When I attended my first National Bike Summit in 2011, it was mostly out of curiosity. Did this gathering have anything to offer me in insight and inspiration that I could put into action to enhance my company’s commitment to this alternative transportation? The answer I found left me eagerly awaiting Summit 2012.
The most exciting thing about the Summit is that it brings biking minds together as thought leaders. Leaders who are influential as policy makers. Leaders who approach Congress in its own backyard. Leaders who prepare and then provide our legislators with information that helps them understand why support for biking is critical to our communities today. Leaders of more than 800 advocates gathered for that sole purpose. It was important for me to be part of this.
The diversity of the sectors represented was impressive – to me and to the legislators we met. It was gratifying to see governmental officials respond to the hard-working participants and their insight about the economic impact biking is making. From bike shop owners, non-profit groups, municipalities and other enthusiastic advocates, the sharing of experiences and perspectives was powerful to see. This is a dynamic force that will shape our efforts to effect change as we move forward.
My company, Duo-Gard Industries in Canton, manufactures bike shelters. We were a pioneer in recognizing that just parking a bike wasn’t going to satisfy the needs of this emerging movement. Riders wanted protection and safety for themselves and their bikes. Communities, however, also wanted something that added to landscape appeal – or at least didn’t detract from it. The problem was that in the early stages, bike shelters were either highly custom or looked like a woodshed from the barnyard. About 10 years ago, we began working with two architectural firms to design an exclusive line of standard bike shelters. Inspired by European aesthetics, these shelters add sophisticated architectural appeal as well as safety and security options the biking community demands.
People were pretty skeptical when we started with our bike shelters. Today, this line accounts for five percent of our total sales. And even the skeptics are convinced now that the biking movement is a force to be reckoned with – and supported – for economic, environmental and health benefits.
So I was surprised that Duo-Gard was one of only a few manufacturers at the Summit. That’s despite the obvious movement of biking from recreation to a recognized mode of transportation with a lot of economic and environmental ramifications. The Summit brought together all the sectors involved and provided the opportunity to pick each other’s brains (even the competition’s) to enhance our own ideas.
The Summit gave me a chance to talk with others about the positive moves we’re seeing. In Michigan, I’m encouraged by the implementation of more bike lanes. In Ann Arbor, for example, the lanes the city has added are definitely being used. Educational institutions continue to be leading advocates for biking, and their campuses provide an ideal environment. MSU has an active biking support program, and U-M was ranked one of the top 35 most bike-friendly universities in the League of American Bicyclists’ annual survey. Ann Arbor Pioneer High School’s Class of 2010 gave the school a bike shelter as its traditional parting gift.
And although it’s great to see the increase in bike lanes across the country, I do have concerns that some cities implement these too quickly, without enough planning and consideration for safety. Bikes and cars haven’t learned to co-exist peacefully in all area. Many drivers still consider the bike lane a right-turn lane.
I see the education of people in cars as one of our prime targets for the future. I believe, over time, people will learn to share the road. Right now, there’s a lack of understanding of what’s involved in that. The quicker this education can progress, the better for everybody. I want to be involved in that.
I also want to be involved in furthering bike commuting. Although this is a growing segment, it’s still less visible than others, such as recreational trail biking, mountain biking and off-road biking. As a member of the League of Michigan Bicyclists, I hope to raise interest, attention and governmental support for commuting issues through this feisty group that knows how to get things done.
Finally, another great thing about the Summit is that anyone who’s a biking advocate is welcomed and encouraged to participate. Personally, I hope to see more manufacturers involved. Yes, we’re all busy, and it’s hard to find time for everything we know would be worthwhile. But the Summit is an opportunity for us to make a difference. The 2013 Summit centers on Biking Means Business. No doubt about it. And I plan to be there.
By Mike Arvidson, Vice President
This article first appeared in the Michigan Bicyclist Fall 2012 Magazine.