The Accidental Advocate – Part 1

I’ve been back in Washington DC all week flaunting my press credentials at the National Bike Summit as well as something called Urban Press Camp.

If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll have noticed that I write a fair amount about advocacy.

I actually have a degree in Political Science, with a minor in Journalism. So I do find advocacy–the kind that other people do–ever so interesting.

Press Credentials
Look Ma! I used my degree!

So I’m attending the Bike Summit. I get to meet a couple of our writers, Stacey Moses and Tom Bowden, for the first time in person. (More on that soon.)

National Bike Summit - Nebraska Delegation
The Nebraska Delegation

I’m taking pictures, attending sessions, and thinking of some of the wisecracks I’m going to write. I’m also spending a lot of time complaining about the man cold I’ve had for about two weeks.

One thing I’m not doing a lot of is writing.

Today one of the last sessions was called “State Delegation Coordination.” So I’m thinking, if I want to tag along to visit Senators and Congressmen tomorrow, I should go meet the state delegates from Arizona. My plan is to ID the tallest person so I can hide behind him or her when we are in the congressional offices. I’ll take some more pictures, think of more wisecracks, and try not to cough on anyone.

National Bike Summit - Texas Delegation
Texas Delegation

The conference room is huge and humming with about 800 cycling wonks from around the country, grouped by state. In a far corner, I think I see the “AZ” sign, and press through the crowd.

The “AZ” sign bobs up and down like a buoy in a sea of heads and signs, occasionally disappearing from view. When I finally reach the sign… um… Where is everybody?

National Bike Summit - Arizona Delegation
Arizona Delegation

Honestly, it’s not quite abandoned. Two delegates are there. Ann Chanecka, a bicycle and pedestrian planner from Tucson also has a cold (but not a man cold), and does not commit 100% to participating in the Capitol Hill meetings. Kristi Felts Moore from the Arizona Bicycle Club is there too.

Neither of them have ever heard of me before. It’s mutual.

Kristi tells me she lives in Valle, AZ. I give a blank stare. “It’s north of Williams,” she explains, “at the junction of 180, which goes to Flagstaff…”

I interrupt, “Is that where that Flinstones RV park is?”


It’s dawning on me that the Arizona delegation is likely going to be only myself, and the delegate from Bedrock City. And she is too short for me to hide behind. I’m going to have to be on tomorrow, ready to speak like a smart person–or leave Wilma twisting.

Wilma–Kristi is a seasoned pro. She tells me she’s done this this five two times before. I feel somewhat reassured.

When I return to where I’m staying, I make some calls. First I reach Anthony Quintile of Flagstaff Biking Organization. I say something like, “Hi Anthony! You don’t know me, but do you have a few minutes to make me an expert on how Federal funding for cycling infrastructure has benefited Flagstaff, and the economy of Northern Arizona? You see, I might be talking to John McCain tomorrow and…”

Anthony gives me some nuggets of information, and then passes me off to Martin Ince of the Flagstaff Metropolitan Planning Organization. I start the conversation the same way (first explaining how I happened to get his home phone number). Martin adds to the anecdotes and statistics I’m scribbling down on my tablet.

  • Flagstaff has only 60,000-ish people, but supports eight bike shops.
  • We are a Silver Level Bike Friendly Community.
  • 9% percent of trips in Flagstaff are made by bike.
  • 3.2% of commutes in Flagstaff are made by bike–eight times the national average.
  • Flagstaff has received about $5 million in Federal funds to develop, 50-plus miles of urban trails, which are used by 78% of Flagstaff residents.
  • Tourists and residents snagged up 30,000 bike trail maps last year as fast as they could be printed.


So this is part 1 of “The Accidental Advocate.” Stay tuned for part 2, to be written after my performances on Capitol Hill.

Come to think of it, I might be able to work a McCain/Flinstones connection…

Click here for part 2 >>

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