Sunday, August 31, 2008

Learning from the best and brightest

Some of my recent posts have suggested ways that officials in greater Louisville and elsewhere in Kentucky and Indiana could improve bicycling conditions and traffic safety by adopting innovations proven elsewhere. I am following my own advice. From last night through Tuesday morning, I am attending the Leadership Retreat of the Thunderhead Alliance for Bicycling and Walking, the North American network of bicycle and pedestrian advocacy organizations. The organizations represented here range from embryonic (not yet incorporated, with no staff or membership) to established and powerful (up to 30 years old, with staff of up to 40 people and annual budgets of up to $3 million). Each person here is passionate about expanding and enhancing walking, bicycling, or both, and all of us have experiences and wisdom to share with each other.

At the Thunderhead retreat, I learn what our peers throughout North America have done to develop good relationships with partners in government, industry, and the media, to pass legislation strengthening the rights of bicyclists and increase funding for bicycle-related projects, and to serve the needs of cyclists in a wide range of communities. We inspire and educate each other, sharing what has worked well and what has fallen flat. We also give each other moral support to face challenges and stay true to our visions of our states and cities taking full advantage of the transformational possibilities of bicycling and walking. The retreat is taking place at a beautiful retreat center on Bainbridge Island, WA.

On Tuesday, most of us (including myself) will take the ferry to Seattle for the ProWalk/ProBike Conference of the National Center for Bicycling and Walking. This conference will have a more technical tone, with presentations describing leading research and practice in areas of urban planning, design of bicycing and walking facilities including roadways, and public education and other programs to encourage safer walking, bicycling, and driving. People who have led the development and use of street designs that I have recommended in this blog will be on hand for informal discussions as well as formal presentations.

Both of these events give me a chance to learn about the state of the practice and bounce ideas around with some of the most experienced practitioners in North America. They energize me for my work back home, and send me home with ideas, information, and contacts to make that work more effective in making bicycling safe, enjoyable, and convenient. As the week progresses, I'll share high points with you.

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