League of American Bicyclists

The League promotes bicycling for fun, fitness and transportation and works through advocacy and education for a bicycle-friendly America.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Head of South Carolina Dept. of Transportation Speaks

Speech just given during the Closing Pleanry Session today by Elizabeth Mabry, Executive Director, South Carolina DOT:

It is a great pleasure to be here with you today. I am honored you asked me to talk about the progress the South Carolina Department of Transportation has made in accommodating bicycles on our highways. First, I am going to tell you something that you may find disappointing – I do not ride a bicycle.

However I believe I would like to be with you out on the roads because some of the most interesting and well-rounded people are bicyclists.

I believe that is because when you are on a bicycle, you are open to nature. You can speak to people on their porches. You have the ability to see interesting situations – and stop and get a closer view.
These things don’t happen when you are speeding along a highway in a car, talking on a cell phone. .

Society today is craving the opportunity to experience a better quality of life, and cycling in the perfect answer to meet this need. That is why I want to be a bicycle rider. There is one thing that has been holding me back - I don’t want to die. In South Carolina that has been a very real concern, and SCDOT is tackling it with determination.

We are extremely troubled that there are more fatalities involving walkers and bicyclists on South Carolina routes than there are on South Carolina interstate highways. I believe there are three reasons for this.

First SCDOT has the responsibility for 42,000 miles of road, which is the 4th largest state, maintained highway system in the country; and we have the least funding per mile of all the states in the nation. About 25,000 of our miles are narrow two lane roads with no shoulders. Others are major highways and not enough of them have accommodations for bicycles and pedestrians. This creates a serious safety issue for all the road users.

The second reason is that many motorists do not want to share the road because they are in too much of a hurry to get somewhere.

The third is that the transportation culture has traditionally been geared toward moving cars and trucks, not cyclist and walkers.

We have found that there are two major strategies for addressing these issues - education and money.

Bicycling organizations are doing an excellent job educating the public about the benefits of cycling. You know these benefits so I don’t need to talk about them. What I would like to do is tell you why South Carolina began taking notice of the issues and what we have done to address funding and education.

As you know, Congress has stressed the importance of non-motorized transportation for the past twelve years in federal transportation bills.

These bills provide funding to states and set priorities for transportation in America. So Congress got the states’ attention with the great motivator – money.

Because of the Congressional action, SCDOT appointed a bicycle coordinator, who began meeting and working with cyclists.

About ten years ago the SC General Assembly passed the State Energy and Efficiency Act, which advocated more bicycle and pedestrian accommodations on major state highway projects, but did not attach any money for the effort. In fact it has been 18 years since South Carolina increased transportation funding. Since the Energy and Efficiency Act simply advocated action, and since there was no money, the concept was not fully appreciated by our agency.

In my opinion the epiphany occurred about seven years ago when SCDOT implemented our strategic plan that included goals and measurements, which were reported and discussed at leadership team meetings.
Two of those goals were, and still are, safety and customer service.

We saw the upward trend in bicycle and pedestrian fatalities. This alarmed us. In the area of customer service we began to look beyond what we thought we should be providing to the public, and began to listen to what our customers wanted. There were many significant situations where bicyclists made there needs known – but one that stands out for me is the campaign for bicycle and pedestrian accommodations on the new bridge crossing the Cooper River in Charleston.

This bridge replacement project was needed for many decades but there simply was no funding. Finally a good portion of the funding was made available, but not enough for the bridge that everyone desired. SCDOT asked builders to propose a project they could build with the limited funding – and to also give us the price for the bridge that was desired. We asked that bicycle and pedestrian accommodations be priced separately as “add ons” or amenities. To make a long story short, the bicycling groups organized a huge campaign to make sure that bike lanes were not considered as “add ons” but as a necessary part of the project. They sent about thirty children to a Commission meeting – and they all wore little tee shirts that said, “Bike the Bridge”.

Because of these efforts, along with the efforts of the state and local governments, a funding package was put together that allowed us to sign a contract for the bridge that everyone wanted - bike lanes and all.

I am pleased to tell you that the Cooper River Bridge will be opening this coming June – and what is even more amazing, it is one year ahead of schedule and on budget.

I hope you get an opportunity to Bike the Bridge, which is longest cable stayed span bridge in he Western Hemisphere and which also happens to be on the East Coast Greenway route.

After the Bridge experience, we wanted to find a way to better communicate with the Bicycle community, so we established an Advisory Committee. The SCDOT Enhancement Liaison, Tesa Griffin leads that Committee. As the person linking the public and SCDOT Engineers on all Enhancement projects, Tesa works closely with the SCDOT bicycle coordinator, local governments and communities.
I am very pleased that Tesa could be with me here today. Tesa, stand up and wave so everyone see who you are.

The dialog and partnerships that came out of the Advisory Committee created the energy and momentum that was needed to begin to move bicycle accommodations from good intentions to real commitment.

I cannot emphasize enough the value of these partnerships. I would like to mention a few:

One partner is the Palmetto Cycling Coalition—this group provides us with bicyclist’s perspective on highway issues.

Their outstanding President, Dr. Paul LeFrancois and their dynamic Executive Director, Natalie Britt, are here at the Summit, and hopefully you have had the opportunity to meet them.

Another partner is the South Carolina Division of the Federal Highway Administration. Our Division Administrator, Bob Lee, and his staff are with us 100% on all issues, including bicycle acommodations.

We also partner with our Metropolitan Planning Organizations and Regional Councils of Governments. These two groups are very involved with SCDOT in highway planning and they are including bicycle accommodations in their project proposals.

Another support group, the South Carolina Legislature, has now formed a Bike and Pedestrian Caucus. This is the first such caucus in South Carolina, and I believe it came about in part due to the urgings of the Palmetto Cycling Coalition,

Also the SCDOT Commission adopted a resolution declaring that bicycling and walking accommodations would be included in every SCDOT project.

This was a major step in our commitment to change the agency culture from one that focused on moving cars and trucks – to a culture that considers all modes of transportation. To help accomplish the change we had to put bike lanes into the design assembly line.
They had to be shown in the standard drawings, and not as something that was added later. The Commission’s resolution gave the engineering staff and others a clear sense that we are serious about efforts to “Complete the Streets.”

Because of the SCDOT Commission action, the Governor’s Council for Physical Fitness, who is another one of our outstanding partners, selected SCDOT for their 2003 “Public Policy Award.”

SCDOT also made a major decision in 2002 to hold an annual Bicycle and Pedestrian Conference. This event brings together citizen advocates, elected officials, and planners to discuss ways to provide better facilities for cyclists.

Because we are committed to changing agency culture, we make sure that SCDOT employees from all disciplines attend the conferences. This allows them to learn first hand about the issues and concerns.

Different areas of the state are featured each year as the conference location move around the state. I hope you can join us on December 7, 8 and 9 at the 2005 Conference in Hilton Head, South Carolina.

Tesa Griffin and the Advisory Committee are currently planning the sessions. In the past we have been fortunate to have nationally recognized speakers. For example Andy Clarke was one of our featured speakers in 2003 and Mele Williams, the League’s Governmental affairs representative spoke at the conference in 2004.

I am confident that the Hilton Head Conference will also be a success and that attendance will continue to grow.

Some results of SCDOT’s efforts can be seen in the hundreds of thousands of feet of bicycle lanes, sidewalks and wider shoulders that have been added to our highways.

And in 2004, we dedicated almost $3 million of our Transportation Enhancement funds to improving our statewide Bicycle Tour Routes.

We were very fortunate that SCDOT was the recipient of a $50,000 grant from the Bikes Belong Coalition. We plan to use these funds for employee training and development SCDOT wants every employee to understand the benefits of Complete Streets.

We learned quite a few lessons about accommodating bicycles over the last few years and the advice we would offer to other states is simple:
Communicate a clear vision.
Form strong partnerships.
Make bicycle accommodations a routine part of highway projects - not optional. As an example, just as we don’t ask “Would you like drainage with this highway?” we should not ask “Would you like bike lanes?” Both are integral parts of any highway improvement project.

South Carolina still has much work to do in raising awareness of the benefits of accommodating bicycles on public roads. We still have work to do in changing agency culture, and we still need additional funding to meet our needs.
But we have come a long way thanks to help from our partners. In fact, we have come so far that I am seriously considering buying a bicycle and hitting the roads with all of you interesting and well rounded people.

I am so pleased that you invited me to join you at this important Summit. Congratulations to the League on 125 years as a leading advocate for improving American transportation. I wish you continued success for the next 125 years and beyond. Thank you.


The Bicycle Museum was a hit! (Photo: Keith Barraclough)

Getting ready for the Congressional Bike Caucus ride...(Photo: Keith Barraclough)

Executive Director of the South Carolina Department of Transportation, Elizabeth Mabry. (Photo: Keith Barraclough)

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Great Hill Meeting Story

Rose Lahti informed me of a great meeting she had today with Rep. Don Young (R-AK) and fellow Alaskan constituents. Rep. Young talked enthusiastically about bicycling during the meeting and reminisced about cycling as a youth. When the group brought up the topic of Safe Routes to School initiatives, Young said, "Everybody who lives within a mile and a half radius should walk to school." An excellent idea in my opinion!

Free Bicycle Museum Exhibit Tomorrow

A traveling bicycle museum will be shown at Garfield Circle on the west side of the U. S. Capitol this Friday, March 18, 2005, 2:00 p.m. until sunset.

The theme is 200 years on 2 wheels. 24 antique bikes from the year 1817 to the present tell the exciting story of the modern bicycle, bicycle by bicycle.

A bicycle historian will give a lecture and answer questions. Admission is free!

Sunny Days are Here Again!

Looks like the weather for tomorrow's bike ride is going to be great!

If you weren't able to attend the conference, but live in the Washington, DC area, you should come out for the Congressional Bike Caucus Ride! Here's the specifics:

What: Congressional Bike Caucus Ride
Where: Garfield Circle, US Capitol Building
When: Friday, March 18, 2005 @ 2pm
Who: You and all of your friends and local officials

National Bike Summit--Day 2: Capitol Hill

Today is the day when we really make an impact en masse on Capitol Hill. League Executive Director Andy Clarke just finished psyching up conference attendees with a speech in the Rayburn House Office Building over a light breakfast. Summit participants were given last minute pointers before heading off to their appointments for the day.

This evening there will be a reception in the Russell Senate Office Building Caucus Room. The invitation-only event is always an exciting moment for conference goers since the results of the day's efforts are announced.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Mineta Says…

“I look forward to working closely with the League of American Bicyclists and others in the coming months and years, to maintain and enhance the role that safe bicycle and pedestrian travel play in our Nation’s transportation system.”

Fact on Funding According to Secretary Mineta

“…the amount of federal funding going to bicycling and walking projects and programs has increased from $23 million in 1992…to $413 million in 2004.”

Mineta Says…

“Determination and perserverence seem to be common traits among bicyclists. Since 1880, the League has worked tirelessly to increase safety and access for bicycle riders nationwide”.

Bicycling is the "Grandfather"

Secretary of Transportation, Norman Mineta, is giving a speech right now:
“I think of it [bicycling] as one of the grandparents in our transportation network. It was, after all, a pair of bicyclists, Orville and Wilbur Wright, who gave birth to powered flight. And to this day, bicycling continues to grow in popularity.”


Bill Fry (president/CEO of Bells Sports & President of the Bikes Belong Coalition) is introducing the Secretary of Transportation, Norman Mineta…

"Now is the Time To Start Thinking About TEA-4"

Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), addressed an ampitheatre filled with conference goers about the importance of bicycle advocacy work, the efficiency of the bicycle as a means of transportation, and the future of cycling legislation.

Blumnauer said, "Now is the time to start thinking about TEA-4". He encouraged all attendees, the bicycle industry and all partners involved to continue with "valuable and beneficial work".

National Bike Summit -- Day 1: Opening Plenary

We got off to a great start today at 8am with Andy Clarke, Executive Director of the League, welcoming everyone to the Summit. Andy talked about the history of the League, it's achievements and the challenges ahead. He introduced the League's president, Chris Kegel, who spoke about the importance of the cycling movement in the United States, and how the National Bike Summit is a "super charger" for advocates.

Conference attendees filter into the Ronald Reagan Building's ampitheatre for the opening plenary.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

League staff signs off names and registers conference early-birds.

National Bike Summit -- Day 0

Pre-registration has just concluded and the League staff has already seen many smiling and familiar faces among Summit early arrivals. Looks like the bags donated by Timbuk2 to carry around conference and lobbying materials is a big hit. One advocate from Texas told me the red, silver, and blue courier bags look "sweet". Special thanks to Timbuk2 for hooking up the League with super gear!

In a few moments, an advocacy workshop entitled, "Advocacy Orientation: Inside the Beltway for Beginners", will begin. The workshop is for first-time cycling advocates. If Thursday will be the first time you will have lobbied on the Hill, you will definitely not want to miss this excellent training session led by Andy Clarke (League of course), Gary Sjoquist (Bikes Belong Coalition), and Jeff Miller (Bicycle Coalition of Maine).

Tomorrow's opening plenary starts at 8:00am. I can't wait!

Monday, March 14, 2005

Summit Delegates Head to Washington

More than 300 participants from 47 states are heading to Washington this week for the 5th annual National Bike Summit®. The Summit officially kicks off Wednesday morning with the traditional welcome from Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and continues with a busy schedule of workshops. The luncheon keynote speaker is Norman J. Mineta, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation.

On Thursday, delegates take to the halls of Congress. To date, more than 200 Congressional Districts are covered, with more meetings being scheduled every day. View the Summit program, including the all-important issue papers, here.

Friday highlights include a plenary presentation from Ms. Elizabeth Mabry, Executive Director of the South Carolina Department of Transportation and a series of workshops that explore the future of the bicycle movement 15 years from now. The Summit ends with a Congressional Bike Caucus bike ride, Friday afternoon.

S.C. Man Plans International Bike Trek to Foster Cultural Awareness

S.C. Man Plans International Bike Trek to Foster Cultural Awareness
By Elise Kleeman Sentinel Correspondent
March 13, 2005:

"Jamie Bianchini is bicycling around the world again, and this time he hopes to convince hundreds of people to join him."