In my job with the Alliance for Biking & Walking, I'm privileged to work with amazing leaders on a daily basis. In recent months, I was doubly lucky to be in charge of our Advocacy Awards program, an opportunity for us to shine the spotlight on the progress and victories of the bicycle and pedestrian movement.
Since 2009, the Alliance has solicited public nominations and recognized the individuals, organizations and business leaders who are propelling our People Powered Movement. For the 2011 awards, we got a record number of submissions from across North America and, let me tell you, the judging wasn't easy. When we did narrow it down to the final winners, I was struck by one common thread that tied together all the recipients.
The Alliance got its start in 1996, when a handful of bicycle and pedestrian leaders met in middle-of-nowhere Wyoming to strategize how to turn their still-few local and state advocacy efforts into a larger, stronger movement. Many of the folks who attended that gathering are still in the trenches of hard-charging organizations. But nearly all of the leaders who took home advocacy awards this year were probably still in high school when the Alliance was born. So, as read through the accomplishments of the 2011 winners below, remember their names. They're just getting started.
Advocacy Organization of the Year- Bike Pittsburgh
On its face, Pittsburgh is a tough place to ride a bicycle. The streets are steep and twisting, and the winters are long and brutal. But bicycle mode share is up and the Steel City is charged up with new enthusiasm for active transportation. Why? Bike Pittsburgh. The advocates at BikePGH have been working hand-in-hand with government officials to get new infrastructure on the ground, partnered with the local companies to get the business community on board and created innovative programs, like Car Free Fridays, that are getting more people on bicycles. But BikePGH excels at more than the nuts and bolts of basic organizing. The members of their small staff are the best kind of ambassadors for the movement: They’re friendly, energetic and welcoming. The work and attitude of BikePGH are making Pittsburgh a mighty appealing place to ride… despite the tough terrain.
Advocate of the Year: Jackie Douglas, LivableStreets (Boston)
This award goes to an individual who has shown tireless commitment to promoting bicycling and walking in his or her community and serves as a role model for other advocates across North America. In 2010, there was no advocate more tireless or worthy of modeling than Jackie Douglas from LivableStreets in Boston. Having risen from the ranks of intern, Douglas never rests as executive director, working to improve conditions for cyclists and pedestrians; increase membership for the organization, bring in grant funding for its programming and act as the face of LivableStreets at near-daily public meetings, volunteer gatherings and public speaking events. For Douglas, working overtime is the norm and that tireless dedication shows in the sophistication and success of LivableStreets campaigns, including a Better Bridges initiative that’s tackling the tough task of getting better provisions for bicyclists and pedestrians on the region’s river crossings. Despite her busy schedule, Douglas is generous with her time, frequently sharing her experiences and insights with other advocacy leaders in Advocacy Advance reports and Alliance Mutual Aid Calls.
Business Advocate of the Year: New Belgium Brewing Company
In 2010 alone, New Belgium Brewing Company raised more than $330,000 for bicycle advocacy organizations with a nationwide event that blew the minds of more than 70,000 residents in 13 different cities. The Tour de Fat festival is an ingenious way to celebrate and elevate bicycle culture - and give back to the bike-ped movement. In each Tour city, New Belgium selected area nonprofits to receive the proceeds from the beer sales, funneling thousands of critical dollars into local advocacy efforts to improve biking and walking. In addition to the Tour de Fat, New Belgium Brewing promotes biking to the brewery for employees and visitors; provides a free bike to each employee upon their first anniversary; provides funding to many bicycling-related non-profits through its Community Grants program and sponsors dozens of bicycling events around the country.
Winning Campaign of the Year: Michigan Complete Streets
At the start of 2010, Michigan had just one local complete streets ordinance. By the end of the year, there were more than 20 communities with complete streets policies and the Governor had signed a new statewide complete streets law. That incredible and rapid transformation was sparked and spurred by advocates from the League of Michigan Bicyclists, who helped to create a powerful Michigan Complete Streets Coalition with more than 100 diverse member organizations. That powerful, unified voice led to the passage of a statewide complete streets bill, the adoption of policies in a number of communities and a new priority within the state Department of Transportation to plan streets that safely accommodate bicyclists and pedestrians. Thanks in large part to this Winning Campaign, the state that spent the last century focused on all things automotive is now leading the way in the Great Lakes region.
Best Practices Award: Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition
The Best Practices Award goes to an organization that serves as a model for other bicycle and pedestrian advocacy organizations. In 2010, countless individuals and a number of advocacy organizations drew information and inspiration from the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition. The LACBC’s City of Lights initiative elevated the conversation about “invisible cyclists” - men and women who ride bicycles but whose voices aren’t heard and needs aren’t acknowledged because of language or economic barriers. Through thoughtful outreach and, more importantly, true collaboration, the LACBC is changing the dialogue among city officials about urban planning, bringing new cyclists into the movement and, expanding the scope of the bike-ped movement to address critical issues of social and economic justice.
Susie Stephens Joyful Enthusiasm Award: Stephanie Routh, Willamette Pedestrian Coalition
The Susie Stephens Joyful Enthusiasm Award commemorates Alliance co-founder, Susie Stephens, commemorating her passion for biking and walking as fun and economical means of transportation and her commitment to creating a safe environment for all street users. This year we honor Stephanie Routh, executive director of the Willamette Pedestrian Coalition. In just two years, Routh has transformed the group from struggling-to-be-noticed to well-networked, in the news, and in demand for participation in regional active transportation forums. Stephanie has embraced this role with great enthusiasm, increasing the membership and volunteer base, building bridges to diverse communities and partnering with other active transportation organizations.
Innovation Award: Fairfax Advocates for Better Bicycling
The Innovation Award goes to an organization that’s pioneering or inventing new ways to promote biking and walking. In 2010, the Fairfax Advocates for Better Bicycling released a groundbreaking new resource: Guide to Reviewing Public Road Design and Bicycling Accommodations for Virginia Bicycling Advocates. The 28-page booklet simplifies and streamlines the confusing road design process with easy-to-follow flow charts, handy check lists and explanations that make sense to folks who don’t have a masters degree in urban planning. Almost immediately, FABB’s innovative guide was in high demand. Over the past six months, it has been widely distributed, well received by both advocates and transportation officials, and now FABB advocates are working on a template that other organizations can use to tailor the guide for their specific states and transportation jurisdictions.
Click here for photos of the Alliance 2011 Advocacy Awards Reception.