From Hilary Reeves, Communications Manager

I was happy to be able to make the trip to Chattanooga, TN, in mid-September to attend Pro Walk Pro Bike, a jam-packed conference organized by the National Center for Bicycling and Walking. This was the 16th such gathering. The last one was in 2008 in Seattle. The weather in Chattanooga was great—a last blast of summer for those of us from the upper Midwest. The program had a full selection of sessions and several “mobile panels” that took attendees out and about around Chattanooga—on foot, by bike, on bus and even by paddle.

For me, Pro Walk Pro Bike was a great opportunity to hear what planners and advocates are working on around the nation. And it was very useful for putting our local scene in context. Minnesota was well-represented, with folks from such communities as Alexandria, Bemidji, Inver Grove Heights, Moorhead, and West Saint Paul (just to name a few), and representing such groups as Blue Cross Blue Shield, Safe Routes to School, CLUES. Saint Paul Smart-Trips. Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota, and the U of M (again, just to name a few).

So what sticks in my mind?

I was very interested to hear about the work of Portland’s Community Cycling Center to engage communities of color. Their passion for their work reminds me of the Sibley Bike Depot here. In Portland, they conducted a needs assessment in some key communities of color and found that 52% of residents already were riding in their neighborhood and that 60% of people were interested in riding bicycles but also concerned—about safety, about the cost of a bike, about whether they’d be pulled over by police for riding in the wrong way or place or time. The Portland Center put in the time—and created flexible program schedules and locations—to build relationships that are ongoing.

I heard great things about how the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition and Tampa Bay Cycle and Walkwise Tampa Bay are using Facebook and Twitter to announce events, build relationships with elected officials and media, and invite participation from individuals, who can post photos and comments. The Atlanta group used Facebook and Twitter to build support for Atlanta’s Car Free Day. As a small organization, they also post their needs on Twitter—for everything from stuffing envelopes to finding a recording studio.

On the infrastructure front, there also were memorable presentations, including the way that a $5000 crosswalk changed a neighborhood’s relationship to its nearby park (and lowered the average rate of speed for cars) to the astounding 3100% increase in cycling on one road in Melbourne, Australia, after new bicycle lanes were added.

Walk Boston described their current campaign to redesign the Charles River bridge. They are pushing not only for a balanced transportation system, but to ramp up space for pedestrians, bicyclists, and transit. Using a range of tactics, from guided walks for the public to accurate presentations for public works officials, Walk Boston has sparked the local imagination about what this bridge could be. They also showed how it is possible to link the local, state, and federal levels in advocating for walking, bicycling, and transit as integral uses of our roadways. 

While I was soaking up ideas in Chattanooga, Bike Walk Twin Cities was at work back home conducting the annual counts of bicyclists and walkers. In Australia, counting has become a nationwide effort, with its own “Super Tuesday.” On that day, counts happen at 900 sites in every state. The count results are being used to leverage more funding per resident on bike infrastructure. The goal in Australia is to achieve 30% mode share for cycling by 2030. And to do that, they feel they will need to spend $100 million annually. On our own turf, Andy Clarke, president of the league of American Bicyclists, called for a 20% mode share for bicycling by 2020, and said we could get there by focusing on the 40% of trips that are 2 miles or less.

I’ve only touched on some of the highlights from the conference. I also heard some great presentations about individual social marketing from Whatcom Smart-Trips and our own Saint Paul Smart-Trips.

I’ll close with a few memorable quotes from the week.

"If freeways were the answer, LA would be paradise."

"Vulnerable road users take priority at intersections."

“Oil is the biggest item in our trade deficit.”

“Worldwide, drivers underestimate the time and cost of car ownership and overestimate the costs of alternatives.”