Recap of 2011 California Bike Summit

The 2011 California Bike Summit was held last weekend in downtown Los Angeles. This year’s Summit was envisioned and implemented primarily due to the efforts of Alexis Lantz, Planning and Policy Director with the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition and Board member with the California Bicycle Coalition (CBC). As part of the CBC’s Re-Launch Campaign, this year’s Summit was designed to bring together both professional and volunteer bike advocates to set the statewide bicycling agenda for 2012 and beyond. The three day summit that began last Saturday and concluded on Monday was designed to ensure that all attendees could, to quote Lantz, “go home a better advocate”.

Day 1: Bike Ride and Opening Sessions at the Grand Kyoto Hotel

The Summit began with a bike tour of downtown Los Angeles featuring the city’s latest investments to make bicycling more feasible and inviting to its residents.

After the ride, over a 140 Summit attendees were treated to a rousing opening session speech by Chris Morfas, Board President at the CBC, fellow Board member and primary organizer of the Summit, Alexis Lantz, and Jeffrey Miller, CEO and President at the Alliance for Biking and Walking. The main message in the opening sessions was to reaffirm the importance of bicycle advocacy at both the state and local level given the numerous benefits resulting from promoting bicycle as a mode of transportation. These benefits include health benefits [pdf], job creation, and a faster return on investment with bicycle infrastructure. This session also discussed the importance in advocating to increase investment to promote and normalize the bicycle as a mode of transportation from the current pitiful 1.5% of federal funding that currently goes toward bicycle and pedestrian projects.The session also discussed the importance of bike advocacy in the context of successes now being experienced by countries like The Netherlands whose cyclists had to fight for real estate space before their mode of transport was eventually normalized and promoted.

After the opening speeches, the attendees were divided into regional groups to determine the statewide agenda that the CBC would adopt in 2012.

These groups came up with a variety of goals that the CBC could focus on and advocate for at the state level. These goals included many useful and strategic choices including in part, the following:

  • Making bike projects easier to implement
  • Ensuring that Caltrans takes the lead to educate the public on new and innovative bicycle/pedestrian facilities
  • A method to fund bicycle/pedestrian projects based on developments that induce automobile trips
  • Universal cycling education in schools
  • 3 foot passing bill
  • Clarifying and expanding design guidelines
  • Training law enforcement on bike issues
  • Eliminating the 85% speed issues
  • Bicycle training in conjunction with driver training
  • Vision Zero – No traffic related deaths by 2030
  • Strict Liability for colliding with or killing cyclists

Day 2: Opening Plenary and CBC’s Strategic Priorities at the Grand Kyoto Hotel

Sunday’s sessions started strong with Long Beach Senator Alan Lowenthal discussing Governor Brown’s failure to sign the 3-foot bill. He explained the importance of California’s bicyclists to band together to face up to the very powerful highway lobby groups who were instrumental in the bill’s defeat. Lowenthal said that he was committed to the safety of cyclists and wanted to assure all attendees that our safety would not be sacrificed. He described the entire journey of the bill’s creation to its defeat to be an overall positive experience as he learned about cyclists’ needs and their ability to rise up to demand action from the Capitol. Lowenthal described that the main takeaway message was the importance of working with the opposition.

Jim Sayer, Executive Director, at Adventure Cycling was the next speaker who spoke at length about the tremendous value and important connections to be made between bicycle travel and tourism including the tremendous investment returns to be gained from investing in a national bike system similar to Quebec and the North Sea Cycle Route [pdf]. Sayer saw that California could be the number one state for bicycle tourism which would be in alignment with the CBC’s goals to get 1 million Californians on a bicycle by 2020.

CBC’s Executive Director, Dave Snyder, then spoke about putting a Bicycle Safety Curriculum in every school in the state. An existing model currently exists in Texas and Snyder stressed the importance of getting a curriculum instituted in California similar to the program currently in place in The Netherlands.

The session before lunch included a series of panels designed to introduce attendees to the wide group of fellow advocates who were allies in the journey to reforming the state’s transportation system. These panelists included:

After lunch, workshops were held to determine potential specific priorities for California’s bicycling movement. The workshops ranged in topics from determining a campaign to obtain legal protection for cyclists to creating a pledge signed by up to 50 mayors throughout California to support active transportation in their cities.

Day 3: Advocacy Sessions at the California Endowment Center for Healthy Communities

The Summit’s third day began with a rousing speech by Randy Neufeld, Advocacy Director for SRAM. SRAM who a few years ago donated $400K to advocacy organizations, has played a key role in bicycle advocacy for many years.

The second speaker was Charlie Gandy who talked about his vision for making Long Beach “the best bike city in the world” and the efforts underway to make it so. He also talked about the importance of increasing the indicator species in bicycling, women, in California and introduced a website that celebrates women who ride in Southern California, Women on Bikes SoCal.

Monday’s workshop sessions included the following topics:

  • Getting Your Message Out: the Press, Public and Politicians: discussed how to use media to get advocacy messages out to the public
  • Best Practices in Bike Retailer Advocacy: touched on how independent retailers were the first line of communication between bicycling proponents and everyday people and the importance of advocacy groups collaborating with bicycle retailers
  • Influencing Sustainable Communities Strategies in upcoming Regional Transportation Plans: Now that SANDAG’s Board approved the San Diego Region’s RTP, the rest of the regions throughout the state are now in line to release their RTP.
  • Best Practices in Membership Development
  • Bike-Friendly Business Districts
  • What makes a good Complete Streets Policy
  • Working with grassroots organizations and movements
  • Best Practices in Bicycle Education
  • Best Practices in Fundraising
  • Bike-Sharing in California
  • Best Practices in Bicycle Access to Transit

The weekend was jam packed with useful information and invigorating ideas and discussions with fellow advocates. I came away re-inspired, re-engaged and even more committed to making San Diego a Mecca for cyclists