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Nearly five children are hit by people driving every day in Illinois while walking or biking within one block of a school.

Back from Washington with a Full Plate

Back from Washington, D.C. for the annual pilgrimage to the nation's capital for the League of American Bicyclists’ Bike Summit. I’ve got a lot of exciting opportunities and ideas to report on from my travels.

I now serve on the boards of directors of both the League of American Bicycles (the League) and the Alliance for Biking and Walking (the Alliance). I balanced the first day in D.C. trying to serve on both boards at simultaneous meetings across town from one another. Both are very different in character, age, and approach. I look forward to working with both groups to push our local agenda at a national level and to build the resources available to our biking and walking communities back home.

On Tuesday evening, we were blessed with a speech from U.S. Representative James Oberstar from Minnesota who happens to be the new Chairman of the House Transportation Committee. Oberstar has been a champion of bicycling for years and we are lucky to have him at the helm. Perhaps what is most important to convey about his speech is that his staff is looking at ways that the new reauthorization of the Transportation Bill can instill specific rights to bicyclists and pedestrians in the language. This would seek to create a national fix to the Boub vs. Wayne Illinois Supreme Court decision that we makes our work here in Illinois so much harder. This is big news and we will be working along with the League of Illinois Bicyclists to make this work.

Another highlight of Tuesday evening was seeing Randy Neufeld surprised by a lifetime achievement award presented by the Alliance for his great work to promote bicycling and walking on the national level and as a local advocate. This was a well-deserved award, but as Randy stated on stage, he’s got another “lifetime” left, being less than 50. Congratulations Randy!

On Wednesday we were treated to a early morning showing of Illinois credentials with Secretary of Transportation, Ray LaHood and House Transportation Committee member and U.S. Representative Dan Lapinski — both supporters of bicycling and eager to work together with the bicycling community to improve our communities and increase funding. More on Lapinski later.

We walked the halls of the Capital on Thursday. Our Illinois delegation was strong including representatives from two bicycle shops, three employees of the SRAM Corporation, two employees of the League of Illinois Bicyclists (LIB) along with three of their members, and four of our employees. The large showing allowed us to fan out and make a great impression on our lobby day asking legislators to support some exciting new bills:

  • A Federal Complete Streets bill was introduced. This would require states to develop plans to accommodate bicyclists and pedestrians in all street design. Find out more here: (http://www.completestreets.org/).
  • The CLEAN-TEA bill (found here) that could reduce global warming emissions by funding active transportation projects.

We’ll keep you updated on these bills as they travel through the morass of D.C. on this blog.

As part of our conversations with our peer in New York City, we are looking to drive up some excitement about a national funding source for Safe Routes for Seniors programs. We pitched the idea to one congressman to champion as part of the Transportation Reauthorization Bill. This funding would be used for safety improvements in areas with high levels of pedestrian crashes with seniors, encouragement programs to get seniors to bicycle more, and enforcement campaigns.

There certainly has been a lot of chat banding around about the benefits or evils of Twittering. I certainly saw my share of people twittering during the week and twittered myself (ooh is that an interesting term). You can find my Twitters at http://twitter.com/rsadowsky. I don’t twitter all the time, but will use it when I’m at special events like the Bike Summit to keep folks up-to-the-minute up-to-date.

Finally, I’d like to report on a great meeting that we had with our peers from various urban communities across the country. Representatives from Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Washington DC, New York and Chicago gathered as part of the Urban Mobility Caucus to discuss ways to work together and impact national agendas. We discussed working together on two efforts. The first is to issue a 2009 Urban Mobility and the Environment Report Card as a tool to compare cities and to help push for real strategies to reduce carbon due to transportation emissions. See our previous report card at: http://www.biketraffic.org/docs/pdf/reportcard.pdf.

The second campaign we are exploring is around reducing crashes by 50% in urban areas in the next twenty years and specifically looking at a campaign for a new low speed limit standard similar to Europe’s 30KM zones. Interested in working on this type of a campaign? Let me know at rob@activetrans.org.

All in all, I had a very exciting, productive and exhausting trip to our Capital. I look forward to the next year of national advocacy.