A little Q&A after the keynotes, Andy Clarke quizzes NYC DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan and Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) who forgot to remove his pant leg protector.
I woke to the sound of my smartphone alarm; it felt like 3:30am to me, so it’s easy to hit the snooze, but then I remember why I’m getting up so seemingly early: it’s Day 2 of the National Bike Summit here in Washington, DC, but I don’t start moving yet. Like I do at home, I start by checking emails, not many this early, and by reading the New York Times. That’s where I have my first encounter with NYC’s Commissioner, Department of Transportation, Janette Sadik-Khan. The paper’s reporting on the suit being brought by disgruntled neighbors relating to a 19-block bike lane in Park Slope in Brooklyn. Really, you gotta be some kinda curmudgeon to find fault with this bicycle infrastructure improvement, and it’s so much more than just a bike lane; traffic is slowed through the neighborhood making it safer for kids, the elderly and cyclists least of all. I’ll never get called as a juror now.
Then it’s off to the conference where the opening plenary session gets started with Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) who begins with a little imagination play: “picture in your mind, around the city all the people stuck in traffic on their way to exercise on a stationary bicycle!” That strikes the right tone with this standing-room-only crowd of almost 800, and he doesn’t relent. “This wave is cresting,” he says of the bicycle movement in this country, it’s “a tide that will not be stopped.” He wont be happy until he sees more people burning calories, not fossil fuels.
Earl’s like the warm-up band for the main event, and the audience knows it and plays along. Janette Sadik-Khan’s up next and everyone’s here to listen to her; she wastes little time before offering her advice. “We can’t wait for Washington,” she exhorts, “the movement is here!” Big applause. Alluding to her feature in the NYTimes, she admits “it’s painstaking work and setbacks are to be expected when you’re in the business of change.” But it’s worth it, “New York has the safest streets in a hundred years!” Applause.
She has a surprise for us. How can small cities benefit from the work that NYC, San Francisco, Chicago, Portland, Boston and 10 other cities have done when none of the specs can be found in the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD)? Now they can simply download the new NACTO Urban Bikeway Design Guide and get to work. Thunderous applause as she returns to her seat, which I can’t help but notice is just 3 from mine, so when she gets up to sneak out the side door I figure nothing’s gonna top this, so I make my own early exit. One minute later as I’m wandering through the empty vendors’ booths there she is, obviously talking to a reporter, something about a “spurious suit”; it’s a short call. She hangs up, turns to me, looks at my name tag and says, “Newport Beach, that’s a beautiful place to ride.” I can’t argue with that, but it’s only after I giver her my card that I realize my name tag says Corona del Mar; she knows her geography, too.