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2014 Summit Victory- Join us in 2015!

During the 2014 National Bike Summit, we asked members of Congress to support a national goal to reduce bicyclist and pedestrian fatalities. And this weekend, we got it. That’s the power of face-to-face meetings with members AND their staff — and that’s why we need you at the 2015 Summit this March.

Now, you may have heard that the House of Representatives published their 2015 calendar last week and they won’t be in Washington during the Summit this year. The Senate will be in session, giving us the opportunity to meet with lawmakers but, on the House side, our lobby meetings will be with staff members. While that’s a bit of a disappointment it doesn’t change the impact of attending the Summit — which is one of the most effective tools to show Congress the strength of the bicycling movement across the country.

How do we know? 2014 Summit visits made a difference.

Earlier this year, our priority ask was a goal to reduce bike/ped deaths — and, as of Saturday, we got it. The 2015 budget bill, or Cromnibus, included a directive to the U.S. Department of Transportation to create a separate non-motorized safety performance measure. Key to that provision’s success was that roughly 20% of Congress co-sponsored the bill — and more than half of those co-sponsors’ offices point to the National Bike Summit as the catalyst for co-sponsoring the bill. And guess what? The majority of those Summit meetings were with staffers.

Why is 2015 important? It’s a must-act moment for Congress, especially in the Senate. 

MAP-21, the current transportation bill, expires on May 31, as does the funding in the Highway Trust Fund. So we’re approaching a “must act” moment for Congress. They’ll have to find funding to continue the transportation program and extend the bill. This will include a debate on eliminating or limiting funding and eligibility for biking and walking infrastructure. 

When Highway Trust Fund funding was extended from September 2014 to May 2015 we fought back two potential amendments to cut bicycle and pedestrian funding by stopping those amendments from even getting a vote. We’ve seen similar Senate floor votes in 2009, 2011 and several in 2012. In all these cases, we prevailed.

But, with the changes to Congress in the November elections it’s going to be much harder this year. The Summit gives us an opportunity to be proactive and build support before there is a crisis. Summit meetings in March with the 12 new Senators are particularly crucial to winning the vote.

How is 2015 different? There are 64 new members of Congress.

This is an important opportunity to introduce new members of Congress (and their staff) to a potentially unfamiliar constituent issue — and meeting them in person really does make a difference. A 2011 study of Congressional staffers asked how their office makes a decision on an issue when the member is undecided. Constituent visits to the Washington office were the most effective tactic — with 97 percent of Congressional staff agreeing they have some or a lot of influence. 

Since members of Congress rely heavily on their staff — and heavily on constituent opinion — when it’s an issue they don’t already have a firm position on, we have a great opportunity to show these offices that they have an active, organized and engaged bicycling constituency in their district.

We believe that the bicycle movement’s best strategy in Congress this year will include a little bit of offense and quite a lot of defense as we work to create a more bicycle-friendly America for everyone. The National Bike Summit is the perfect time and place to kick off this strategy. We look forward to seeing you there!

Photo by Brian Palmer: Advocates from the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition meet with a staffer from the office of Rep. John Lewis at the 2014 Summit