Truman students and I lobbied for key bike/ped issues at Bicycle Day at the Capitol last week.
Once we got three bikes loaded on the bike rack, my car doubled in value and in weight. Dressed in business suits, we drove to Jefferson City to meet with legislators and advocate for bicycling and walking for Bicycle Day at the Capitol on April 8. Truman students from the Bike Co-op accepted the Distinguished Service Award from the Missouri Bicycle & Pedestrian Federation (MoBikeFed) on behalf of the Bike Co-op founder, Cassie Hage, who wasn’t able to attend. They read the acceptance speech Cassie had sent.
It’s hard to say which was more exciting, hearing Representative Nate Walker tell us that he’d like to sponsor the MoBikeFed Key Issues next year or the Legislators’ Bike Ride across the new bike/ped bridge on Hwy 54 and on to the Katy Trail. Rep. Walker chatted with us for several minutes, strategizing about how to bring our key issues to fruit. Next year’s key issues are safe streets (additional penalty options when unsafe driving results in injury or death), anti-harassment of vulnerable road users, safe passing (current code specifies only “a safe distance” whereas other states specify 4 feet), anti-texting and distracted driving (the current ban is for drivers under 21). As a former Highway Safety Director and currently serving on the Tourism Committee, Rep. Walker is well positioned to shepherd our bills through the legislative process.
Senator Brian Munzlinger was tied up in meetings and couldn’t meet with us but we talked with his staff.
We changed out of our business suits into biking clothes. A record number of about a dozen legislators, their staff, MoDOT and DNR staff, and bicycle advocates rode on the Legislators’ Ride across the Hwy 54 bike/ped bridge. The ramp makes three complete circles to get to the ground. Going back up was not quite as fun! After an unusually cool and snowy spring, the day dawned with threatening clouds and sprinkles. But the sun came out with a vengeance and it was unseasonably warm and humid for the bike ride! MoDOT provided water and trail mix at the Katy Trail trailhead.
I saw several old friends and met new friends. I was excited to meet the new MoDOT Bike/Ped Coordinator, Ron Effland. This position has historically been a token that MoDOT could point to as evidence of their bike/ped awareness, with no support. Ron does not have a budget or staff, so he has applied for a Safe Routes to School grant to develop bicycle safety curriculum for schools and buy a fleet of bicycles that would travel from school to school. With MoDOT appearing more interested in bike/ped accommodations lately, I hope he will make some headway, and I was encouraged that MoDOT provided refreshments and traffic control on the Legislators’ Ride.
Other advocates had equally promising visits and interactions with legislators and with the governor’s staff. After years of hard work, MoBikeFed is transitioning from a small group of rabble rousers to a serious, respected organization, not so much because of changes in the makeup of our organization but because lawmakers are listening to us.