March 3-7, 2013 I had the opportunity to go to the Women's Bicycle Forum and the National Bike Summit in Washington DC, Here's a summary of what I did while in Washington DC:
SUNDAY March 3
I arrived Sunday evening and went to the Women Bike Launch party and met a woman who does similar work in a Chattanooga TN bike shop and some bicycle advocates from Minnesota who work for BikeMN.
MONDAY March 4
I went to the Women's Bicycle Forum Monday. There were 325 women (and about 50 men) signed up. Great presentations and keynote addresses. I met up with Elysa Walk (head of Giant Bicycles USA) and got my picture taken with her. She was on a panel about bicycle manufacturers and efforts to make products for women.
At Women's Bicycle Forum, I was inspired by Georgena Terry (keynote speaker), Rep. Tammy Duckworth (IL), Black Women Bike organization.The only presentation I was somewhat disappointed with (and was the main reason I wanted to attend this pre-summit event) was the presentation about what bicycle retailers can do to attract more women customers. First of all, the original proposal I sent in to present was about what BGI does to attract and keep women customers. So I was hoping to hear something that we aren't already doing and hear what other creative folks were doing. There were 4 panelists including 1 company that has been featured in many publications – Pedal Chic (started 3 years ago) and 1 retailer who just started 1.5 years ago. Their criteria for choosing the panel was shops that had 40% or more business from women.
The top 9 ways the shops gave to attract women: location of store, clean bathrooms, comfortable dressing rooms, friendly staff, women staff, wide selection of products, positive retail experience, layout of store, communication and didn't go into much detail of any of them. Although I could say that might mean we're doing as much or more than everyone else, I think there are things out there we could be doing or doing better. So I was disappointed that I didn't learn anything new and they didn't have a retailer on the panel who had been in the business for a long time, had made changes and saw those changes pay off. I got more insight in one-on-one discussions with other women who work for retail shops and are doing similar things to what I do.
Monday evening I met up with the Indiana/Indy delegation and spoke with Mayor Ballard and Chad. I also made a point to introduce myself to John Burke, president of Trek Bicycles. He spoke at the evening's session and mentioned that only 300 of the 4500-5000 bicycle retailers are involved with advocacy. So I told him I was a full-time bicycle advocacy director for Bicycle Garage Indy and that I was on a panel tomorrow talking about the role BGI has played in helping make Indianapolis more bicycle friendly. I asked him if he knew how many bike shops had a full-time bicycle advocacy director, because I didn't think there were many of us, and I'd like to be able to network with them and share ideas. He thought there were about 20 and gave me his card so I could email him and he would forward it to someone at Trek who could find out.
TUESDAY March 5
Mayor Ballard was a hit in this morning's session and got interviewed by Bicycling Magazine; also got interviewed or will be featured in a PBS show (I think). Maybe Indy will make it into the Bicycling's Top 50 Cities for Bicycling this year. Several folks wanted to ask questions of him after our presentation.
Mayor Ballard at Summit
SLO bike blog – mentions Mayor Ballard
Our Indy presentation went well – we had a lot of people attend because the Mayor had spoken at the plenary session and they wanted to hear more. John Burke was in the audience of Indy's presentation. Our presentation was about how the various entities have combined efforts to create a more bicycle friendly Indianapolis: public/government – Jamison Hutchins and Mayor Ballard; public/private partnerships – Cultural Trail / Karen Haley; business/retail – I covered Indy's timeline, Bicycle Garage Indy's advocacy efforts and Indy Bike Hub; and advocacy organizations – IndyCOG / Kevin Whited. Our presentations along with other summit presentations are now posted online at http://www.bikeleague.org/conferences/summit13/
I also went to the presentation called "the business benefits of advocacy for bicycle retailers". Most of the discussion from the panel was how they got started in advocacy and then they had Q&A. Jerry Hiniker, Claudia Nix, Jeff Selzer and Dan Thornton were the panel. They each had a unique perspective in how they supported advocacy within their store. Most of the questions were how can an already busy business owner make the time or devote the resources to advocacy. The panel was fairly unanimous is saying you have to make the time – advocacy is what develops the opportunities for new customers. Liberty Bicycles has "Pedal Link" a fundraising effort – customers record mileage on website. Shop donates $0.01/mile as well as any additional donations people give – they raised $27K for advocacy efforts – enough to support development of a trail. I thought that was a unique way to engage customers and provide a source of revenue for advocacy projects.
The last session I went to had 3 short segments about getting businesses involved with bicycling (outside of the bike business) – most interesting was about the National Bike Challenge.
Plenary sessions included AAA unveiling their new "Share the Road" public service announcement (http://blog.bikeleague.org/blog/2013/03/bike-summit-aaa-debuts-new-share-the-road-psa/) – and the background on the inspiration for the video by the ad firm was very interesting. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4629Ic25-Ko)
The League of American Bicyclists has posted most of the videos online – the easiest way to access them is here (scroll down to see Summit videos): http://www.youtube.com/user/bikeleaguevideo/videos?view=0 or links to specific videos from their blogs about the event: http://blog.bikeleague.org/blog/
WEDNESDAY March 6
Snow was predicted for Wednesday when we all were to descend upon Capitol Hill (4-6" predicted). What we got was mostly rain. I went to three appointments – Sen. Dan Coats, Rep. Susan Brooks and Sen. Joe Donnelly. As we were leaving Sen. Donnelly's office he made a point of coming out and greeting us and we got our picture taken with him. We were scheduled to go to Rep. Carson's office, but they didn't have the office opened. The federal government offices were all closed due to the prediction of snow. The senate and representative offices were all trying to get out early so we had a few meetings rescheduled to earlier.
The meetings I went to and the other meetings that were covered by others from Indiana went very well – even those we didn't have any expectations for – Rep. Larry Bucshon being a big surprise (he didn't even want to meet with bicyclists at last year's summit). The Indiana delegation was mostly from Indianapolis area, but we covered all but 3 of the 11 senators/districts. Nancy Tibbett, Executive Director of Bicycle Indiana, arranged the congressional appointments and who would be the lead in each meeting. It was stressed that the meetings were the start of a long-term relationship building. The leads for each meeting will be continuing to contact them and invite them to special events in their districts.
After lunch with the Indiana delegation I had a bit of time before going to the reception, so I took some pictures of the Bikestation at Union Station. Since it was locked/closed to non-members, I had to take photos from the outside. Better photos and more info are here: http://home.bikestation.com/washingtondc
Wednesday night everyone got back together for the congressional reception and heard of the successes on capitol hill. I got reacquainted with several advocacy folks I met at previous National Bike Summits and Thunderhead Alliance (now Alliance for Bicycling and Walking) retreats. When I came to the National Bike Summit as executive director of Indiana Bicycle Coalition (now Bicycle Indiana) I stayed at the home of Ellen Jones, then ED of Washington Area Bicyclists Association. It was great to catch up with her.
Then there was a party at a normally hip-hop place filled with bike advocates instead for the night. At the party, I was able to talk with Andy Clarke, president of League of American Bicyclists, and thank him for having Mayor Ballard and Indianapolis featured at the Summit. He is going to be in town for the grand opening of the Cultural Trail May 10-11 and again at the end of May for the American College of Sports Medicine conference so he'll get to see the Hub and the progress we've made first hand (the last time he was in Indy was April 2010). I hope to get him to BGI's North store while he's here as well, but his time will most likely be filled. I also spoke with Ginny Sullivan (Adventure Cycling Association) and Jeff Miller (Alliance for Bicycling and Walking) – they were interested in BGI's advocacy efforts and would like to see other retailers be as involved in bicycling.
THURSDAY March 7
Thursday morning was sunny and I had a bit of time before my flight so I went sightseeing at the Mall. I had hoped to find a bikeshare bike and ride around for a short ride, but was not able to locate any (and had forgotten to look online for a location before I left my hotel). I did see people on the capitol bikeshare bikes but only saw one corral the entire time I was in DC. Besides photos of the Washington Monument and the Capitol, the other photos are of a unique bicycle shaped bike rack right by my hotel in Arlington, VA and the bikes lanes that are on Pennsylvania Ave.
On Thursday, Rep. Brooks was on my flight and as we were waiting in baggage claim, I introduced myself to her (we had met with her legislative assistant for transportation issues). She seemed genuinely interested in going to a Safe Routes to School award school in her district (to be determined).
I had 4 very long days (up 'til midnight, rising at 6 am). I returned Thursday evening (flight was delayed due to snow in other areas of the country) just in time to get ready for BGI's Spring Bicycle Expo which started the following week (March 15-17).
Overall the Summit was good. I still have about 12 pages of cryptic notes yet to go through. (may translate into 3-4 pages of typewritten).
Connie Szabo Schmucker, Advocacy Director
Bicycle Garage Indy / BGI Fitness