By Vivian Ortiz, BACH Steering Committee Member and Mattapan resident
On March 5-7, I had the pleasure of attending the League of American Bicyclists’ National Bike Summit in Washington, DC as a member of the Massachusetts delegation.
Opening day started with a presentation from Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao. She gave an overview of the Trump administration’s infrastructure plan, that heavily favors spending for road improvements and significant cuts to trail programs and public transit. A day and a half of workshops were followed by the annual Lobby Day. The 400 attendees visited Capitol Hill to ask our members of Congress to support efforts to increase biking throughout the country. After presenting the federal “asks”, the conversations with the staffers of our Massachusetts delegation switched to more local concerns: the influx of bike-sharing programs, the introduction of e-bikes, and the concerns of bicyclists sharing the roads with self-driving cars.
The conversation on bike share is where BACH’s work on bicycling is most relevant. Early in 2017, leaders from BACH and the Boston Public Health Commission working on the Let’s Get Healthy, Boston! project, citywide Healthy Community Champions (HCCs), and the Boston Cyclists Union leadership, met with members of the Boston Transportation Department (BTD) to strongly encourage the continuation of a lower rental rate option to make bike share more equitable for all residents. The City of Boston’s recently announced discounted rate for SNAP recipients was a result of this collaboration.
The introduction of bike share programs has increased interest in cycling and also been criticized for the affordability and availability in non-white and lower-income communities. When Mayor Walsh announced the expansion of the bike share program last fall, BTD staff immediately reached out to HCCs in Dorchester and Mattapan to help in build awareness on the program and give input on the placement of the bikes in their neighborhoods.
Every year, the Summit gathers hundreds of bicyclists in our nation’s capital to advocate for better biking. Not surprisingly, most of the participants are more experienced cyclists and look nothing like me. Which is no different than my bike life in Boston. But in every experience, there are outliers. The Summit has introduced me to an amazing group of mostly non-white women that all discovered biking “later” in life. Our similarities make us gravitate toward each other where we share our frustrations, joys, and make a commitment to continue raising our voices to make biking a norm in our country. A special thank you to the BACH scholarship committee that helped make #NBS18 a reality for me.