Brandee Lepak attends 2014 National Bike Summit

Below is Brandee Lepak’s reports from the 2014 National Bike Summit. Brandee is owner of Global Bikes, she attended along with Coalition president Bob Beane, and PortaPedal’s Al Capello…

Thank you for allowing me to be one of the representatives for Arizona. The trip was amazing and I was very proud to be one of three attendees from our state. At the summit I attended two of the break out sessions and spoke at a third.

The first session was called Bike Advocacy as a Political Platform. The panel consisted of local level elected officials who used their bicycle advocacy to get elected and used their positions to change the conversation about transportation. By attending this session, I learned how important it is to involve our political leaders in our cycling community. A guy asked the question of Dave Cieslewicz, the former Mayor of Madison, WI, “How can we influence politicians to be on our side?” He answered frankly, “Get me money, get me votes and get me in front of people/potential voters.” I host several cycling related events throughout the year and could easily involve politicians in my events. This was an “Ah-Ha” moment for me and I realized how much easier it would be to encourage them to vote on the side of the cycling community if they were involved in the process the entire time.

Arizona is should be such a powerful player in the Nation, but it seems like we are falling short on a collective goal. I wish that we had a state wide summit to bring us all together, so we could share our mission year after year.

The next session was Retailers Best Practices for Advocacy, this session brought retailers together from across the US to discuss how they have worked with advocates to improve bicycling in their communities. I actually was one of the presenters on this panel and I discussed the relationship between the MBAA and Global Bikes. We have always been a sponsor of the Mountain Bike Association of Arizona, but noticed the organization was on the decline about five years ago. Deciding to take an active role in our community and to help this organization thrive well into the future, I decided to get on the board and focus my efforts on creating a sustainable organization for years to come. I discussed how our organization requires our racers who are competing for the podium to do at least four hours of trail work. You quite simply cannot be a Champion in Arizona unless you give back. Apparently, that stunned the room because several people approached me after the event to ask questions about this policy. I also presented graphs showing the increase in trail work hours over the last three years. In conclusion, I discussed the importance of seeing the MBAA survive and thrive and what that meant to me as a business owner. If the MBAA would have failed… we would have lost our largest trail advocacy organization and the State Championship Race Series. Yes, competitors could have stepped up to take over the series, but would their focus have been on trails and youth development like the MBAA’s was? I didn’t believe that would be the case, so I decided to throw time, money and my resources at this organization to help it get back on it’s feet.
It was a pleasure to discuss and showcase the success of the MBAA on a national level. Sharing the great work of Arizonians and their commitment to our state made me so proud.

The last session I attended was Rapid-Fire Victory: 10 Advocacy Wins from Around the Country. This session featured 10 fast-paced mini-presentations on remarkable campaigns from across the United States. From billion-dollar ballot measures to state legislative change, learn how state and local advocates have won dollars for bicycling. Some of this presentation was the same as the first session, but still interesting. Advocates from around the US discussed their best practices. Each non profit that had a success story also told the story about how they leveraged relationships with their local officials to reach success. That seemed to be the most overwhelming call to action for me on this trip… we have to involve our politicians more and we need a stronger untied voice in the cycling community. This session made me realize that we need to focus on putting together a ‘Dream Team’ for next year. I think that we need to hand pick who we need to see at the summit in 2015. I think that we need a well rounded representation from businesses, transportation and other advocacy organizations.

Day on the Hill… When I was handed the packet with 11 leave behinds… I never thought we would be able to deliver them all. We only had two appointments scheduled, but we decided to stop by all of the offices anyway to drop off our packets. Surprisingly, we were able to meetings with staffers from many of the offices. I think we were all surprised by how many of the Representatives were actually into cycling! Kyrsten Sinema, is actually an Ironman athlete. We could easily tie her into our local events and I am sure that would guarantee a meeting in 2015. If she has the opportunity to reach voters and is able to see the collective goals of our community, I am sure she will support our initiatives. Jeff Flake’s office also met with us and was very receptive to our requests to co-sponsor the bills that we were requesting. His staff was familiar with our community and was eager to share our message with him. We pointed out how cycling creates ‘Livable Communities’ and makes our city more desirable to large companies like Apple, Orbital and Intel if their highly educated workforce could see themselves living in our cities. Cycling does that! Conclusion By the end of the day, our bodies hurts from walking on the marble floors, but yet we were excited to be a part of this amazing system. We paused to take a moment to let what we were doing really wash over us. We need more than three in 2015!

Thank you again form this incredible opportunity!

Brandee Lepak

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