Every year at the national League of American Bicyclists summit cyclists from all over the country gather in a united cause for advocacy. Those in attendance are the who’s who of bicycle advocacy on both a national and state level. In short, the LAB Summit is an exciting week long event of bicycle centered advocacy.
I had the opportunity to head to Capitol Hill and meet with many of Arizona’s legislators in the house and the senate. Many of the senators and representatives were busy tasked with upcoming bills; however they did allow for meetings throughout the day with their staffers or legislative correspondents. It was incredible to be on “the hill” making our case for improved bicycle safety and bicycle funding. I loved every ounce of “the hill” and eagerly await another opportunity to return and advocate for cycling.
My first meeting was with Senator McCain’s staff. They were gracious and polite. I appreciated their willingness to meet with a few of us from Arizona. We were well prepared with our talking points and our “asks” – for example, we asked for Senator McCain to co-sponsor an upcoming bill related to continued funding for transpiration and the reapportionment of a percentage of those to the states thereby allowing Arizona as a state to dictate which cities should have access to those funds for improved bike paths, etc.
The meeting went well, but I could tell that the “staffer” was mostly nodding his head out of kindness and did a lot of listening to our points, etc. but not really offering any support or insight. It seemed as though they are burdened with accepting meetings such as this all the time; and that in a way they couldn’t wait for it to just be finished so they could grab lunch before their next meeting with some other group wanting to express concerns on any given issue and ask for the Senator’s support as well. I couldn’t help but wonder how effective it really is to head to the hill and make your case. Yet on the other hand, every voice counts and there is one certainty: no voice at all is easiest to go unheard.
The other meetings with other senators went all about the same. They each sent a staffer and we made our case, left behind some materials, and asked for their support. I look forward to going again and again and again to show the persistence and importance of these issues. It is real and unequivocally helpful to reach out to your Senator or Congressman with your concerns when you have them, otherwise those concerns have zero hope for redress.
Of course, Washington D.C. is like no other city on earth. It has a majestic and noble feel to it in every building and monument you see. This city is rich with American history and culture. The monuments in particular are very inspiring. On one afternoon a few of us jammed around on bicycles and saw as many national monuments as possible. It was a blast! I rode the Bike Law cargo bike and I’ll tell you what, that thing is squirrely at first! The front wheel and steering mechanism is impressive and eventually your bike handling skills improve along with your confidence to jam through traffic like its no big deal. But taking that cargo bike up hill is a completely different story. It easily weighs in at least 3x my Focus bicycle, but I wouldn’t trade my Washington D.C. biking experiences for anything – what an awesome way to see these breathtaking national sites.