by Dennis Markatos-Soriano
The East Coast Greenway team was in full force in Washington, DC, last week at the 2011 National Bike Summit! Our staff and volunteers represented the project from throughout our corridor to meet with allies in the bike advocacy world as well as federal leaders from Congress to the President’s Cabinet. We worked hard to show the ECG is a key antidote to rising gas prices and challenging public health issues.
Day 1: Rousing Keynote from DOT Secretary LaHood
The Summit kicked off on Tuesday evening at the Grand Hyatt Hotel, just blocks from the Capitol and White House. Over 800 people filled the dinner hall as Secretary Ray LaHood renewed his support of bicycling as an important part of our nation’s transportation system. As I’ve blogged before, the Secretary supports the East Coast Greenway as a cost-effective investment for safe and livable communities. Here is an audio clip from the end of his talk and the ovation he received: LaHood March ’11
Reconnecting with Friends and Colleagues
The National Bike Summit wasn’t just a chance for our team to reach federal leaders, but also to reconnect with our partners throughout the bicycle advocacy world. We had great discussions with the CEO of Trek John Burke, NYCDOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, League of American Bicyclists Director Andy Clarke, the Alliance for Biking
and Walking President Jeff Miller, and many more. In a repeat of the 2010 Summit, Rails to Trails Conservancy leader Keith Laughlin and I had lunch and discussed ways we can continue to support each other’s work in the year ahead.
And it was also an opportunity for the East Coast Greenway team to get together, something that doesn’t happen enough due to the 3,000-mile distance we cover. That’s why we held a gathering of our own on Wednesday evening – at the usual Pete’s Apizza in Columbia Heights. We filled much of the restaurant with East Coast Greenway supporters (including ECG co-founder Karen Votava of RI and major donor MJ Veverka of Bethesda) sharing tales from throughout the eastern seaboard with each other.
Meetings with Electeds
A key part of the Summit takes place on Thursday, when everyone goes to Capitol Hill to share the importance of investing in safe and accessible bike infrastructure with members of the Senate and House of Representatives. ECG staff and volunteers gave elected leaders an update on the outstanding greenway growth of the past year (over 20% or 100 new miles) and discussed ways we can build on recent progress. It was a crucial chance for us to reconnect with old allies and reach out to newly elected officials to ensure they don’t cut cost-effective investments that can help our country free itself from the economic burdens of oil dependence and sedentary lifestyles.
North Carolina Team Growing
The record number of advocates in DC this year included a strong team from the new ECG headquarters state of North Carolina. We filled a meeting room for our conversation with longtime greenway supporter David Price of the 4th District (pictured to the left). The momentum is definitely on our side as the number of people bicycling throughout the region and nationwide grows by leaps and bounds.
Ending with a Ride Showing Off Bike-Friendly Progress
The Summit finished off with a nice ride in honor of fellow cyclist Representative Gabrielle Giffords of AZ. Her recovery has certainly benefited from the good shape bicycling helped her maintain before the horrible shooting. After a moment of silence
and some encouraging words from a member of Giffords’ staff, we explored ~12 miles of beautiful bike lanes, cycle tracks, and greenways throughout our nation’s capital. Here’s to her continued recovery and to further progress to make America’s communities healthy and sustainable through bicycling.
A big thank-you goes out to ECGA Boardmember Elizabeth Brody of New York City for her contributions that made the ECG team’s trip to Washington possible! And thanks to every volunteer and staff-person for taking the time last week to be effective representatives of our project in the nation’s capital. Look for continued progress coming out of this gathering and many more in the months and years ahead!
To a Sustainable & Healthy America-
I hope you enjoyed these pictures – more video and audio to come to help keep you updated on East Coast Greenway progress!