The Southeast Biking Symposium took place in Hilton Head Island, SC, last March 2017, and it was amazing! It was presented by the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce, and sponsored by Toole Design, Coligny Plaza, Town of Hilton Head Island, Palmetto Dunes Property Owners Association, ALTA Planning + Design and others!
This post may be far past due, but there’s no time like the present when you’re busy changing the state transportation paradigm, as we have been. Nonetheless, this statewide event was very significant, especially the takeaways gained by the over 100 participating bicycle advocacy leaders from around our region!
Here’s a snapshot of key speakers and takeaways:
Christian Vande Velde delivered the keynote. An international phenomenon in the sport of cycling, Christian rode professionally from 1998 to 2013. He competed for the U.S. Postal Service with Lance Armstrong, and he is the son of United States Bicycling Hall of Fame inductee John Vande Velde. The bike has been part of this guy’s entire life, and he thinks South Carolina, especially Greenville where he chose to live, is an emerging bicycling mecca. Even a known international star, as he is, he relayed the necessary growth he endured during the sport’s trials and tribulations, and by the end of this event one couldn’t help realize this guy never let go of his love for cycling. Our next keynote was Andy Clarke, another nationally known leader in all things bike, but this time in advocacy. Andy is the former Executive Director of the League of American Bicyclists, and now the Director of Strategy for Toole Design, a highly respected multimodal (bike/ped) planning consulting firm with Boston HQ.
One of the best sessions I’ve seen occurred on the final day: an open forum, round robin of best practice sharing. Moderated, this potentially unwieldy session kept a laser focus and resulted in a huge opportunity to hear amazing stories that often don’t emerge in typical conference session formats. The following is what rose to the surface: the top 4 Best Practices in programs and strategies for bike advocates, in the southeast in modern memory.
- Charleston Moves successfully campaigned for the dedicated, protected bike/ped on the Ravanel Bridge. Their technique was entirely unique, in addition to challenging, given they were charged with changing the state transportation agency’s mind. Charleston Moves waged a public campaign on assumption. They paid to publish a full page ad in the Post & Courier specifically thanking SCDOT for agreeing to insert the dedicated path beside the multiple lanes for motorists. SCDOT had not done that yet. But soon after this ad, they acquiesced, and perhaps only because Charleston Moves successfully commandeered public opinion by its sneaky, yet positive PR campaign.
- Bike Summits: this group was adamant about the need to continue sharing information about what works, and what does not. Decided what that the state, and region, needed to continue state bike summits, so no municipality is in the dark about best practices in advocacy and planning for biking and walking.
- Weston, Florida planning: a few advocates relayed an amazing project in this town that held a laser focus to improved infrastructure. Not in bits and pieces, but this town focused on two elements that led to palpable success: convenience and connectivity. Because bike and walk facilities were strategically planned to be convenient with adequate infrastructure, and connected with few unattached pathways, this town saw proven success.
- Get There Asheville, a candidate transportation forum: This candidate forum was hosted by Asheville on Bikes, and successfully yielded one of the highest turnouts for any candidate forum in Asheville’s modern history. The forum was jeopardy style, and candidates picked from a symbol filled grid with 20 symbols representing topics, and the moderator then asked them a question at random chosen from that symbol or topic.
The success of the event, by no small measure, was due to tireless volunteer and professional efforts by Hilton Head’s leading bike enthusiasts: Frank Babel, Rich Sandquist, Linda Warnock, Darrin Shoemaker, Heather Rath, and many others.
Save the date for next year’s follow up event.