By Chris Barker, Bike Newport Development Director
Attending the annual National Bike Summit was a thrilling experience for me. I’m relatively new to bike advocacy and it was so informative and energizing to gather with lots of people from all over the country to think about transforming our towns and cities to be more bike-friendly. We’re all looking to make progress! The Summit is where lots of success stories from across the country and around the world are shared.
I was one of four Bike Newport attendees – and nine total attendees from RI. We were joined by advocacy friends from the the RI Bicycle Coalition; business friends from Bike-On (adaptive bikes), Cleverhood (rain apparel), and Pointz; and students and faculty from RISD Department of Interior Architecture. Incredibly, Rhode Island, the smallest state, often has the largest number of state attendees.
So many workshops, so little time! I geeked out a bit in the fundraising and board development discussions – but it’s probably more exciting to report in on the Bike Party session – which I loved! Some readers may be familiar with Providence’s awesome monthly PVD Bike Jam – at the Summit they used the DC Bike Party to demonstrate how quickly a movement can grow thanks to the joy of being part of a super fun community-building experience around bikes.
Our incredible RISD partners brought the “Crossing the Pell” virtual reality installation to DC and shared it at the Summit and the Senate. Wow. The virtual reality bicycle was a smash hit at the Summit. It was amazing to see all these bicycle advocates climb onto the stationary bike, put the VR headset on, and ride across our Pell Bridge. It inspired so many conversations and dreams about bike infrastructure – and about using VR to help folks imagine and advance all kinds of innovative infrastructure. Check out this fun video of a very enthusiastic bike advocate from Iowa City on her first virtual bike ride! We also installed the pedestrian virtual reality in Senator Whitehouse’s office – It was incredible to walk into his office later in the week on Lobby Day, experience the setup, ourselves, and know that hundreds of visitors will have the same experience. Thanks to Senator Whitehouse and his awesome staff!
It was beautiful weather in DC and we did make the time to pedal around the nation’s capital. I lived in DC more than 20 years ago and there were very few bikes at the time, and no bike infrastructure that I can recall. Now, there are protected bike lanes pretty much everywhere. If I can feel that safe on the roads in DC, imagine how safe we could feel with connected infrastructure in a smaller city like Newport. AND it was peak cherry blossom season. Absolutely magical.
The last day of the Summit, everyone headed to Congress for Lobby Day – to visit our congressional delegation, share the national priorities for bike progress, and sneak in some local updates. Another perk of the smallest state – with only four total delegates, there’s no need to divvy up the visits. We all get to visit everyone. Another perk – our delegates are all bike-friendly, and our annual group visit is welcomed at every office with smiles and support.
Together with our colleague advocates from around the state, we presented three programs for congressional support: large truck safety, tax credits for e-bikes, and the Sarah Debbink Langenkamp Safety Act. Every member of the delegation was so welcoming! We met in person with Senator Reed, Senator Whitehouse, and Representative Cicilline – and all were welcoming, interested, and engaging. Representative Magaziner was not available but his staff was great. It’s a moving experience to walk the halls of Congress and a delightful and confirming experience to be so welcomed.
The Bike Summit was a hybrid experience with video options, so the rest of the Bike Newport staff were able to participate from Newport. Many thanks to the League of American Bicyclists for hosting this annual gathering and for curating and facilitating such an inspiring experience!