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First time Bike Summit experience

In this two-part blog, Calli Crow, a first-time National Bike Summit attendee from Grand Rapids, MI, shares her experiences in DC at #NBS18.

First day!

Woke up extra early, took a bath and had a cup of the instant coffee that was left over in the cabinet at my Capitol Hill Airbnb, then waffled for a while about my wardrobe (why do I always feel like I’m not dressed right?). I tried to pack for the weather (chilly and rainy) and still look reasonably stylish. I settled on tight rolled jeans (the 90s are back), my favorite, suede, wing-tip oxfords, an insulated sweater, and a waterproof jacket. Bedecked with bird bandanna, back pack, JBL Clip 2 speaker (it’s waterproof!), helmet, and big Michigan-style mittens, I somewhat nervously headed into the crisp morning air and up to the corner to the Capital Bikeshare station.


Newbie written all over my face and stance, I stepped up to a bike and grabbed it by the handlebars and shook it. Then I noticed the kiosk and walked over with credit card in hand. I swiped the card and followed the instructions on the screen, selecting the three-day pass, until it thanked me and asked if I’d like a printed receipt. Yes, I would, thank you. But there was nothing in the hatch when I bent down and flipped the clear plastic shield. I started to worry that I’d missed the part where I get the code to unlock my steed. I checked my phone. No code. Finally, I swiped my card again, and voila, a code. I punched it in the pad to the left of the bike and yanked. It was still yellow. Fiddle sticks! What did I do wrong? But finally, a few more beeps and a green light signaled my success! I had a bike! My first victory!

Capital Bikeshare

I pulled it free from the dock and awkwardly flung my backpack around until I realized my Capital Bike had a kickstand. Then, I set my google map with the coordinates for the Renaissance Hotel (1.5 miles). I paired my phone to the speaker and clipped it to the front bars of the bike, so I could loudly hear the directions without having to hold my phone. (I need as few distractions and all the help I can get!) I began by walking the bike on the sidewalk a few feet, looking for a welcome place to make my entree. I saw another local cyclist obviously en route to work or school making his way up the street. That emboldened me to jump in, but as my legs spun wildly in a too low gear, I realized I didn’t know how to change gears! Arghh. I felt around and tried to press the silver knob with 1-2-3 on it, twisted the grip, and bent around to look under the bars for a lever or something to no avail. Finally, I realized the shifter was the little knobby ring between the grip and the silver knob. Success number 2!

I shifted into a better gear as two local cyclists passed me on the left like I was standing still. Whatever, I’m ok. “I’m doing it!” I exclaimed out loud to a police officer like a modern-day Mary Tyler Moore as I made a left on East Capitol Street. As I turned I saw the cupola of the Capitol Building ahead of me, shining in the morning sun with the bluest sky for backdrop!


My Google Map had me heading right toward a barricaded zone (is that off limits?), so I redirected and swooped down the hills around the Capitol toward Pennsylvania Avenue.  Next thing you know, I’m riding on the median bike lane that I have seen in pictures and videos! Super Success!

My clip-on speaker loudly shouting directions, I pedaled behind a local commuter with panniers, fenders and a watermelon helmet. I was hoping my unwitting leader would need to make a turn, so I could see how it’s done. But no dice. I waited behind the commuter at a red light on Pennsylvania, hoping to make a right on 8th Ave NW, and realized too late that the time to turn was when the light was red. See sign below.

PA Ave

I waited another round of the lights and eventually maneuvered my way to the numbered street and to the Renaissance Hotel, but I didn’t see a dock for my steed. I hovered on the corner looking lost for a minute. I saw a bunch of bikes staggered about, but no dock. Despite my big Michigan mittens, my hands were frozen. I pulled a cold hand out and fumbled around with my phone. I found the Capital Bikeshare system map and searched for the hotel address. Score! I had just passed one on 8th and H. I zipped back over to the dock and successfully plopped my ride into the grooves. Green light! I made it to the National Bike Summit on time! Another Little Victory. 


It’s all about connections.

My first workshop was the Mobile Workshop to BFB National Geographic. After finding my people, like Louise Lockett of Bike Walk RVA, and signing a waiver, we saddled up and took to the streets lead by our trusty WABA guide. Our group was a little large to stay en masse, but we managed to make it safely to our destination. Once there, we were greeted by Nat Geo representatives who proudly showed us their stellar facilities.


We returned to the Renaissance for Opening Plenary with Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao. I have to admit to being more than a little star struck. The bike lobby doesn’t mess around! She spoke on the topics of safety, infrastructure and the future of technology with the theme Access = Mobility & Freedom.  She encouraged us to “tell our story” on lobby day and make it clear that the federal government is our partner. Let’s do this!


After that, I attended a workshop called Turning Businesses into Bike Advocates with representatives from amazing organizations from all over the U.S. I made some friends at my table, including Kate Matusinec from Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota whom I have plans to visit when I go to Minneapolis-St. Paul for a conference in June.

Next, we headed into the halls for Happy Hour sponsored by New Belgium. I had the best time making more new friends over Fat Tires (like Randy LoBasso from Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia), while we talked with advocates and educators like Deltrece Daniels from Bike Cleveland about their posters. (She’s expanded the ABC Quick Check into the whole alphabet!)

Poster Session

After that, I was inspired to move to Fort Collins and live in the beer factory at the Welcoming Dinner by keynote Kim Jordan of New Belgium. (Seriously, why can’t all employers have values like that?)  Kim was smart, funny, irreverent, knowledgeable and beautiful.  The vegetarian, gluten-free option was fantastic (what was that??). And, again, the “networking,” aka connecting with kick-ass people, was the best part.

After dinner, my Michigan people and I were walking in a group out of the ballroom when we were accosted by a loud voice that accused us with, “KARAOKE!”

“Me?” I pointed to my chest.

“Yeah, you look cool. Karaoke?” It was Richard Fries of MassBike rallying the troops. I didn’t know him yet, but I could smell a party.

“We’re in!”

And like that, Bike Advocacy Karaoke was born.

Bike Advocacy Karaoke


To be continued….

Calli Crow, LCI, is on the board of the Greater Grand Rapids Bicycle Coalition, member of the League of Michigan Bicyclists, chair of BikeKDL, and member of Grand Rapid’s Active Commute Week committee. She is proud to have been a recipient of an Equity Scholarship for NBS18.