One good thing to come out of the federal transportation bill is the incredible impact grassroots advocacy has had on our federal legislators. The National Bike Summit was the culmination of months of hard work, and it paid off big time (notice how the House didn’t even try to eliminate bike programs in their recent extension vote).
State advocates are now holding similar events in capitols across the country (Georgia and Colorado are two recent examples). Each of these events has been tailored to the needs of each state as they keep bicycling on the forefront of legislator’s thoughts.
Bike Delaware recently hosted the Walkable, Bikeable Delaware event focusing on the Governor’s proposal to spend $13 million on bicycle and pedestrian projects in 2013 (here are some of his ideas). Governor Markell has proposed this funding as part of his 2013 budget to make Delaware the “most walkable and bikeable state in the nation.” But Bike Delaware and Gov. Markell are quick to note that democracy requires participation.
After becoming governor in 2009, the Governor found out that he doesn’t automatically get everything that he wants in the budget. The Governor appealed to attendees, if $13 million in state walking and biking funding is important , go speak to your state legislator. It sounds simple, but as James Wilson, executive director of Bike Delaware notes, “it’s very powerful to have the chief executive make the pitch.”
Over 120 attendees, including several cabinet members and state senators and representatives, learned about the state’s efforts to support walking and biking and spoke with constituents. Representative Michael Mulrooney even took to the House floor and urged colleagues to attend. Meetings between legislators and advocates were done informally throughout the day in between sessions.
The main lesson learned for Bike Delaware: these events take plenty of time to plan, but they are definitely worth the effort. “It was very beneficial to have an event focused on advocacy, to give people time to make the case with their elected officials for more funding for walking and biking,” notes Wilson. To all the Delaware readers, there’s still time to give your input before the end of the 2012 legislative session.
Elsewhere in cycling advocacy…
- The West Virginia Department of Transportation is currently preparing a statewide bicycle connectivity plan. This would update the current bike plan last adopted in 1997! WVDOT is hosting a series of meetings across the state in May to gather input from cyclist. For anyone who wants to see cycling improve in West Virginia, now’s the time.
- Georgia Bikes! and the GA Governor’s Office of Highway Safety are providing seed grants for 10 local advocacy groups across the state. The funding comes from sales of the “share the road” license plates. A whole host of programs and activities will be funded to get more Georgians riding safely.
- The inaugural Tennessee Bike Summit starts today in Chattanooga. I’ll be speaking on Friday morning at 9am about the Bicycle Friendly States program and the national bike sharing scene. Get ready for a summer full of Tennessee-related blog posts!
League State and Local Advocacy Coordinator
Mr. Wempe joined the League in September 2011. For the three years prior, he worked as a transportation planner and Safe Routes to School Coordinator in Fort Collins, Colo. He holds a BA in Economics from the University of Illinois at Chicago and a Masters of Urban and Regional Planning from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.