Mar 1, 2011

Bike Summit on Capitol Hill

I took yesterday off of work to participate in the Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota's (BikeMN) inaugural Minnesota Bike Summit on Capitol Hill. This was an all-day event organized by BikeMN and supported by the usual sponsors (Dero, QBP, Erik's and Penn, etc.). The purpose of the event was to communicate BikeMN's legislative agenda for 2011 to the membership and the legislators and generate some enthusiasm for the year's work.

The day started with a cross-town bus adventure on the 133 and 94b. I had hoped to ride, but it was pretty seriously cold and the journey from So. MPLS to the Capitol was more than I wanted to take on at 5 degrees.

The morning session was devoted to communicating the legislative agenda (more on that below), training the membership on how to work with legislators, and updates from speakers including the BikeMN executive director, the mayor of Rochester (congratulations on the "bike friendly" designation, guys) and our own Jim Oberstar. Oberstar is an amazing speaker, and he's a good guy, too. He took my coffee cup for me because he was camped in front of the dirty-dish shoot. Sorry to do that to you, Mr. Oberstar.

After lunch, we moved to the Capitol Rotunda for a good pep rally with more speakers, then headed out to speak with our elected officials about the legislative agenda.

The 2011 BikeMN legislative agenda, in a nutshell, is as follows:

  • Increase Careless Driving Penalties - BikeMN supports increasing the penalty for causing great bodily harm, substantial bodily harm or death while committing a driving violation from a misdemeanor to a gross misdemeanor ($3,000 maximum fine and up to one year in jail). House bill is here; if you have a link to the Senate bill, let me know because all I can find are author reports.
  • Authorize the Mississippi River Trail State Bikeway - BikeMN supports the authorization of the Mississippi River Trail from Itasca to the Iowa border as a state bikeway.
  • Reauthorize Minnesota's Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP) - BikeMN supports the reauthorization of SHIP at $20 million per year for the 2012/2013 biennium.
  • Fund Safe Routes to School Infrastructure Grants - BikeMN supports a bonding allocation of $3 million to the MN/DOT Safe Routes to SChool program in fiscal years 2012 and 2013.
This was an interesting day. I have done government affairs work through my day job (briefings at the DOE, Department of State, State energy advisory panels, etc.), but it's different to do this sort of thing close to home. I was also impressed with the turn-out; I heard that 150 people had pre-registered for this event and more registered at the door, bringing the total to about 175 people. That's powerful.

Follow along because it's going to be an interesting year on the bike advocacy front.

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