On Tuesday night, we held the fifth annual Advocacy Awards reception, the Alliance’s awards ceremony to shine the spotlight on the progress and victories of the bicycle and pedestrian advocacy movement. In a bustling room full of excited advocates fresh out of the opening plenary of the 2013 National Bike Summit, we awarded trophies to the year’s most successful campaigns, dedicated advocates and supportive businesses.
This year, the Alliance honors the following winners from across North America.
“In a state in which previous biking and walking advocacy depended on coincidental personal interest from elected officials, Bike Walk Mississippi have ignited a movement that has commanded attention in every recent transportation-related election.” That would be high praise coming from anyone, but when a quote like that comes from the Chamber of Commerce in a state’s largest city, it means just a little bit more. “As a state with a high prevalence of obesity, Bike Walk Mississippi is making it safer and more accessible to exercise and have fun biking and walking in our community,” echoed Sarah Welker from the Mississippi Economic Policy Center. As local and national organizations continue to emphasize the connection between active transportation and economic growth, perhaps they should take a cue from the fantastic advocates from Bike Walk Mississippi. Other highlights from the past year include receiving funding to hold their first Open Streets initiative (set for this April), advocating for the passing of the John Paul Frerer Bicycle Safety Act (which established a 3-foot minimum passing distance) and opening Jackon’s first community bike shop in the Midtown neighborhood.
This award goes to an individual who has shown tireless commitment to promoting bicycling and walking in his or her community. Rebecca Serna has been Atlanta Bicycle Coalition’s Executive Director for over 5 years, and a board member of Georgia Bikes. During this time she has worked with leaders and elected officials from across the region to make Atlanta a better place to bike. As we saw earlier with Georgia’s Complete Streets policy, the Southeast U.S. is a region that is making great strives to become more walkable and bikeable, Rebecca’s work is an inspiration to those around her. “The work that she does sets the bar for the surrounding cities and counties,” said Sonja Parham, who nominated her for the award. The Alliance and the League awarded Atlanta Bicycle Coalition our largest Advocacy Advance Model Grant and they have been an incredible partner, mentor, and example for other organizations across the continent. Jessica Estep, who nominated Rebecca for this award, said that Rebecca has dedicated herself to “making a city that used to be bike-unfriendly into a blossoming city for bicycles, and she does it all with an air of humility. She deserves this award more than anyone else.” We couldn’t agree more!
Primal Wear has always been known for their great cycling gear, but their recent dedication to creating better streets for biking has made the name Primal synonymous with advocacy. Not only did Primal come on as a strong sponsor of the Alliance last year, including making some awesome jackets for our 2012 Leadership Retreat, but they have been supporting local and state groups for years, including Bicycle Colorado, Bike Texas and Bike Denver. At the national level, Primal has been a long time supporter of IMBA and Bikes Belong, and they recently revved up their efforts with the League of American Bicyclists as Titanium level sponsor of the Summit, and providing all participants with their own Primal custom jersey.
Lifetime Achievement Award: Barb Culp
Washington State has been ranked the best state for biking by the League of American Bicyclists for the past 5 years, and this is due in no small part to the influence and leadership of Barbara Culp. Barb has been a leader in biking advocacy for decades. She has been executive Director of Bicycle Alliance of Washington twice, for a combined 13 years, as well as previously working for Cascade Bicycle Club as their education director and promoting bicycling and walking as commuter solutions at Seattle Children’s Hospital. Her leadership has led to increased bicycle infrastructure in Washington, better education for all users of the road and increased communication between bicycle advocates and Washington DOT. Barb also served as a board member for the Alliance and was our Vice-Chair for many of those years, where her leadership helped us in our critical mission in strengthening and uniting local and state organizations. We will miss Barb as she retires and steps back from her leadership positions, but her legacy and impact will continue to inspire advocates in Washington State and across the continent.
While many outsiders may look at the South as a region that has historically not been the most bike friendly, advocates across the region are working to change that. Nowhere was this more evident than in Georgia, where leaders from local and state biking and walking advocacy organizations worked with the state DOT to pass a Complete Streets Design Policy. The push was led by Georgia Bikes!, who caught the attention of DOT officials during a Ride to the Capitol when the crowd started chanting “Complete the Streets!”. While DOT officials thought they already had a great policy in place, the raucous advocates let them know there was more to be done, which opened up further conversations. After countless meetings and hours of advocacy, Georgia DOT adopted a policy on September 20, 2012 that will ensure that wherever possible, road designs will properly balance the needs of all modes of transportation. And as a bonus first in the nation, Georgia became the first state to adopt the new NACTO Guide for Bikeway Facilities! As Georgia Bikes said in their blog post celebrating the new policy, “Can we get an AMEN!?”
This award commemorates Alliance co-founder Susie Stephens, honoring her passion for biking and walking as fun and economical means of transportation. This year, the award goes to Renee Rivera, Executive Director of the East Bay Bicycle Coalition. The parallels between Susie and Renee are many. Renee has tackled many challenging situations but always maintains a calm, resilient “can-do” attitude and is always a joy to work with. “Being an Executive Director can’t be an easy job, but Renee handles it with seeming ease and enthusiasm,” said Dave Campbell, Executive Director of the California Bicycle Coalition. “And she’s a workhorse in handling so many aspects of our work in the East Bay, yet her positive attitude still makes everyone feel comfortable and motivated to do their best.” Leah Shahum, Executive Director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition—of which Renee previously served as interim director—agreed: “It has been wonderful to see communities throughout the SF Bay Area’s East Bay become organized to be more bike-friedly, in large part thanks to Renee’s strong leadership—a combination of great focus and joyful celebration of biking.”
The Innovation Award goes to an organization that’s pioneering or inventing new ways to promote biking and walking – and the Local Spokes Coalition has certainly been leading the way. Their fearless approach to creating community partnerships has created a model for cities across North America. Comprised of nine organizations working on various issues in New York City, including Alliance members Transportation Alternatives and Recycle-A-Bicycle, Local Spokes has shown the power of starting conversations without an agenda and letting community members lead the way. Working in New York’s Lower East Side and Chinatown neighborhoods, the coalition spent several years working to “engage, understand and advocate for the community’s various perspectives on cycling through multilingual outreach, public participation activities and a Youth Ambassadors program.” The result was a Neighborhood Action Plan released in May of 2012, and continued resource development to aid work in other underserved communities.