The State of WABA, February 2022

Check out these highlights from WABA’s annual Member Meeting on February 23, 2022. An introduction to Ludwig Gaines, WABA’s new Executive Director, the State of WABA in 2022, and the Q&A section.

Prepared remarks from Ludwig Gaines:

It is a privilege to be here this evening to address WABA membership for the first time. I want to begin with a thank you to each and every one of you. Your financial investment sustains this organization, your advocacy inspires me, and your great passion for this work energizes me and all of my colleagues.

I especially want to thank WABA’s Board for the opportunity to lead this extraordinary organization. Allow me also to recognize my predecessor, Greg Billing, for his 10 years of service at WABA, and Kristin Frontiera, WABA’s interim ED during the transition. The work of both the Board and Staff, coupled with your generosity, has positioned WABA very well for the future.  The state of WABA is strong.

Bicycling holds its own special place in our lives and that of our communities. It is at once personal and recreational, but also an integral part of our public multi-modal transportation system. Bicycling connects our communities and plays a key role in reducing our carbon footprint and protecting our precious ecosystem. And, bicycling is also an undeniable source of joy and means to a healthy lifestyle and living. And, for others, like our messenger and delivery communities, bicycling is a necessary means to earning a living. 

For me, bicycling has been many of these things and more.

As a child, bicycling was one of my first sources of joy. The joy felt when a parent lets go of the bike seat and sends you on your way is truly euphoric and memorable. Like most, I was anxious, but I did it.

Riding a bike is a universal experience that transcends demographics. It connects us. It brought for me freedom and exploration and it opened horizons limited only by how fast and how far I could pedal. I biked to little league baseball practice, I biked to high school, I biked 20 miles 6 days a week from my Queens, NY home to a summer job as a caddie on Long Island, and in College I biked to class, and later to my office at Alexandria City Hall as a Councilman, and now I enjoy biking recreationally with my whole family, especially on the Mt. Vernon Trail.

In many ways bicycling helped set me on a path that ultimately led me to WABA. An organization whose mission is the stuff of passion that speaks eloquently and directly to my own sense of service. It’s why I sought and accepted WABA’s offer and why I am proud to have joined the WABA community.

For 50 years – and this year WABA celebrates 50 years! since its founding – WABA has grown and evolved, but also stood for our mission: to empower people to ride bikes, build connections, and transform places. Our mission and vision, just like in the last 50 years, need to be nurtured, protected and expanded. Existing and thriving for 50 years is not a happenstance. It’s itself a remarkable accomplishment worthy of celebration, if not awe. I pledge to continue that great legacy.  

Today, WABA is strong, agile, and innovative – a tireless champion for bicycling and walking, just transit systems, and a go-to resource and partner of choice throughout the DMV; programmatically, strategically, and financially.

Here are a few things from the past year that have impressed me so far. It’s not an exhaustive list, but it’s a long and impressive one and speaks volumes about our WABA.

  • We have full time, year-round Trail Rangers on DC’s trails, 7 days a week.
  • Nearly every jurisdiction in the region has voted to support completing the 881 mile Capital Trail Network—Fairfax, we know you’re working on it. 
  • We worked with 26 organizations across the region to create a shared vision for what legislative action on Transportation Equity looks like. 18 candidates for office have already pledged to support it, with more coming in every week.
  • Mayor Bowser announced that the District is moving forward with its longest protected bike lane to date on Connecticut Avenue from Woodley Park all the way to Maryland.
  • Beach Drive in Rock Creek park remains open for people, 7 days a week. We’re still waiting on a final decision from the Park Service about whether that’s permanent, but thousands of you signed our petition supporting it.
  • WABA taught more adults and kids to ride safely and happily than we ever have in a year.
  • And despite the ongoing pandemic, this pandemic that’s impacted so many lives, we managed to have a good time riding bikes together—both the 50 States Ride and the Cider Ride sold out. I can’t wait to ride the Sweet Ride with all of you on June 18th.

Let’s take a look at some numbers: 

  • WABA’s membership has grown by about 60% since this time last year.  60%.
  • WABA now represents 8,105 incredible dues-paying members from across the region. Thank you for being one of them.
  • WABA’s staff, amazing staff, has grown  to 27 in 2022, 26 of whom are full time.
  • Financially, WABA ended fiscal year 2021 in the black with a ~$70,000 surplus, despite budgeting for a modest deficit. This solid financial standing sets WABA up well for a strong 2022.  And speaking of 2022,
  • Our 2022 budget is WABA’s biggest and most impactful, with revenue and expenses totalling roughly 2.6M.

For all these reasons, and more, WABA is in an excellent position to deliver on our mission – and this is critical, because we will need to use every tool and advantage we possess to help move our work forward.

Our mission has never felt more urgent. 2021 was a brutal year for traffic violence. Just last night we witnessed a fatal pedestrian accident in Fairfax.  2021 left families shattered and lives forever changed. We are winning, make no mistake, but we are not winning fast enough. Our urgency is real  So everything we do, every increment of growth—a  new member, a cheerful hello from our outreach team, a new name on a petition, a new partnership, a meeting around a set of engineering drawings, that game-changing grant, a sold-out joyful bike ride—is in service of a region where people can bike and walk safely and without fear.

There is substantial work ahead, and I promise you we will do our very best to make meaningful, permanent change in our region that not only advances our mission, but holds true to our core values: Joy. Boldness. Integrity. Justice. Stewardship. These values are at the heart of all that we do, and as we set our path for the next 50 years, I am so grateful that we are in it together.            Thank you.