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Our South Carolina footprint in DC

Thursday’s sunset on the Hill

Last week was an eventful one for the eight South Carolinians who had the fortune to attend the 2012 National Bike Summit, an annual lobby visit and conference in Washington DC, hosted by the League of American Bicyclists. The schedule for this year’s Bike Summit is the same as it’s been for years–Tuesday evening was the kick-off with a reception; Wednesday the schedule featured all-day concurrent session on topics relating to advocacy, technology, mountain biking, and economics; Thursday was set aside for meetings with Members; and the conference concluded on Friday with a bike ride.

I had the fortune to arrive in DC on Tuesday to attend the Women’s Cycling Forum, hosted by the Alliance for Biking & Walking and APBP. Sue Macy, author of Wheels of Change, opened the session with a review of fascinating history that she collected for her book. Then, several panelists discussed topics relating to women and bicycling, ultimately considering ways to engage more women in the movement.

Tuesday evening was a time to network over dinner, and enjoy the keynote address from Mark Mckinnon, Former Presidential Campaign and Chief Media Adviser. Mark offered a entertaining approach to help advocates better understand effective communication and lobbying, particularly during Thursday’s Congressional meetings.

We began the day early on Wednesday, with inspiring remarks from USDOT Secretary Ray LaHood, Representative Donna Edwards (D-MD), Representative Tim Johnson (R-IL), Representative Tom Petri (R-WI), Representative Peter DeFazio (D-OR), and US Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis. The day was followed with two informative breakout sessions, and we then cruised into a rousing keynote luncheon featuring Jason Dorsey, the Gen Y Guy.

Six of the eight of the SC Delegation

We enjoyed one last breakout session in the afternoon, followed by a closing plenary, before advocates readied themselves for the Thursday lobby day by convening with their state delegation. All eight of us from South Carolina gathered to discuss our strategy and ask. Our message was positive–to focus on the many solutions that bicycling offers to South Carolina–and to ask that each member support continued funding in the upcoming transportation debate. Along with Palmetto Conservation Foundation, we developed a leave-behind material for our SC Members that reviewed the last year of bicycling in each Congressional district–check it out at the bottom of this post!

On Wednesday evening, several of us enjoyed catching up with our bike friends from Georgia, before making it an early night for Thursday’s meetings.

Out front Congressman Gowdy’s office

Thursday’s lobby day events began at 9:30am with a meeting with Senator Graham’s office, and we cruised through the day with seven more meetings, before wrapping it up with Representative Clyburn’s office at 4pm. Although we did not have the opportunity to meet with any members themselves (the House was in session most of the day), each meeting with staff was productive and positive. Staff was receptive to our message, and we asked to each for the support of the Member on next week’s transportation extension and with the drafting of the new transportation bill.

What seemed to resonate best were the proposals in the Petri amendment–that it consolidates programs, streamlines delivery, and gives authority to local governments. Staff also seemed to respond to the evidence that we shared relating to the economic benefits of bicycling in South Carolina.

We may not have finished the day with a win, but we did make some crucial headway in making the case of why bicycling in important to South Carolina. And no message is delivered better than in-person, face-to-face visits. Very important work lay ahead as we follow-up with each office and remain on their radar throughout the year. We will need your support in the months to come, so please stay tuned on ways that you can be involved and strengthen our voice in DC.

Open publication – Free publishingMore bicycling

Check out pictures on flickr!

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