Just Trying to Catch Up!

It’s been a busy week-plus, and there are so many topics I have wanted to blog about, but just haven’t had the time. And now I wonder if there is any point in going back, so I guess I’ll touch on the highlights.

At work, we have been crazy-busy getting ready for National Walk @ Lunch Day, April 24th. Walk @ Lunch Day is a Blue Cross Blue Shield event that we promoted to our employer clients last year, with about 200 total participants. This year we decided to add pit stops, places where walking teams could stop during their walks, and somehow the number of participants has grown to over 800! We could blame it on the goodie bags, but we gave those out last year as well. We can’t even blame it on our awesome video, but I’d like to, so here it is: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MrVXbyerOpc Isn’t it great?!IMG_4537

Last week was all about TDM – The Association for Commuter Transportation’s (ACT, aka my national association) Leadership Academy for two days (learning how to be a leader can be a bit intimidating!); ACT’s Legislative Summit, where we learned about transportation legislation, and talked to our representatives on the Hill about the importance of transit parity and TDM (and how cheap it is compared to building new roads!); then the local chapter of aforementioned association held a one-day summit, where I presented about transportation alternatives in emergency planning. At the last minute I stepped in to moderate another panel. Whew! That’s a lot of talk about how to get people to change their car-dependent ways!

Saturday, The Mechanic and I biked into DC to attend the Brooks Dashing Bicycle Show at Bicycle Space. IMG_4807

Although they had a bike valet, we opted to lock up down the street. IMG_4809

Bikey though I might be, I was pretty excited to see a 1931 pickup parked in front of Bicycle Space. I learned to drive, at the tender age of 15, in a 1928 Model A Ford pickup.IMG_4803

As much as I want to share the picture of me in the Model A, well, I was a teen, and look pretty dorky. I’m just not sure I can…¬† It was cool to see all the Brooks saddles, and bags, and coats, and other accessories, even my favorite GiveLoveCycle being sold in the shop. We had Hendricks Gin punch, and The Mechanic bought Bike Snob‘s new book, Bike Snob Abroad¬†(which, I might add, he’s already finished!), but managed to leave without realizing we’d miss out on Bike Snob’s presentation. Oops. Damn. I comfort myself with the knowledge that we’ve been slandered on his blogpost. At least, the back of our heads have been…. IMG_4797

Biking through DC, fashionable and reflective though I was, made me think about the keynote speaker from last week’s summit, Jeff Speck. He is a city planner and his most recent book is about walkability, Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America, One Step at a Time. I definitely agree that making cities walkable will make them better for us all – even though I bike everywhere, I still walk just as much, and feel way more vulnerable as a pedestrian than as a cyclist. Drivers in cars pay less attention to people on foot than on two weeks. I did notice that most of Speck’s examples of innovative, redesigned cities still had the bike lanes on the outside of the parked cars. I hate to harp on Copenhagen, but it felt so much safer to have the bike lane next to the sidewalk, and to have buses and cars physically separated by the raised lane.100_8229

Someday, when I live in Copenhagen, I may look back on this as naivete but I really hope American cities move towards this. I think that as active transportation and health issues move closer and closer together (walking at lunch is fun AND healthy, an cities should promote it more!), we will see more interest in connecting areas, not just cool downtown areas, but neighborhoods were people can walk to grocery stores and coffee shops, and to see each other, to make our lives better all around.

Okay, you talked me into it – here I am at the wheel of the Model A – Early Driver

LaHood and Leadership

Yesterday’s announcement from U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, that he would not serve a second term, did not come as a huge shock; I’d heard rumors last summer that he had only planned on serving one term. I think, however, that we were still all disappointed when it became official – LaHood has been a huge proponent of all types of transportation, not just highways. 479px-Ray_LaHood_official_DOT_portrait

When I first started my current job, LaHood’s Fast Lane blog was one of the recommended industry sources, and The Mechanic and I had the opportunity to hear him speak; he struck me as genuine, which seems rare, and was very refreshing. I haven’t followed him through his entire term, so I can’t talk about his legacy with any sort of insight. Instead, I will offer up the Atlantic Cities article, “5 Ways the Next U.S. Secretary of Transportation Will Be Forced to Follow Ray LaHood’s Lead.”

LaHood’s legacy will be that he has initiated what the article calls “seismic transitions”: basically, that transportation is more than highways, that “smart” transportation makes places “livable,” that it takes a village of housing, education, environment, and more to create the aforementioned “livable” areas, and local leaders often know best. Oh, and technology is dramatically changing how we get around (but no distracted driving people!).

This new way of thinking is my way of thinking, so I am sad to see LaHood go. But I am about to embark on a new adventure that could see me becoming more active in promoting multi-modal, livable, healthier communities. This weekend, my job is generously sending me to the Association of Commuter Transportation‘s Leadership Academy. ACT is an international association for transportation demand management (TDM) professionals. Some people like to call it mobility management, like my friends at Mobility Lab. (Check out their video explaining what it is.) ACT logo

Part of what we will be doing at the Leadership Academy will be learning about transportation policy, and the ins and outs of government and lobbying. We will also be assigned group projects, which will hopefully have some legs to stand on once we graduate. I want to find a way to promote the need for communities to be inclusive, so that everyone can get around safely and comfortably. I think it is most important to start thinking about how the elderly, the disabled, and mothers with small children get around. What is safest for them? On a bus the other day, I watched two different mothers struggle on and off with baby strollers, and it just made me angry. These populations are our ignored, less vocal, less affluent neighbors, and they deserve better. Not everyone has the luxury of driving everywhere – so we punish them by giving 25 second crosswalk times across major intersections, call buttons nowhere near sidewalks, if there are sidewalks, and blame them if they get hurt trying to go about their business?! I just don’t think that is right.Ships 030

I hope to find a way to get national and local associations that advocate for the elderly and the disabled and the poor to work with transportation agencies, to come up with plans for the future that prioritize safe walking, bike lanes, convenient buses, bus routes, and stops, and subways and streetcars. And although I am a huge proponent for biking-as-transportation (not just sport), I firmly believe that it is only one piece of the puzzle – there can be no single focus, to the neglect of the other pieces. It must be holistic.

It seems like a daunting task, but I know that for three days, I will be with like-minded individuals, and I look forward to the ideas and plans we come up with.

Kinda excited!

Kinda excited!