National Women’s Bicycling Forum. You ought to be here.

  4. BluesCat says:

    I think our efforts are doomed, Ted. A Washington State lawmaker defends bike tax, says bicycling is not good for the environment.

    Washington Republican state representative Ed Orcutt says “You would be giving off more CO2 if you are riding a bike than driving in a car.”

    Orcutt has a science degree and used to work in forestry management, so he’s gotta be right, eh?

  5. Tim Sherman says:

    I think your efforts will “stand”. I noticed in the schedule that the Lobby Day Headquarters is at The Lutheran Church of the Reformation. Martin Luther was sometimes quoted as saying: “Here I stand(ride). I can do no other”. Thanks for your continued support in matters that effect all people in all places at all times. An inclusive approach is the best way to communicate for change.

  6. NYCeWheels says:

    Biking is NYC is actually looking a bit brighter in light of lackluster federal support. The city’s first bike share program is slated to start this spring, Citibike I believe what it will be called, but overall anything that allocates for space bike commuting is welcome.

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