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The Senator and the Mayor: Local Control as Strategy and Success

2013 National Bike Summit, afternoon and evening events—Sadik-Khan, Ray Lahood

A Democratic U.S. Senator from the Northeast and a Republican Mayor from the Midwest — at the National Bike Summit this morning we saw the success of local control from both sides of the political spectrum.

This time last year, at the 2012 Summit, we were still on uncertain ground with the federal transportation bill, MAP-21.”We were up against a tremendous battle,” Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) (pictured) recounted this morning. “The rhetoric coming out of Capitol Hill when we started MAP-21 was ‘not one dime but for roads’ — and there would be no set asides or opportunity at all.”

But Cardin stepped up with a game-changing amendment — and advocates had his back in a big way. “At the end of the day, we were successful with the Cardin-Cochran provision because of the people in this room,” he said. “You’re smart. You figured out a strategy to win. Rather than just make a point, we won. The strategy is local control.”

And local leaders are stepping up, too. Sharing the stage this morning was Greg Ballard, the Republican mayor of Indianapolis, Ind. Sure, Ballard likes to bike, but that’s not the political point. “I tell people very candidly, it’s all about talent attraction — it’s not because the Mayor likes bikes,” he said.

“We’re all in competition for young talent and young families,” he explained. “And young people, milenials, are looking for bike lanes. They’re looking for trails. They’re looking for that connectivity — and that’s what I’m trying to do.”

Ballard’s vision to recruit the best talent includes a connected network of 200 miles bike lanes and trails that link the city’s cultural amenities and green spaces. It includes converting an underutilized market into a state-of-the-art YMCA facility for bike commuter to shower and change and the launch of a new bikeshare system later this year.

“There’s a lot of pent-up demand,” he said, “we just need to put in the infrastructure.”

And, well, stellar shower facilities don’t hurt, either. For the YMCA, Ballard joked: “I told them to go into the locker room of the Indianapolis Colts — that’s what I want. And that’s what I got.”

That kind of commitment at the local level is exactly the kind of control that will continue our work to build a bicycle-friendly America. Cardin, for one, is excited about the prospect: “Mayor Ballard, you’ll spend the money a lot smarter than the people in your capitol will to help your community.”

Stay tuned for more from the Summit…

Photo by Brian Palmer


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