In the last half hour of the CA Bike Summit in downtown Los Angeles I met Bill Haas of the Pacific Coast Conservation Alliance. We were both a little tired at this point.
Perhaps because of my fatigue or maybe just because it was the last thing I heard, I remember well what he shared, “This is the best conference I’ve ever attended.” It made me pause; could I imagine a better, more informative 3 days at anything I’ve ever attended? It was an overwhelming event for many. The quality of the speakers, the time spent in small groups digging into meaningful topics, the commitment of the attendees, the number of cities and coalitions represented, their news of progress in achieving greater bicycle ridership — it all added up to an inspiring experience for me.
I heard from people in Santa Barbara, USC, Santa Cruz, Los Angeles and Long Beach (of course), San Luis Obispo, San Diego, San Francisco, Santa Monica, Sacramento, San Jose, Huntington Beach, UCSD — committed bike advocates from all these locales are dedicated to improving conditions for cyclists. It’s easy to imagine that, no matter how long things take here at home, we will succeed in creating infrastructure improvements, educating our youth, slowing traffic, making the case to business districts that cycling is good for the bottom line — all this will happen in our lifetime, because the alternatives are so bleak. Our dependance on fossil fuels and the automobile have damaged our communities and imperiled our health.
Jeff Miller of the Alliance for Biking and Walking, I still can’t forget his opening remarks where he used time-lapse PowerPoints to show the incredible increases in obesity over the past 20 years. His map of the lower 48 was turning from green to yellow to red to brown to black to reflect greater percentages of obesity by state. Then the map slides to half size so a map of bicycle ridership by state can be shown, side by side — the correlations are obvious: Our dependance on automobiles is ruining our health and the bicycle can be the way to dig ourselves out.
I suggested to several new friends that although the breadth of information was so great, I needed to focus on the few things I would bring back to focus on. In the days and weeks ahead I hope to share just what those pearls will be. Look forward to bikeNewportBeach’s first public meeting where we’ll invite you to bring your ideas forward.
As I look back at the Summit I have a few memories that will stick with me. Sunday’s closing pep rally by Safe Routes to School’s Deb Hubsmith — that woman had us all cheering at the end of her high-octane delivery. Then there was lunch across the street at Philippe’s French Dipped Sandwiches, a classic LA lunch scene that this day had 2 TV camera crews present to film the crowd’s reaction to the imminent Conrad Murray verdict. It will come as no surprise that I ended up in front of the camera, and with just enough forethought to compare an involuntary manslaughter charge to that of killing a cyclist — I probably ended up on the cutting room floor. Then, back to Bill Haas — he told me of this cool retro bike shop, CoCo’s Variety on Riverside Drive, “Not too far away,” and the vintage Peugeot he found. I Googled the place and David Huntsman gave me a lift; we were both curious. This was the first bike I saw as I stepped out of the car, this vintage Specialized might be perfect for my son off at school. His bike was stolen last spring and he rejected the idea of a new shiny bike that would attract unwanted attention; this bike would perfectly blend into Santa Cruz’s culture. So if he comes home for Thanksgiving as planned, I’ll have to give it up.