Potomac Pedalers Advocacy – The Squeaky Wheel

by Joe Pixley and Dave Helms

The Potomac Pedalers Touring Club (PPTC) was founded in 1966, 50 years ago!  For much of that time, our club has a long history of active engagement in promoting bicycling. For many years, we had a Government Affairs Committee which participated at the state, county and city level to provide input into proposed bike master plans and legislation.  PPTC was a proverbial Squeaky Wheel, engaged at local levels to build protected bike lanes and through direct advocacy writing memos to State Legislature committees.  Unfortunately, those efforts fell off over the past five years or so,

Over the past year, we have been shocked by the deaths of our friends and fellow riders: John Fauerby and Lynne Rosenbusch, killed by a drunk driver, while Tom Holden was killed by an impaired driver who fell asleep.   Our sadness has been eclipsed by anger and finally resolve. The status quo is in not acceptable in the face of these deaths. To this end, our club Chairman, Matt Birnbaum, and the ExCom have taken steps to re-invigorate our advocacy portfolio,

Me and Joe Pixley, At-Large members of the PPTC Executive Committee (ExCom), have been tasked by ExCom to create revive “advocacy” role for the club.  But, before getting into details, we should probably what we mean by advocacy.  Generally speaking, advocacy is persuasion, actively supporting a cause, speaking up, calling attention, and influencing partners and stakeholders/decision makers.  Our goal is to promote policy, programs, and legislation by enlisting support from our membership, our communities, and our political representatives to make bicycling a safe and healthful lifestyle, from the DC monuments to the Blue Ridge and beyond.

Our club’s by-laws, recently revised, support and advocacy role.  First, our club has a broad educational mandate that includes instructing our members on how to ride safely and effectively in accordance with applicable traffic regulations.  We are also authorized to “promote and to encourage the development of bicycle facilities and infrastructure as an environmentally and healthful means of recreation and transportation,” and to enter partnerships with other bicycle-oriented non-profit organizations

Read together, under our by-laws, we have broad authority to educate our members of pending legislation as it pertains to bicycle safety and infrastructure, to work directly and with other organizations to promote bicycle safety and infrastructure.

So what have we done with advocacy recently? As a first step, we have used our web page, Facebook, and Twitter media streams to encourage our members to support critical bicycle safety legislation in conjunction with our partners in BikeMaryland the Virginia Bicycling Federation and Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA).   Me and Joe were sent by the ExCom recently attend the League of American Bicyclists National Bike Summit, where we met bicycle advocates from across the nation, and learned of exciting strategies to promote safe cycling and grow our community.

What do we hope to achieve in the near future? First A Call to Action, linking PPTC members to regional Bike Safety and Infrastructure Initiatives.  Second, to re-establish the Government Affairs Committee (our Squeaky Wheels).

Possible initiatives for the future include:
– Developing a roadmap of the regional advocacy ecosystem
– Identifying time critical issues and raise awareness
– Facilitating PPTC member involvement in local forums in supporting bike safety and infrastructure

We welcome feedback from club members to develop our advocacy program, to ensure we are responsive to the needs and interests of our members for creating a safe and effective environment for cycling in the National Capital region.

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