On a rainy Thursday in DC, LACBC staff Alexis Lantz and Marissa Christiansen joined the ranks of more than 800 national bike advocates and 71 other California bike advocates for “lobbying day” on the Hill.  Thursday March 10th was the culmination of the League of American Bicyclists National Bike Summit, an annual endeavor aimed at bringing the country’s bicycle advocates, manufacturers, retailers and constituents together to lobby for the prioritization of federal funding for bicycle infrastructure.

Marissa Christiansen, Congressman Brad Sherman, Barbara Torres, Alexis Lantz, and Jessica Meaney in the Congressman's Capitol Hill office

The advocates’ bike attire was replaced with button-downs, suits and (for some of us) heels.  While our attire may not have represented the best choice in East Coast storm preparedness, our choice in messaging, asks and talking points proved successful.

Attendees from each state met with their Congressional Representatives to start a dialogue about the Transportation Enhancement, Safe Routes to School, and Recreation Trails Program success stories from their state and district and how bicycle friendly communities provide economic, accessibility and health benefits.  We had a particular challenge in dividing and conquering the meetings with eleven Senate and Congressional offices…but divide and conquer we did.  We were joined on many of our meetings by Barbara Torres (California Bicycle Coalition & North Hills resident), Jessica Meaney (Safe Routes to School National Partnership and LA resident), Gary Brustin (League of American Bicyclists & Santa Monica resident), Larry Pizzi (President of Currie Technologies and Venice business owner) and a few additional folks like Fred Clements, the Executive Director of the National Bicycle Dealers Association and JT Lyons who was also representing the National Bicycle Dealers Association and owns Moment Cycle Sport bike shop down in San Diego.

Each office we met with received a breakdown on their district’s Transportation Enhancement and Safe Routes to School expenditures over the last several years, the annual revenue generated from their district’s bicycle retailers, the basics of bicycle infrastructure economics and we stressed the importance of these funding sources for leveraging mass transit investments – especially with the 30/10 projects. Most importantly we extended invitations to all of our representatives to join us in their district for a walk or bike to school event and of course we asked them to join us on April 10th for CicLAvia

California bike advocates right before meeting with Senator Boxer's staff

In addition to our congressional meetings we, along with advocates from around the state, met with staff from both SenatorBoxer and Senator Feinstein’s offices where we all shared local success stories to support the importance of Safe Routes to School, Transportation Enhancements, and the Recreational Trails Program funding to California. In both meetings we specifically talked about the public health issues in Los Angeles County as a result of the high rate of obesity in our area. According to the County Department of Public Health (DPH) Los Angeles County spends $3.43 billion on obesity related illnesses. Because of this DPH is funding multiple bicycle and pedestrian planning related projects in our area and cities such as Long Beach and Culver City are leveraging those dollars by applying for Safe Routes to School and Transportation Enhancements funding. We shared their success stories and gave our senators support to help preserve the current federal funding levels for these programs.

In every office we met with a number of Congressional staff had someone, if not the representative themselves, who regularly enjoys a bike ride to work or for fun.  The sentiments were overwhelmingly positive, but there is still work to be done to ensure our infrastructure funding is protected in a political climate where everything is facing cuts. This spring Senator Boxer will be working with Chairman Mica (R-Fl) on the next federal Transportation Bill and we know it will be a tough battle to maintain current funding levels due to conservative climate in the house. So over the coming months we’ll be calling on those of you who live in republican districts in LA County to share your stories about walking and biking in your district with your representatives and ask them to step up in support of these vital funding sources for biking and walking.

 We met with staff from the offices of:

 Representative Linda Sanchez   (39th District)                                                                

Representative Dana Rohrbacher  (46th District)                                                                

Representative Henry Waxman  (30th District)                                                              

Representative Maxine Waters   (35th District)                                                        

Representative Laura Richardson  (37th District)                                                

Representative Grace Napolitano  (38th District)                                                              

Representative Lucille Roybal-Allard  (34th District) 

We met in-person with two congressmen:

 Representative Xavier Becerra  (31st District)                                                                    

Representative Brad Sherman  (27th District) 

Co-authored by Marissa Christiansen and Alexis Lantz