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Why I Attend the National Bike Summit: “One of The Highlights of My Year”

Last week, we met Diane Lees  to hear why the Ohio bike shop owner and radio host attends the National Bike Summit. This week, I spoke with Karen Brooks, editor of Bicycle Times magazine, to get her two cents on why the National Bike Summit is a priceless experience. Why does this bicycle enthusiast and self-described “word-wrangler” attend the Summit? Read on!

Karen enjoying the cherry blossoms at the 2012 National Bike Summit

What brought you to the Summit for the first time?

Traditionally, Maurice Tierney (our publisher) attended the Summit to advocate for local mountain bikers, in the days when Dirt Rag was our only magazine. When we started Bicycle Times, I began to pay more attention to the wider circle of advocacy, and two years ago, we sponsored at a high enough level that we got two entries, so I volunteered myself to go. Primarily, I wanted to find out more about issues at the national level. I did learn a lot, met great people, and got the chance to help lobby our local representatives. Last year, I made it a priority to go based on 2011’s positive experience.

Is there anything you learned or saw at the Summit that really stuck with you?

There have been some really interesting panels, featuring speakers at the top levels of government and advocacy, that gave honest and straightforward advice. It’s also nice to hear from people who are really passionate and who have well-constructed arguments. One speaker that stands out to me still, from the 2011 Summit, was Jim Tymon, the Majority Staff Director of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. He explained exactly how federal transportation funding works, the intricacies of the then-current bill, and the various potential scenarios for a new bill. It was very dense but interesting stuff. There are so many intelligent and driven people working in Washington that it’s inspiring and motivating.

It’s also been gratifying to see changes in the reception that my local advocates and I have gotten from certain representatives, from indifferent to welcoming.

What is your favorite part about the Summit?

Hmm… I enjoy the speakers and panels, but the lobbying part feels really vital. Can’t have one without the other, as the preparation really helps. It’s also nice, during meals, to sit at a table where I don’t know anybody and strike up conversations, and hear their different reasons for being there, common issues, etc. It was awesome to be able to ride a bike to and from Washington, D.C. last year, on the Great Allegheny Passage / C&O Canal rail-trail. Aside from being a fun trip, it made a real, positive impression on lobbying day — the fact that we used this resource for transportation (and recreation, too, of course!), and how we saw many thriving small businesses along the way.

Have you been able to use any of the lessons  from the Summit after you left DC?

Most definitely! I feel like I have a much better handle on how to frame arguments for politicians and government staffers, and how to approach them professionally. Also, I feel so much better connected and able to ask for help, or offer it. I’m now more involved in my local advocacy organization, thanks to what I’ve learned, and having the shared experience of lobbying with the local advocacy folks. Summit contacts and knowledge have also helped a lot in finding, researching, and preparing stories for Bicycle Times.

What advice would you give to someone considering coming to the Summit for the first time?

  • Attend the webinars before the event for some good advice and a bit of a pep rally.
  • Make sure you’re rested and ready for three intense days during the Summit. Keep the partying to a minimum (until after lobbying day).
  • Don’t be intimidated — bike folks are friendly — but also be mindful of when it’s best to watch and learn from the more experienced advocates, particularly on lobbying day.

Will you be attending in 2013?

Yes indeed! Looking forward to it. It’s now one of the highlights of my year.

Stay tuned for a new interview each week to see why industry, advocates, and club folk all come to this great conference. The Summit is less than three months away — and now is the time to register at the early bird rate to save $100! Join Karen, save some green and make sure you’re part of the most exciting event of the year: Register today!


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