The 2011 National Bike Summit has come to an end. This year was a little different than in years past. This year the message was not about asking congress to support bike friendly bills, or increased funding for bike projects, or heaven forbid asking for more transportation funds. No, this year was all about spreading the word that bikes SAVE money. In a time of tightening our belts, making sacrifices, and cutting funding to just about everything, the message to congress was that the bicycle is GOOD for the economy. This year it was important for bike shops, bike manufacturers, and tourism companies to make their case to Congress to NOT cut funding for bike projects- this includes Transportation Enhancements, Safe Routes to School, and the Recreational Trail Program. The message being that if you cut funding to bicycle projects it will have a negative effect on businesses that rely on selling and riding bikes. Of course, we all know that cutting funding to these programs will have a negative effect on all cyclists. We all know that getting more people on bikes is good for the environment and for creating healthy communities. And we all know that walkable bikeable communities are safer and healthier than communities where everyone is stuck in traffic. We are just starting to see great local programs such as Capitol Bike Share and Safe Routes to School programs starting to work; if the funding is cut these projects may die out fast. BUT, that is not what Congress wants to talk about. No, right now they want to hear about how we are going to make money and save money. They need to hear about about how many independent bike shops, large bike retailers, and bike companies are in their district and how much money and jobs are made through cycling- and many of us retailers were there (more than ever) spreading the Small Business gospel. They also needed to hear about how building bike infrastructure is way cheaper than building bigger roads. Getting people on bikes takes cars off the roads- and that saves money.
So I think we made some noise while we were there walking the halls with colorful bike pins. There is nothing like seeing a bunch of cyclists in suits and ties. But we looked good and I think our message was clear. The trick is to keep on congress and make them accountable to what they are cutting and why. Cutting funding for bike programs is big mistake that will not only effect the health and well being of our communities but will have a dramatic effect on our small businesses.