This week we were invited to participate in an interesting roundtable discussion about Livability and Smart Growth in our local Triangle community (which consists of Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill, where our home office is located), focused on efforts to improve access to and funding for bicycle and pedestrian projects.
Organized by Multi-Modal RDU and McKinney (and hosted at McKinney’s offices in Durham), this discussion, open to the local community, featured the participation of our local U.S. Representative David Price, an important supporter of multi-modal transportation and environmental protection efforts in Congress, and Representative Earl Blumenauer of Portland, founder of the bi-partisan (or “bike-partisan” as he likes to call it) Congressional Bike Caucus and long-time bicycling advocate in Washington.
The room was packed with passionate cycling advocates and community members who were there to talk about bicycle and pedestrian planning on the local and national level. In addition to Reps. Price and Blumenauer, the roundtable discussion was led by representatives from the East Coast Greenway Alliance, the Mountains-to-Sea Trail, the Open Space and Parks Advisory Committee, the Durham Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Commission, and our Performance Bicycle CEO David Pruitt, who was there both as part of the local community and also as a representative of the bicycle industry.
Passion for their cause was evident with all of the speakers, whether it was supporting the construction of greenways along the east coast, building a path to bisect North Carolina from west to east, advocating for new bike lanes, or, in our case, reaching more customers with the cycling products, services and knowledge they need to ride more often. But the most interesting part of the discussion was hearing how these plans were being implemented – what strategies were and are still needed to bring these visions to reality. It was in this realm that Rep. Blumenauer was able to bring his experience as an advocate for the cycling community to the fore, as he talked about the need to make the case for both the economic and health benefits of increased access to cycling.
In addition to boosts to recreation and tourism, he cited examples from his home district in Portland where cycling-specific infrastructure fueled measurable economic growth and added value to the community (plus served as a catalyst for a thriving $100 million local cycling industry), all for a cost-effective investment.
It is for these reasons and more that we support the efforts of the National Bike Summit, and are a sponsor of Bikes Belong, a national coalition of bicycle retailers and suppliers that works to put more people on bikes more often, through projects, partnerships and advocacy efforts across the country. Because the one key lesson from this discussion was that it will take a concerted effort on both the local and national stage for cycling advocates to continue to create a safer, more accessible, and, in the end, more valuable cycling infrastructure in our country.