Connecting with Congressman Earl Blumenauer

Earl 012On Monday evening we met with Congressman Earl Blumenauer, a longtime friend and supporter of the Community Cycling Center, for an intimate conversation about how we can continue to broaden access to bicycling and its benefits for all members of our community. Joining us in this discussion were members of Community Cycling Center’s staff and board, our partners from Village Gardens at New Columbia and Native American Youth and Family Center (NAYA), and Meeky Blizzard, the Advisor for Livable Communities at Congressman Earl Blumenauer’s Office.

Alison Graves, our Executive Director, shared with the group how the Community Cycling Center is moving beyond a direct service organization toward a community change model. In other words, we recognize that it’s not enough to just give bicycles to people if we want to create healthy and connected communities. In addition to supporting people to actively and safely use their bicycles, we must also expand access to the economic benefits of the growing bicycle movement and support community leaders’ participation in planning and policymaking processes. This will help to broaden the movement in meaningful ways and move us toward the healthy, connected community we all envision.

We shared inspiring stories about the positive and diverse impacts that bicycles have had on different people. Linda Dougherty, a New Columbia resident and founder of the Seeds for Harmony project, participated in our Create a Commuter program in May. Not only did she lose 4 pounds in 4 weeks, but her peace of mind and quality of life have all improved as a result of riding her bicycle. She now proudly and passionately advocates for safe riding with children in her neighborhood.

Earl 009Amber Baker, the Program Director at Village Gardens, also noted how the Community Cycling Center’s support for the Bike Committee at New Columbia has helped residents make connections and advocate for changes that they want to see in their neighborhood. Last year, Sunday Parkways did not reach as far north as New Columbia. This year, the Bike Committee met with City staff to make sure that New Columbia was on the route.

Egbevado Ananouko, a resident of New Columbia, told the story about his first bike that he received through the Community Cycling Center’s Bike Club the first year that he moved to the United States from Togo. Ten years later, he received a bicycle through a Create a Commuter workshop at New Columbia, which reignited his passion for bicycling. He launched a project called “We All Can Ride”, where he and others lead community rides and teach basic bicycle safety and maintenance. Together, we are now planning to provide more opportunities for his community to connect via bicycles by building a bike skills park at New Columbia, which should open in the summer of 2012.

Earl 008Tawna Sanchez, the Director of Family Services at NAYA, spoke about the positive impact our work together has had, highlighting the joy through a story about two twin girls overcome with giggles when they each chose their own, unique bicycles. She emphasized that the Bikes for Kids events have made a tremendous impact on foster care kids in her community. She also mentioned how the Create a Commuter Program has provided opportunities for participants in their career skills development program to have more reliable transportation. They are excited by the opportunity to continue to partner with the Community Cycling Center

After sharing these and other stories, the Congressman enthusiastically encouraged us to continue to “do what you are doing,” but added that we need to, “help people understand what you are doing and why.”

Earl leads a bike caucus in Washington and notes the positive impact it has on building relationships and helping overcome obstacles in other areas, ranging from community health to energy consumption to education outcomes. He encouraged us to continue “connecting the dots” and building opportunities for community development. He is a firm believer in the positive power of bicycles as “the most efficient form of transportation ever designed.”

So, we will continue to seek partnerships with organizations and community leaders interested in exploring the health, economic, and community development opportunities using the bicycle as the transformation tool.

Thank you, Congressman Blumenauer, for taking time out of your busy schedule to join us this week. We look forward to continuing the conversation with you in the future.

To view more photos from this event, please check out our photo album on Flickr.

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