National Bike Summit and the Vision Zero Cities Conference Recaps

By Barbara Jacobson and Lauren LeClaire

It has been a busy time winding up towards the spring! Right after moving into a new office space, the MassBike staff left for the National Bike Summit in Washington, DC for a series of speakers and panels on a variety of topics followed by a day of lobbying on Capitol Hill. After three days at the National Bike Summit, Programs Director Barbara Jacobson continued on to New York to represent MassBike at the Vision Zero Conference.

[caption id="attachment_24506" align="alignleft" width="300"] International Women's Day was celebrated by the delegation being made up mostly of women![/caption]

This year the delegation from Massachusetts included representation from MassBike, Boston Cyclists Union, Mattapan Food and Fitness, and Zagster. The group represented the diversity of the state of Massachusetts with local advocates, community-based groups, retail, and corporate representation, all focused on a common goal to improve bicycling in the state using their own unique strategies. The summit overlaps International Women’s Day, which bolstered excitement as the majority of the delegation members are women! As bicycling for transportation continues to become more ingrained in culture, the users will become more diverse. Massachusetts is proud to showcase the diversity of voices at the summit.

Programs Director, Barbara Jacobson & Becca Wolfson, Interim Executive Director of the Boston Cyclists Union participated on a panel about Vision Zero initiatives in cities throughout the United States. Vision Zero is a policy that originally started in Sweden and is focused on eliminating traffic crashes and fatalities to zero because zero is the only acceptable number for such incidences. Many cities throughout the United States have adopted Vision Zero policies such as New York, Los Angeles, Fort Lauderdale and Boston.

[caption id="attachment_24507" align="alignleft" width="300"] Becca and Barbara on the Vision Zero panel.[/caption]

The panel included Tamika Butler, Executive Director of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, Nick Jackson from Toole Design Group, Sam Zimbabwe, District Department of Transportation based in Washington, DC and was moderated by Leah Shahum Director, Vision Zero Network.

Barbara and Becca presented on the formation of the Massachusetts Vision Zero Coalition, a collective effort among advocacy groups and individuals to educate, inform and support the adoption and follow-through of Vision Zero policies and road designs throughout the Commonwealth. The panel served as a catalyst for engaging bike advocates within a broader context of improving the roadways for all users. In turn the Vision Zero strategy can help to strengthen the messaging bike advocates have been saying for years. By coupling Vision Zero with redesigning roadways for people it helps to create consensus that bike infrastructure is beneficial to all users.

[caption id="attachment_24504" align="alignright" width="300"] MA delegation meeting with Senator Markey.[/caption]

Following two days of inspirational speakers and panels, the delegation took to the hill! The delegation was sent to meet with Massachusetts legislators to discuss key bills that the League of American Bicyclists had asked us to champion. Our first ask was to remind them that there is specific funding available (402/405 funding) for educational purposes and to ensure this funding is utilized. Second was the Personal Health Investment Today Act (PHIT) which would make it easier for all Americans to be physically active. It would allow individuals and families to use pre-tax dollars for physical fitness activities through flexible spending accounts (FSAs) and health savings accounts (HSAs). This means bicycles, cycling education classes, gym memberships, or school athletic fees could be paid for with pre-tax dollars. The MA legislators and their staff that the delegation met with were all extremely receptive! MassBike will follow up with each office over the coming weeks to ensure that these asks are followed through on.

[caption id="attachment_24503" align="alignright" width="300"] Meeting with Senator Warren.[/caption]

A fun highlight from the summit, we were lucky to be joined by the winner of the Saris poster contest, as the winner was Caleb from Somerville! Caleb came to the lobby day meetings and was honored at Representative Capuano's office. Caleb's winning design now resides on Capitol Hill! The delegation was thrilled to have him as part of the process. Thanks Caleb and your family for coming along!

[caption id="attachment_24511" align="alignleft" width="300"] Caleb and his winning poster for the Saris contest.[/caption]

The day after lobby day at the National Bike Summit, it was off to the Vision Zero Cities Conference in New York City. Highlights included best practices and projects from former New York City’s transportation commissioner, Janette Sadik-Khan, and the release of her book, Street Fight. There were compelling testimonies of strength and motivation to improve road conditions from Families for Safe Streets co-founders Amy and Hsi-Pei Liao who channeled their grief from losing their three year old daughter, Allison when she was hit and killed while crossing the street. There was representation form the masked Peatónito, the ‘Superhero of the Streets’, from Mexico City. He uses humor to bring awareness to the importance of crosswalks and preventing crashes and fatalities from happening. Here is a video from his time in New York City.

Additionally, Ydanis Rodriguez, Councilman and the chair of the NYC Committee on Transportation announced Car Free NYC. The event will take place on Earth Day, April 22nd. This event will create the opportunity for people to use the streets instead of cars.

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