Insights From the Nation’s Best in Pittsburgh

Inclusion, Diversity, Equity
Like the National Bike Summit in March and our own CalBike Summit last November, both the retreat and conference were more inclusive than ever, by far. I’ve been involved in this movement for 25 years and for most of that time, we’ve talked about the importance of inclusion without doing much to accomplish it. Thanks to a new cohort of leaders and the support of the Equity Advisory Council of the League of American Bicyclists, we’re finally doing something. The retreat included a workshop that got us all to take immediate and concrete steps to make our organizations more inclusive. I am optimistic that we’re overcoming the latent racism, sexism, and other forms of discrimination that have subtly but insidiously impeded our progress.

Protected Bikeways Mature in the U.S.
A spanking new two-way cycle track on Penn Avenue next to the Pittsburgh Convention Center highlights the arrival of protected bikeways at the front of the national bike agenda. Deep analysis of protected bikeways at the conference makes it clear that bike planners and engineers are ready to implement them in every city, effectively and safely, and that the results for the safety, health, and prosperity of our communities will be tremendous. It was fun to celebrate the legislative approval of California’s own “Protected Bikeways Act” (AB 1193) with our national allies and to strategize about building next generation infrastructure throughout the state.

Bicycle Level of Service Is Dead.
Long Live Bicycle Network Level of Service.
As we will explain in a presentation at the conference, CalBike supported the Active Transportation Program because of the potential that, being so large, it could fund the planning and construction of whole bicycle networks. The ATP didn’t quite live up to that potential, in part because our vision for bike planning is a little ahead of the field. But not for long. Professional planners are developing reliable and objective measures of the connectivity of a bike network. Soon, we’ll able to assess a community, and its bike plan, and measure the proportion of trips a resident can make without dealing with too much traffic stress.

BikeShare Is Exploding. (Not literally.)
There’s practically an entire track at the conference dedicated to BikeShare. It’s exploding. Multiple companies are in the business, and California is poised to benefit. San Diego will soon get a 1700-bike system; the system will be privately funded, and therefore more expensive and less equitable than the publicly funded programs, but it will still be a huge boon for San Diego. The Bay Area system is expanding. Stay tuned. The bike share world is rocking.

Deb Hubsmith Will Continue to Rock Our World.
Speaking of rocking, Deb Hubsmith, the rock star executive director of the Safe Routes to School National Partnership, is stepping down from that role to concentrate on her health as she recovers from a bout with leukemia. Her prognosis is great. And so is ours, because she called me personally to say that she is not stepping away from California advocacy. In a reduced and more healthful capacity, she will continue to advocate for active transportation for California. I have some ideas for her!

Everyone “Gets” Advocacy.
And there’s this. In decades earlier, these conferences would not have featured speaker after speaker talking about politics. But this week in Pittsburgh, every plenary seems to include a call for advocacy. Support your advocacy organizations. Get involved in elections. Be political. It’s refreshing to see the movement grow up and get sophisticated like this!

The Nation Looks to California — and to CalBike!
CalBike is well represented here in Pittsburgh. I’m not the only one presenting: three of our Board members–Vice President Charlie Gandy, Stephan Vance, and Cynthia Rose are also speaking. Leaders at the national level as well as those from other states are relying on California to lead the way, whether on promoting electric bikes, advocating for complete streets policies, or working with national companies like Airbnb. You and I, as Californians, have a special role to play. That’s all I’m saying.


Bike advocates and planners, including Brigitte Smith from the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, gear up for a bike tour of Pittsburgh bike facilities. Photo by Dave Snyder.

Bike advocates and planners, including Bridget Smith from the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, gear up for a bike tour of Pittsburgh bike facilities. Photo by Dave Snyder.

The conference inspired Pittsburgh to install a beautiful two-way cycle track on Penn Ave, still receiving final touches as the conference was underway.

Penn Ave before. photo by google.

Penn Ave before. photo by google.

Penn Ave after, photo by Jeff Owen, posted to twitter.

Penn Ave after, photo by Jeff Owen, posted to twitter.