“There’s no better place than Michigan to show by example that things are changing.” — Andy Clarke, Executive Director of the League of American Bicyclists
Andy Clarke speaks with an English accent that gets your attention right away. How did this short British chap get the primo bicycling job in America? He is paid to speak on behalf of all cyclists in America and get people excited about creating change in American culture to create increased opportunities for bicycling. He was the keynote speaker at this year’s Michigan Bicycle Summit on March 27th in Lansing.
His stump speech is a mix of positive examples from Portland, Europe, and elsewhere, mixed with the realization that change of this magnitude is like trying to change the direction of a glacier. It’s going to take awhile. But, he was quick to highlight the positive steps in this direction, such as the recent announcement by Ray LaHood, Secretary of the US Dept. of Transportation, that “This is the end of favoring motorized transportation at the expense of non-motorized.” (google search: “ray lahood bicycle”)
Andy Clarke was not the only draw of the Michigan Bicycle Summit. While at a session led by the charismatic Jean Doss on lobbying your legislature, I learned the importance of timing, that successful advocates are patient, persistent, and planful in their approach, and that the most important phrase working with politicians is, “I’m sorry that we disagree, but I look forward to working with you in the future.” At a panel on the Complete Streets movement, we heard from the the bicycle and pedestrian advocates who played a key role in Lansing becoming the 100th city in the US to pass a Complete Streets ordinance.
In addition to the seminars, there was a Friday evening reception at the downtown Radisson where the League of Michigan Bicyclists handed out awards to some of the most active and inspiring volunteers promoting bicycling in Michigan. Some of the other sessions that followed Andy Clarke’s keynote speech included:
- How to make your bicycle tour accessible to ALL bicyclists, including those with mental and physical handicaps
- What is the US Bicycle Route System and what routes are being developed in Michigan
- How to use the new NEW Bicycle Educator’s toolbox on the League of Michigan Bicyclists’ website
- What Role do Bicycle Shops play in advocating for better conditions for cyclists
- Reports of successes and setbacks from the Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance and the Michigan Mountain Biking Association
- What is the Ride of Silence, as told by founder Chris Phelan of Texas, and how is this international day of remembrance making a difference all over the world?
In 2009, I attended my first National Bike Summit, and this was my first Michigan Bike Summit. There are lots of opportunities to hear about all the great things that others are doing, but I think the best part is being around so many other people who “get it”. They know how much fun bicycling is and they want to spread those feelings of joy and happiness to others, just like I do.
I invite you experience that same feeling on May 26th at the 2010 Lucinda Means Bicycle Advocacy Day in Lansing. Join the League of Michigan Bicyclists, Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance, and the Michigan Mountain Biking Association for a day of lobbying your state legislators and fun (yes, those two things can go together). It kicks off with a rally on the north lawn of the Capitol at 8:30am. Visit http://www.lmb.org for more information.
I’ll end with another quote from Andy Clarke, via the League of Michigan Bicyclists’ eNewsletter. When asked how to respond to people who ask why we should build bicycling facilities in places where people don’t ride their bicycles, he said “how many cars crossed the river before you built the bridge.”