SC delegation at the National Bike Summit

This year’s National Bike Summit was fascinating.  It began with a long series of sessions presented by experts from around the country, and it ended with an enthusiastic speech from our own Mayor Riley of Charleston. We also presented some of our own internal successes.  Each state sort of competes against others, but more often I heard free sharing of ideas for all to use and smaller conversations among new friends with advice on overcoming culturally specific challenges.  Even in the midst of plenty of challenges, no one can deny the rising tide of desire, across the nation, for more biking and walking.

Media Training and StreetfilmsOur state delegation included Heather Smith with Hawley, Tom Bradford, Charles Fox, and Stephanie Hunt of Charleston Moves, Peter Wilborn of BikeLaw, and John Fellows citizen of Columbia, and we learned a ton.  On Sunday I attended Media Training for Advocates and recorded a few gems:

  1. Elly Blue, the author of Bikenomics, is convinced you just do what you do well, and don’t worry about having to do everything.  Any campaign is not JUST communications, it’s the work you did prior in making those contacts, and the democratic process of listeners will only help you bring out your best content.
  2. Clarence Eckerson with Streetfilms did this for years to no avail, and now feels you just gotta keep making stuff, don’t sweat it, and it’ll make news eventually.  You become an expert simply by asserting yourself and talking enough and for long enough that the good stuff eventually sticks somewhere.
  3. Adonia Lugo, blogger with, says knowledge production in bike advocacy is entirely grassroots created, and the internet levels that playing field of who can produce it.

On Monday I attended the Women’s Forum and heard from Terry O’Neill, president of the National Organization of Women.  She was convinced we shouldn’t create a separate women in bikes movement, but that women need to be more embedded into the system of decision makers in bike advocacy, bike shops, and municipal planning and elected office.  And last, I heard some great new elements of how to market bicycling:

  • Make cycling fun!  Biking itself turns people into advocates…
  • You can’t market people who are afraid.  In other words, if the most important thing about your membership brochure is the neon vest, you might actually be turning people away from bicycling…
  • You can’t be what you can’t see.  Market your message and vision with images!
  • Find lots of friends.  Get cycling into everyone else’s strategy.  This is easy to do.
  • Today’s voters need to be woo’d, not hectored.  It’s not just about the facts.  Today’s voters only accept scientific conclusions from people they trust, not just anybody.
  • Change the discourse.  It’s currently divisive, so talk about things that bring people together:  the next generation, mobility, and places.  Take away the opposition’s will to fight your cause.
  • Get yourself a good mayor.  Good municipal leadership makes all the difference.

Tuesday, Peter Wilborn of BikeLaw presented a session on Enforcement and his experience with case law and common misconceptions.  He began by talking about an inflammatory editorial opinion piece was published in the New York Times entitled “Is it OK to kill cyclists?” that stated motorists don’t get prosecuted or receive meaningful convictions. Peter corrected this with a quick review of case law, including many of his own successful cases.  One recent case in nearby Beech Island, SC resulted in convicting a motorist of reckless homicide after the death of bicyclist Matthew Burke, a well known surgeon from Augusta, GA.  Many others cases add to that example and illustrate a growing list of successful prosecutions that really help the movement.  Peter also stressed the importance of advertising the successful prosecutions – and not the tragedies – in the media.  Litigation, especially successful litigation, is one more tool in the advocacy toolbox.  And every case is important.  

Peter WilbornTyler Dewey of BikeAthens presented on the Scofflaw perception of bicyclists, and how his ticket diversion program was beginning to change behavior through this education program.  He observed that those getting tickets were the older, spandex clad recreational racers, while those most commonly breaking the law remained the younger, hipster crowd from the University.  When law enforcement was asked about the discrepancy, their response was “well, they should know better”.  Tyler plans to use this to help educate law enforcement on the value of using enforcement to educate younger bicyclists. 

Anthony Foxx, former Mayor of Charlotte and currently USDOT Secretary of Transportation, gave an inspiring speech.  Here are the golden nuggets: 

  • 1/3 of people using bikes earn less than $30,000/year.
  • When the President talks about ladders of opportunity, sometimes that ladder is a bike path to a new job or a new school.
  • The McKinsey consulting firm says we can build the same infrastructure for 40% of the costs, if we build more for bicyclists and pedestrians than motor vehicle users.
  • If we build multiple ways for families to reduce their transportation costs, we increase their capacity to invest in other things.

On Wednesday, our SC delegation went to the offices of our state legislators. We encouraged our legislators to sign on to these three bills currently in Congress.

1.       Bicycle & Pedestrian Safety Act – this act looks at performance measures for both non-motorized and motorized safety

2.       Safe Streets Act – this act would ensure that all streets are designed, planned and built with all users in mind

3.       New Opportunities (for Bicycle & Pedestrian Infrastructure) Act – this is a low interest loan program to help communities make sure that all users are accommodated with 25% of the funding dedicated to low-income communities


Amy Johnson Ely

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