Last Thursday, advocates for better walking and biking came together for the 3rd annual Massachusetts Bike/Walk Summit at the Massachusetts State House on Beacon Hill. Organized in partnership between MassBike and WalkBoston, the summit was an opportunity for attendees to meet with their elected leaders and talk about about the importance of promoting active transportation around the Commonwealth.
The keynote speaker this year was Department of Public Health Commissioner Cheryl Bartlett, who talked about the Mass in Motion program and how expanding opportunities for walking and biking will be necessary for achieving important public health outcomes like reducing obesity and associated chronic diseases and bringing down health care costs.
This year’s topics of discussion with lawmakers were the two safety bills, the Vulnerable Road Users Bill and the Bike Lane Protection Bill, the importance of continued funding for Mass in Motion programs, the necessity of gas tax indexing for meeting statewide mode shift goals, and increasing funding for Department of Conservation and Recreation to ensure adequate maintenance and staffing of their facilities.
MassBike and WalkBoston Executive Directors David Watson and Wendy Landman met with the the offices of House Speaker Robert DeLeo, as well as Joint Transportation Committee Co-Chairs Senator Thomas McGee and Representative Bill Straus. This past Monday, David Watson met with the office of Senate President Therese Murray. Altogether, summit attendees held a total of 22 meetings with their elected leaders.
As meetings continued into the afternoon, news spread of the tragic death of Eoin McGrory of Chelsea, who was killed while riding his bicycle in Charlestown. The news added a sense of urgency to following meetings, and reminded attendees of the importance of enhancing legal protections for vulnerable road users to making tragedies like this less frequent.
Much work still needs to be done to move the two bills forward, but momentum is clearly building following the positive conversations advocates had with their elected leaders, and the desire to do something in the wake of last Thursday’s tragedy. MassBike, WalkBoston, and partner organizations will continue to engage elected leaders and policy makers on the range of important issues discussed at the Massachusetts Bike/Walk Summit. There will also be many more opportunities for citizens to take action. You can keep up to date by subscribing to MassBike’s email newsletter (scroll to the top of this page to sign up) and following MassBike on Facebook and Twitter.