Christina Goes to Washington


My day started like most, with a walk down the hill from my house in the Old North End in Burlington down to Local Motion’s office on the waterfront. However, this time I was lugging a suitcase and had that nervous pre-trip excitement. Instead of a typical office day, I boarded the Amtrak train to New York City before continuing on to Washington, DC to attend the League of American Bicyclists' National Bike Summit.

Amtrak sign in Burlington looking slightly batteredI was happy to remember a tip from a fellow passenger on my first train trip last year, who suggested that if we start facing backwards and on the non-lake (east side) of the train, when it turned around in Rutland, I would then be facing forward and have a clear view of the Hudson River.   The ride itself was pretty straightforward - a mixture of working and taking in the sights along the way.  A quick changeover in the beautiful Moyihan/Penn Station in New York, and then I arrived in Washington’s Union Station around 10pm.  The train station is simply grand with its marble and statues and arched ceilings, and I felt like it honored those of us using this form of transit.   As it was dark and a bit of a walk with a heavy bag, I elected to get a cab to my hotel in Chinatown.



center bike lane down Pennsylvania Avenue with Capitol building in the distanceThe Bike Summit morning program didn’t start until 10am, and I was grateful for that after my late night arrival. After some standing yoga in my tiny, but just right, hotel room, I found some breakfast in a cafe on my way over to the MLK Library where the Summit was held. After registration, I made my way to the closest Capital Bikeshare station, selected a bike and then joined a group of ~25 people for a Mobile Workshop: A Tour of Neighborhood Bikeways in the District. About seven miles and an hour and a half later, I was so happy to travel along the many protected bike lanes from the center of Pennsylvania Avenue to the Capitol building, to those in and around the surrounding neighborhoods. Toddlers and their caretakers playing in the parks took in the sight of this group of cyclists as we marveled at both the cherry blossoms and other spring flowers, gorgeous brownstones all from the comfort and ease of those protected bike lanes. I was glad to have packed a scarf, hat, and warmer gloves for the cool weather of the week - a well prepared Vermonter! 

When the group returned to the MLK Library, which has a stunning central staircase (with an adjacent SLIDE!), for a simple but ample boxed lunch we launched into the opening plenary, titled “Advice from Advocrats”. Veronica O. Davis, who up until a recent mayoral change was the Director of Transportation and Drainage Operations for the City of Houston (TX), gave opening remarks. As a self professed “transportation nerd”, she helped set the scene and tone for advocates who have become bureaucrats and how the two can work together. A few pieces of advice from the panelists included:

  • Truly work to build relationships with those working inside government. Don’t always go in with an ask first.
  • We need more advocates turning into elected and government officials. 
  • Understand how the money flows from federal → state → local projects and be clear on which agency has authority over what. (Side note - this is one of my big learning areas…)
  • Ask how the advocates can help and be willing to reframe our strategy

Next we heard from Shailen Bhatt, Administrator of the Federal Highway Administration. This bureaucrat could also be a stand up comedian, and he gave some poignant remarks as a father of two young children in a family that likes to bike. After sharing a sobering statistic that cyclist fatalities have increased 55% since 2010 and a reminder that these are not just numbers but people, he shared that a new funding source for safety and infrastructure was just announced. The Active Transportation Infrastructure and Investment Program (ATIPP) will put an additional $44.5 million dollars to help bridge gaps in bicycle networks throughout the country. Exciting news!  I hope this is something that we in Vermont can tap into.  

The next portion of the afternoon was dedicated to preparing for the following day’s Lobby Day at the Capitol.  We were given tips on how to conduct the meetings as well as heard the overview of the three official “Asks” that the League supports:

  1. The Sarah Debbink Langenkamp Active Transportation Safety Act - named for a diplomat who was killed by a person driving a truck while biking with her kids to school, this act seeks to make it easier to fund local projects when cities/towns have a local safety plan. Vermont’s Representative Becca Balint is already a co-sponsor of this bill, and I asked the teams of Senator Sanders and Senator Welch to consider adding their names. 
  2. The Complete Streets Act of 2024, which is a way to say that we want streets built for everyone at all ages and abilities. This policy would require the Federal Highway Administration to clarify standards and guidelines and set aside 5% of highway funds to go to state/local governments for complete streets projects. This bill is looking for co-sponsors in both the Senate and House, and I asked the Vermont delegation to consider signing on. 
  3. The Bike Education Bill - which will be introduced in the House tomorrow and have its official name announced. This bill would put into law on-bike education in schools for all children in the country. Some states already do this (Minnesota, Washington, and New York) and how we’d love to see Vermont added to that list, as this is exactly the work Local Motion does with our Bike Smart program. We would love to see it supported for all school districts in our state!

Colleagues from each state in attendance then met to plan their meetings. As the sole attendee from Vermont, I took the time to prepare my notes. I hope in future years we can be more than a delegation of one (who’s with me in 2025??)

After some refreshments, the League announced this year’s award winners. From youth advocates to cycling educators to effective advocacy groups, it was a truly inspiring moment to hear the passion, conviction, and energy to keep on making cycling safer and more inclusive. 

I ended the day with a stroll around part of the National Mall to see the many monuments start to light up against the dusky sky. 



Today was bookended with bicycle rides around the city.  After picking up a Capitol Bikeshare bike, I was grateful for the tour yesterday that showed me how to easily get to the Capitol building via the protected two-way bike lane/cycletrack on 9th Street and then the two way bike lane down the very middle of Pennsylvania Avenue to meet up with the group for the morning Congressional Bike Ride. This was the first opportunity to celebrate and recognize the soon-to-retire Representative Earl Blumenauer of Oregon, who started the bipartisan Bike Caucus.  As a group of ~100, we rode down the National Mall to the Washington Memorial, then back up that Pennsylvania Avenue bike lane back to the Lobby Day Headquarters located in a church near the Capitol building. And this launched the 24th Bike Summit Lobby Day!  Group of bicycles with Washington Monument in the background

Throughout the day, I had three meetings with staffers from our federal delegations’ teams.  They were all incredibly kind and helpful to this first timer, and I was impressed to hear the array of topics that they are responsible for as part of their legislative or correspondence portfolios. Not to mention the many, many meetings they hold during this “fly in” session before the appropriations season comes to a close.  In true small-town Vermont fashion, I chatted with two other Vermonters who were waiting outside of one office - Chad Farrell of Encore Renewable Energy, who I’d met from my time at Champlain College, and Heather Pelham, the Commissioner of the Department of Tourism and Marketing - who I had yet to meet. We agreed that a conversation about bicycle tourism in Vermont is needed, and I look forward to following up with her.   Despite my first-timer nervousness, the day went very smoothly, and was even complimented that I was prepared and timely - which I fully credit to Caron Whitaker of the League of American Bicyclists for preparing us so well. 

I had a couple of hours after the meetings before our post-Lobby Day meet up, so I took advantage of the Gallery viewing tickets offered by Balint’s and Sanders’ office.  I made my way to the Capitol Visitors Center and got in line to see the House of Representatives in action, from up in the viewing balcony.  The chamber was sparsely populated, with two Representatives offering opposing testimony on a fracking energy bill.  Over on the Senate side, it was a bit different, as Senators walked in one or two at a time to place their votes on U.S. District Court nominations, typically by giving a thumbs up or down with the Clerk stating their name and vote. I was able to see both Senator Welch and Senator Sanders place their votes. 

The reception that evening was a good opportunity to hear from other colleagues on how their day went, as well as brief remarks from Representative Mike Thompson (CA) who will be taking over the Bike Caucus once Blumenauer retires, and from the very enthusiastic Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts, who had a lot of love for the MassBikes team and the work they are doing in their home state. 

The evening ended with a night time ride, led by Jeff from the DC Cycling Concierge to see DC’s best sites at night. A truly wonderful experience, despite the gale force winds that blew throughout the evening. From Capitol Hill down the Mall, to Lincoln Memorial and the MLK Memorial, to the White House and back downtown, Jeff was full of good stories and trivia about the area. The most challenging piece was making our way through the crowds of middle school field trips who apparently love to see the Lincoln Memorial and night. Who knew?


Featuring Vermont Gear

It struck me that without really intending to (as these are part of my regular wardrobe), that I wore a wide array of Vermont gear with me on this trip. Without any sponsorship (although we are totally open to this!), over the time of the Summit, I found myself sporting a Skida hat, Ibex sweater, Jen Green Designs bike skirt, ABD Culture earrings and Darn Tough socks. Christina at sunset with the Washington Memorial in the background



I passed the early morning (and quite chilly) cherry blossom bike ride and made it over to the MLK Library for breakfast and the morning plenary, celebrating the lifetime achievement of Congressman Blumenauer. After several moving tributes from colleagues, he regaled us with a bit of US bike history, including that UPS was founded by bike messengers in Seattle; the first planes built in the US were by bike mechanics in Ohio, and that there was once a significant bike manufacturing outfit in Connecticut.  A few choice quotes included: “Bike-partisanship makes a difference”; “Burn calories, not fossil fuels”; and as a directive to all of us, “help people understand the power of the bike.” 

I took advantage of a mid-morning ride  to see DC’s protected bike lanes, led by some of D-Dot (DC Department of Transportation staffers) to see the variety of materials and lane arrangements used throughout the city. It was a cold but encouraging ride.

The afternoon brought a session about Vulnerable Road User Safety Assessments, which prompted me to look up Vermont’s assessment of 2023 - which was required by all states as part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act. I noted that Local Motion is listed as the Safe Routes to School coordinator for Vermont (p. 13), and it’s a reminder to me to continue to ask VTrans on how this plan will be implemented.   I don’t know if Vermont qualifies for the VRU “special rule”, but want to find out, as this could unlock additional funding.*

The last plenary session featured Erick Cedeno, also known as the Bicycle Nomad. Erick shared stories of his incredible bike trips tracing historical times, including the Underground Railroad routes and most recently that of the 1896 and 1897 Bicycle Corps, a group of Black soldiers out west.  The entire summit ended with yet one more group ride with Erick and again led by Jeff from DC Cycling Concierge - this time traveling about 12 miles, over the Frederick Douglas Bridge over the Anacostia River, and circling back around to the Capitol district back to downtown.  


The People I Met Along the Way


group of state bike advocacy leadersAs with most gatherings like this, the event is all about the people I met. From Courtney Williams, the “Brown Bike Girl” who recently created a Bike-Umentary “Equity in Real Life” - which I hope we can bring to Vermont. I met three students from Lees McRae College in North Carolina, who are all Cycling Studies minors - the only such program in the country!  I met several Executive Directors of other state advocacy groups (even a Vermonter, Travis, who now leads the Hawaii Bicycling League!), and I look forward to joining their monthly calls. My final summit gathering was dinner with this group (including leaders from Wisconsin, Minnesota, Hawaii, California, Texas, Florida and Illinois) and I leave this event knowing I have a new crew that I can call upon as we work to make biking, walking, and rolling safer across our country. 

Tomorrow I take the return trains to Burlington, and will be eager to discuss the ideas, people, and connections with the rest of the Local Motion team. I leave DC a bit tired, but really inspired to continue our hard work in Vermont, knowing there’s a whole team with us across the country. I look forward to National Bike Summit #25 in 2025!

*I learned upon returning to Vermont, that according to Caron Whitaker from LAB that "Vermont did qualify in 2023 and obligated 100% of the VRU Safety funds, but did not qualify in 2024.” We’ll need to follow up with our partners at VTrans to see how these funds were used.