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New League Staff: Patricia Donnelly

Meet a new member of the League team: Patricia Donnelly! As one of our new federal policy fellows, Patti will work with our deputy executive director Caron Whitaker and another fellow (whom you’ll meet later this week) to further our efforts in Washington. The League’s efforts in DC focus on lobbying Congress and the administration, and working alongside our national advocacy partners to secure policies and funding that make it safer and easier for people to bike, walk and roll across the country. While she may be new to the world of bike advocacy, Patti has worked in the non-profit sector for over three decades and has been embracing the bike since childhood. Welcome aboard!

What’s your first memory of riding a bike?

My favorite memory of bike riding is riding as a child with my friends and with purpose. To celebrate my birthday, which falls ten days before Halloween, my mother planned a biking birthday party with four of my friends. We rode our bikes for about two miles on a small-town road that led to a pumpkin patch, with my mom following us in the car. Each of us selected a pumpkin from the patch, which my mom then loaded into the car. We made the return trip home by bike, then ate lunch, carved pumpkins and ate birthday cake. What a great birthday party! 

You’re coming from a history of working in nonprofits, how do you see that translating to transportation policy on the national level with the League?

The federal policy fellow position offers a new piece to my non-profit experience. That’s what made the position so appealing. I have advocated for affordable housing, immigration reform, funding for the arts, and adult education, but I never developed policy recommendations. I look forward to the research and creative process that defines the talking points for better policies. Bicycling safety is a new content area to add to my passion list.  

What do you hope to take away from your year-long fellowship with the League?

A rich education about safe bicycling and its influence on smart policies for transportation, infrastructure, physical health, and clean energy. I have had a wonderful career in the non-profit sector and this next chapter is a time to grow, learn and give back. This position will give me that opportunity.      

You’ll be coordinating sessions for the National Bike Summit in March…have you attended before? How about Lobby Day? If so, what was your experience?

I have not attended the National Bike Summit but I am looking forward to it. I have participated in other lobbying events both at the state level and national level, but with biking, it will be new issues, with new policies, and with new people. I do know that this is a critical time in our nation’s history to aggressively promote change in our transportation system to build cleaner, safer, equitable, and healthier communities.

Part of your role is to work with advocates to identify and highlight excellent biking and walking projects to policymakers. What do you think qualifies a project as excellent?

A project that demonstrates increased accessibility, availability, and connectivity of safe streets and pathways for pedestrians and bicyclists. A network that can safely move people to work, school and for recreation while reducing car traffic and tragic accidents. As a newcomer to the field, I can’t say exactly what that might look like, but I believe good work is being done in communities and we can share and learn from each other.

What bike are you riding now and what inspires you about cycling?

I have a Bianchi five-speed bike that the bike shop owner said is the bike he would recommend for his mother. I didn’t exactly take that as a compliment. He also described me as a “bike enthusiast” when I explained that I use it for recreation and preparation for bike tour vacations. Admittedly, I just tried an e-bike and I think they are awesome! I believe it may be the ticket to get more people cycling.