April 13, 2011: Remarks to the Newport City Council on the passage of Two Bicycle-Related Resolutions

Bari George speaking on behalf of the Bike To Work Day Newport Committee which includes Anne Everson, Brian Rurak, Chris Witt, Christina Erwin, Deanna Casey, Jennifer Bailey, Kathryn Farrington, Keith Dunne, Richard Durishin, Rob Purdy, Steve Heath and Tina Dolen.

On behalf of all the bicyclists and would-be bicyclists in our fair city – thank you! For recognizing not only the importance of bicycling but the importance of improving our understanding of what it means to share the roads – for the safety and welfare of adults, children, tourists, workers and travelers.

Bicycling is like no other activity:  it is healthy, clean and relatively inexpensive. Bicycling improves our health, our air, our pocketbooks, our demeanor and our productivity. Bicycling reduces fuel use, traffic congestion, stress and the wear and tear on our historic streets. And it gives us a better chance to appreciate our surroundings like the majestic trees we just heard about from the Newport Tree Society.

But as smart as bicycling is, we can’t just drop more bicycles and bicyclists on Newport. We need first to teach or re-teach the rules of the road and make sure that bicyclists know where and how to ride, and that motorists know how to drive in the vicinity of a bicycle.

Newport understands this. There’s no rush to the finish line.  In fact, there’s a fair bit of concern and rightfully so.  What you, our City Council members, are doing today with these two fabulous resolutions, is saying “We get it.”  “We know that the time is here to encourage and provide for bicycling as an alternate mode of transportation.  We fully support May 20 as a day to encourage folks to try leaving their cars home and bicycling to work.  We also know that our community has many ideas that need to be heard abut how we can ensure that bicycling in Newport is safe and smart, so we will hold a facilitate Community Forum at the front end of our efforts.”

On Bike to Work Day, participants will meet their colleagues at the Great Friends Meeting House for morning coffee – thanks to the Newport Historical Society.  We’ll host a press conference mid-day where we’ll release the results of the school-wide K-12 student bicycling survey currently being conducted in our schools thanks to Superintendent Jack Ambrogi and his staff.  At 4pm, the students and staff of the East Bay Met School will lead a Community Bike Ride around the city with the support of the Newport Police Department, ending at Kings Park where the Bike Fair will begin at 5pm. There will be free bicycle registration, a bicycle maintenance clinic, skills and safety demonstrations, fresh healthy food, plenty of local vendors, a fancy bicycle parade, an auction of reinterpreted bicycle helmets created by some of our most well-known local artists, and entertainment by our talented Rogers High School musicians. Any funds raised will benefit the Bicycle Education Program in our public schools.  It’s going to be quite a day!

This effort is enormously collaborative. In addition to those already mentioned, event partners include T3 Fitness, REI, US Open Cycling Foundation, Newport Bicycle, Ten Speed Spokes, Aquidneck Island Planning Commission, RI Bicycle Coalition, Narragansett Bay Wheelmen, and the Newport Convention and Visitors Bureau – who, by the way, is not only managing promotion of the event, but also printing our first-ever Newport Bicycle Map in time for Bike to Work Day.

Information about Bike to Work Day is on our new “all things bicycle” information hub:  BikeNewport.me.  There you can sign up for updates and register to participate – as a cyclist, an employer or a vendor.

THANK YOU again to the Council for the unanimous support and commitment you’ve demonstrated tonight – and especially to Charlie Duncan and Naomi Neville for writing the resolutions and to Kate Leonard and Jeanne Marie Napolitano for co-sponsoring.  We have much to look forward to together.