Spotlight: The Bicycle Movement in Bloom

Every March, two renowned events in our nation’s capital reliably herald the arrival of spring – the D.C. cherry blossoms and the National Bike Summit. The former is presented by nature, the latter by our long-time ally, the League of American Bicyclists. As our good fortune would have it, we were able to experience both last week.

East Coast Greenway Alliance staff and volunteers travelled to Washington, D.C. for the event (held March 7-9) to catch up with old friends, make new ones, establish and maintain partnerships, share insights with other national leaders, and advocate for policies that support our mission.

Rails to Trail Conservancy President and ECGA Advisory Board member, Keith Laughlin and ECGA Exec. Director, Dennis Markatos-SorianoRails to Trail Conservancy President and ECGA Advisory Board member, Keith Laughlin and ECGA Exec. Director, Dennis Markatos-Soriano

Rails to Trail Conservancy President and ECGA Advisory Board member, Keith Laughlin and ECGA Exec. Director, Dennis Markatos-Soriano

As with most conferences, the National Bike Summit features excellent speakers and presentations with valuable expertise to share, as well as access to and engagement with the nation’s bicycle advocates and D.C. policy-makers. This year, ECGA staff attended the Summit, participated in its Lobby Day, hosted an ECGA meetup, held a board meeting, and met off-site with some of our key allies, including Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, the National Park Service, and Amtrak.

Our visit to Rails-to-Trails Conservancy’s headquarters featured conversation around policy, events, mapping and route navigation. RTC walked us through its impressive trail-modeling and trail-assessment platform (T-MAP), a suite of urban trail planning tools. T-MAP allows agencies and organizations to measure trail system connectivity, forecast demand, and translate bike-ped traffic into dollars related to health and traffic impact. We’re grateful to RTC for creating this suite of tools, the data from which will make our advocacy work stronger as we seek greater investment in greenway trails at the local, state, and regional levels!

Our meeting with the National Park Service (NPS) will lead to a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) by the end of the year. The NPS’ recognition of the ECG as an important national trail that is by choice not yet part of the National Trails System, will help the ECGA as we work with NPS staff throughout the Eastern Seaboard on matters related to trails, bicycle access, wayfinding signage, and more.

L-R: Ginny Sullivan (ACA), Caitlin Cooper (Amtrak), Eric Weis (ECGA), Saara Snow (ACA). Photo: Saara Snow

L-R: Ginny Sullivan (ACA), Caitlin Cooper (Amtrak), Eric Weis (ECGA), Saara Snow (ACA).

There’s not much we can reveal just yet about the Amtrak meeting, but please stay tuned for news later this spring that will greatly expand options for bike touring on the ECG. The ECGA is proud to participate in a task force with Adventure Cycling Association (ACA) and Virginia Bicycle Federation president and ECGA Trail Council stalwart, Champe Burnley, to advise Amtrak on multi-modal improvements and bike issues.

In addition, we had the opportunity to meet up and share updates with some of our funders, allies, and longtime ECG champions, including the Helen and William Mazer Foundation, Rhode Island Bicycle Coalition, Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, Bike Newport, NJ Bike & Walk Coalition, Green Mobility Network of Miami, and Florida Bicycle Association.

Clockwise L-R: NC, RI, and NH delegations with ECGA representation.

Clockwise L-R: NC, RI, and NH delegations with ECGA representation.

Another of the powerful and practical aspects of the League’s bringing so many of the bicycle movement’s passionate and knowledgeable leaders together in Washington D.C. for the National Bike Summit is direct action. The National Bike Summit integrates lobbying into the agenda, setting aside time for each state’s attendees to join as a caucus, review its state’s key issues, and meet with senators and representatives in Congress. ECGA staff joined state caucuses and met with senators and representatives from their districts.

And with so many ECGA champions together in D.C., the Board of Trustees met on March 12. A highlight from the morning was a presentation by Jennifer Toole of Toole Design Group on “Level of Traffic Stress,” and the latest thinking on how to evaluate bicycle-facility comfort. The meeting also included a presentation from ECGA Greenway Program Coordinator Eric Weis on how ECGA staff record trail-related data and how they use that data to gauge progress, as well as a review of the final draft of our 2016-2020 strategic plan.

The ECGA's Eric Weis presents to the Board of Trustees in Alexandria, VA.

The ECGA’s Eric Weis presents to the Board of Trustees in Alexandria, VA.

In all, it was a productive and enjoyable week in our nation’s capital. Kudos to the League of American Bicyclists’ staff and its new Executive Director for an impactful Summit. The cherry blossoms were a welcome metaphor for the exciting progress of the East Coast Greenway and the bicycle movement! As always, we are excited to share updates with you as they become available!

This blog post appeared in the March 2016 E-Newsletter.