There are a few important things to know before one heads across our expansive country to attend the annual National Bike Summit. The time change is an important detail, as is the fact that "dude" isn't really an acceptable honorific on the east coast. But these pale in significance to another sliver of wisdom. Allow me to recommend the following as the foremost consideration for anyone embarking upon a trans-national journey that begins in San José: the San Bruno Caltrain and BART stations are not the same station.
That's right, it really is required that one disembark Caltrain in Millbrae, then take a BART train from Millbrae to San Bruno, then transfer to a different BART train in order to reach San Francisco International Airport. If one thinks to oneself "I shall simply transfer between the two systems in San Bruno," one will find oneself alone and cold, standing in the dark at a lifeless Caltrain platform at 5:50 am. At this point, one will require a cab if one is to resume the journey. Bummer most foul!
Twelve hours after my initial navigational bungle, I found myself in the third basement of the glorious Grand Hyatt in Washington D.C. (the majority of the gloriousness was, alas, several floors up, where daylight still penetrated the air), with presidential wunder-adviser Mark McKinnon. He was there to share with us the tools of persuasion, passion, and persistence that make American politics such a universally respected and wholesome institution, and help us harness those tactics in order to boost our efficacy as advocates.
The next two days were a whirlwind of workshops and one-on-ones with my colleagues from across the nation. I attended breakout sessions that focused on harnessing diversity in bike-promotion programs, uniting the racing and advocacy worlds, and figuring out the mess that Congress has made of the Federal Transportation Bill. At night I attended the Alliance for Biking and Walking's annual advocate party and awards ceremony, then a get-together for participants of the National Women Cycling Forum (okay, a few of us kind of crashed that one, but were received with smiles), and spent Thursday night first at the Summit's closing reception in the Dirksen Senate Office Building and then celebrating a successful week of learning and lobbying with my fellow advocates (no photos from that one - what happens at Ultra Bar stays at Ultra Bar!).
The main point we delivered to Congress last week was this: biking and walking is important and needs funding. The latest bill to come out of the Senate, MAP-21, preserves funding for programs like Safe Routes to School, Transportation Enhancements, and Recreational Trails (though it clumps them under the monicker "Additional Activities." Now we just need to convince the House to adopt their version of MAP-21, and in the meanwhile continue to fund existing programs. Piece of cake, right? We were able to meet in person with Representative Zoe Lofgren's Legislative Assistant in charge of transportation, and were assured that the Congresswoman gets it: Biking and walking are good for the economy and the environment, and funding transportation projects will help create jobs that the country needs badly. We're looking forward to congratulating her and her colleagues any day now for moving a bill through that keeps America moving.
All in all, it was a pleasure to reconnect with my counterparts from around the country and see all the innovative and exciting work other coalitions, clubs, and individuals are focusing on. Representative Earl Blumenauer (a rather bike-friendly Congressmember), told us all at the closing reception that his colleagues made a mad dash to hunt down bicycle lapel pins on the morning of our arrival, worried about the "bike people" descending upon the Capitol. If 800 of us can get members of Congress to worry about the way they look enough that they pose as bike advocates for the day, maybe there is hope for our national movement!