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Burke ushers in ‘Bicycle Advocacy 3.0’ at PlacesForBikes conference

Published June 29, 2017

MADISON, Wis. (BRAIN) – John Burke began with a history lesson. Opening the inaugural PlacesForBikes conference in his hometown Wednesday night, Burke, the president of Trek, recalled the phone call he received 20 years ago from former Rep. Jim Oberstar of Minnesota. "I couldn't figure out why he was calling me, I'm from Wisconsin," Burke quipped.

But Oberstar was an avid cyclist and as chair of the House Transportation Committee he knew that he could champion cycling. He rallied support from industry leaders and introduced a landmark transportation bill that included funding for cycling infrastructure.

Burke referred to the period since 1997 as the Oberstar Era, during which $13 billion has been spent on bicycling-related infrastructure. He said at the beginning of that era you just heard about biking in two cities — Boulder, Colorado, and Davis, California — now 200 cities are bike friendly cities. "What's been accomplished in the last 20 years is really amazing. It's not enough, but there has been amazing progress," Burke said.

We are now entering a new era of Bicycle Advocacy 3.0, said Burke. "It was all about federal funding in the Oberstar era, now we have to win at the local level," he said.

Referencing a recent piece by Thomas Friedman in the New York Times, he said people have to become leaders in their communities. "It's really up to everyone to make a difference, not to sit on the sidelines," Burke said.

It's important to understand what we're playing for, said Burke, citing the environment, traffic congestion and our health as critical issues in America for which the bicycle is a simple solution.

"Everyone here can take personal responsibility for your city," said Burke, remembering individuals including Catalyst founder Leslie Bohm and Wheel and Sprocket owner Chris Kegel, who took up the bicycling cause in their communities.

Underscoring the bicycle advocacy 3.0 reference to technology, Burke said we must have a greater sense of urgency to work quickly but to know it will take time.

"There is not a quick fix. You are not going to build a protected bike lane in a week. But you can make an impact in your city, state and country. Use this conference to put a game plan together for your community," Burke urged attendees.

The inaugural PlacesForBikes conference runs through Friday at the Monona Terrace, with more than 270 industry leaders, government officials and bicycle advocates in attendance to learn how to create great places to bike.

Topics associated with this article: Advocacy/Non-profits

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