Cyclists prepare to converge on Congress to lobby for transportation bill

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A new group of lobbyists is pedaling to Capitol Hill to encourage the House to follow the Senate's lead and pass a transportation bill: more than 800 bicycle enthusiasts who are learning the nuts and bolts of lobbying Congress at the National Bike Summit.

Cyclists were told the basics of lobbying: stay on point, develop a relationship with a staffer and follow up.

Fred Clements, head of the National Bicycle Dealers Association in Costa Mesa, says this year, bicycle lobbyists will use dollars and cents to try to change hearts and minds.

"As the mood in Congress has shifted a little bit more conservative, the business arguments resonate more," Clements says. "There’s a lot of economic activity in terms of travel and tourism related specifically to bikes, so we make that point as often and as persistently as we can."

According to the National Bicycle Dealers Association and the U.S. Department of Transportation, more bikes are sold in the U.S. every year than all the cars and light trucks combined.

Jennifer Klausner, who heads the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, says she'll be using an economic argument as well. She adds that it's not just governments that are facing economic hard times.

"Regular everyday Americans are in an economic crisis," Klausner says. "What people need right now are choices, so we are looking at a simple, elegant solution that gives people transportation choices in their everyday lives."

In addition to getting the House to pass a transportation bill, cyclists want an amendment that specifically designates funding for bike lanes and pedestrian walkways. Dedicated bike funding is missing from both the House and Senate bills.

This follows U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood joining California Democrat Senator Barbara Boxer in pushing Wednesday for the House to approve a transportation bill.

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