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Bike Leaders Honored by White House as Champions of Change

If you attended the National Women Cycling Forum or read the “Women on a Roll” feature in the May-June issue of American Bicyclist, you’ve been inspired by the work of Veronica Davis.

So has the White House.

Yesterday, the D.C. engineer and advocate was honored as a Transportation Innovator and Champion of Change by the nation’s top brass. Davis was among just 14 individuals who were applauded by U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray Lahood as visionaries for the future of American mobility.

“We’re not talking about the past,” Lahood said at yesterday’s ceremony. “We’re not talking about building more roads and bridges. We’re talking about building new and creative communities with innovative and creative ways of getting people around those communities.”

That’s certainly what Davis is talking about.

Veronica Davis speaking at the National Women Cycling Forum (Credit: Chris Eichler)

I first learned of her efforts at the women’s forum hosted by the Washington Area Bicyclist Association last year — and was honored that she was able to join our panel at the National Bike Summit. In addition to co-founding Nspiregreen, a sustainability and environmental consulting company, Davis helped launch Black Women Bike. To her, both are different avenues to the same destination. As she wrote on the White House blog yesterday:

Many people do not recognize the role that equitable and accessible multi-modal transportation options play in their everyday lives. Transportation planning and choices have the ability to impact socioeconomic conditions, personal health and overall quality of life. I seek to help others understand that the role of transportation cannot be underestimated.

As a result of many casual discussions with others about transportation options in my community, Black Women Bike DC was founded. Although it started as a twitter hash tag (BlackWomenBike), it grew into a movement within the District of Columbia. I have always been an advocate of sustainable transportation but after noticing the absence of black women on two wheels Nse Ufot, Najeema Washington and I founded Black Women Bike in May 2011. The organization has grown to over 550 African American women in Washington, DC ranging in age from late 20’s to late 60’s. The news spread to women via word of mouth and social media. Although the group takes a monthly group recreation ride to help novice riders get prepared for riding on the road, we encourage the women to use biking as an alternative form of transportation for running small errands and getting to work… Black Women Bike is building a community of women who bike in the District.

Davis wasn’t the only bike/ped visionary honored as a Champion of Change. Jason Roberts, creative director for Team Better Block, was recognized for his innovative approach to urban redevelopment. What started as a guerilla project in a struggling area of Dallas quickly turned into a national model. As Roberts wrote in his blog post:

My whole life I was waiting for someone to create the kind of community I always dreamed of. The real change in me occurred when I saw many of my friends moving away from our city. I looked at that and thought I could leave as well, or we could all start working to make it the kind of place we always wished we lived in. The change for me personally was to say, “Wait a second, who am I waiting for to fix these problems?” 

In 2006, I started the Oak Cliff Transit Authority which brought together civil engineers, residents and property owners to return the streetcar as a means to revitalize our community…. A team of artists, residents, and property owners helped begin our first Better Block project, an effort to temporarily revitalize a single blighted block with any means at our disposal. What we lacked in funds we made up for in community! We set forth in building our dream walkable environment. We took our wide streets and thinned them by creating bike lanes and outdoor café seating so children and families could more easily access the area and seniors could have a comfortable place to sit. We brought in historic lighting and shade trees, and began converting the vacant buildings into pop-up business such as local cafes, markets, flower shops and art studios for kids. We filled the sidewalks with fruit stands and life!

Prior to the project we were told Dallas was too hot and lacked the culture to support a pedestrian environment. What we found was that we were no different than any other great city in the world. We just needed the chance to create an irresistible place that embraced people and promoted walking, bicycling and lingering with friends and family.

Congratulations to Davis and Roberts for recognition well-earned!


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