A Day at the Bike Summit

pa teamLobbying at all, especially at the highest level of American government, is not something I ever thought I’d be involved in. But after 20 years in the bike “business” (and I use that term loosely) it becomes clear that there’s more to it than just slaving away and hoping you make a profit.

Advocacy.

The daily news can really piss one off can’t it? You feel pretty helpless sometimes when things are going to hell. The past eight years have been especially frustrating for this commentator.

Fortunately, bicycles offer solutions to many of the world’s problems, and that’s why I find myself standing tall walking the halls of congress to push bicycle-related legislation.

It’s all centered on the “Ask”, where you ask your legislator to promote a specific agenda. Like the Complete Streets agenda, whereby pedestrians and cyclists transportation needs must be considered in the construction and repair of roads.

Or Safe Routes to Schools, a sure cure for child obesity. Plus Mom can keep the suv in the garage.

Or CLEAN-TEA. In a nut, the transportation budget. We’d like to see more than one or two percent spent on infrastructure that’s really green. Bicycle green.

So here’s how it goes. What we do is hike around to the different senatorial and congressional office buildings circling Capitol Hill, in hopes of gaining face time with anyone representing our individual districts or senate seats. Our Pennsylvania delegation is 20 strong for the senatorial meetings, but at the district meetings, it’s just me and the local cycling advocacy group, Bike Pittsburgh.

pitt teamScott Bricker, Eric “Erok” Boerer, Jessie Buckner and yours truly attended some Western Pennsylvania district meetings as a gang of four. Unlike the senate meetings, you really have to have it together as sometimes it’s just you and a 20-something staffer with little or no interest in your agenda.

Yes, these meetings are rarely with the actual congressperson or senator. Their staffer’s job is to listen to what you ask for, nod their head, and agree to take your message to the representative. Much of the time these peeps are just talking heads that could care less about bikes, but at least it’s encouraging to have them listen to us.

But our meeting with the staffer at Kathy Dahlkemper’s office was another story. Phil English was given the boot last November and we could not be happier that he’s been replaced by a Democratic woman. But get this, the dude we’re talking to is a rabid mountain biker, and we get to spend like 20 minutes just talking about bikes! Needless to say we felt our voice was really being heard in this office.

And thus ends a great day on Capitol Hill.

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