Thank you, and some news.

Dear Members and Friends,

Thank you for the opportunity to serve as the Executive Director of the Washington Area Bicyclist Association for nearly six years. I’ll be stepping down as the Executive Director and my last day at WABA will be May 31, 2021. It’s been a true honor and privilege to work everyday to make our streets safer for people on bikes.

A lot has changed in the past decade since I first started at WABA. Ten years ago, I could attend public meetings for the next street project and recognize most of the people in the room there to advocate for biking. Now those (virtual) rooms are packed with neighbors, business owners, and civic leaders speaking up for safer streets. Years ago, a cargo bike with kids would roll by, I would wave as it could be one of only a few local families. Now, I see dozens of families riding with kids every day. And, back then there were a few champions of biking serving in elected office that carried the flag for better biking. Today, there are leaders at all levels of government working to make biking better for everyone.

WABA is a community of people dedicated to creating a more just and sustainable region by making biking available to everyone who wants to ride. It’s really about the people. I have had the opportunity to work with so many inspiring, passionate, and caring people to improve bicycling — you, our neighbors and community members, civic leaders, staff, and board members.

The collective hard work by so many of you has yielded new miles of trails in the trail network, a growing network of protected bike lanes, the launch and expansion of bikesharing, passage of important legislation that protects the most vulnerable road users, and many more improvements that are making biking safer and more joyful.

And yet, there is work left to do. The past few weeks have been incredibly painful as people walking and biking are being injured and killed at alarming rates by dangerous driving on deadly streets. Each person killed leaves behind a grieving family and community. Every survivor faces a long road to recovery and will never be the same afterwards. Elected leaders across the region have made commitments to eliminate traffic deaths and injuries, but progress toward safe streets is too slow, too often bogged down by politics. We are tired of demanding change from people with the power to fix a broken system. We must continue demanding changes as lives are depending on us. 

The movement that you are a part of is bigger, more diverse and inclusive, and powerful than it has ever been. The calls for safer streets for better walking and biking are louder, more effective, more frequent and throughout the Washington region. The pandemic has brought into focus the need for more places for people to get outside on foot and bike to recreate and exercise, to promote their well-being, physical and mental health, and to live more sustainable lives. The growth of biking right now rivals historical bike booms and it’s the time to invest in long-term improvements that makes bicycling truly accessible and available to all who want to ride.

I am particularly proud of our work to advance diversity, equity, inclusion, and antiracism (DEIA) as an organization. Staff, board, WABA members, and volunteers intentionally work to center DEIA in our advocacy, education, and outreach efforts to better represent our diverse community and address historic and current inequity. 

On a personal note, our family welcomed a baby girl a few weeks ago. I will be taking some time in the short-term to be the primary caregiver for our two young kids before taking on my next professional role. Fortunately, we planned ahead and our family cargo bike has a spot for a second seat when the time is right. 

Here is an update from the Board President Joanne Neukirchen shortly that outlines the transition and search process for WABA’s next Executive Director. I have complete confidence in the members of the board and staff to advance our mission and represent the diversity within our organization.

Again, thank you for your support of WABA. I will soon join you as a member and look forward to WABA’s next chapter.

Sincerely,

Greg Billing


PS: We can’t do a happy hour safely yet, but join us on Thursday the 27th for a socially distant ride to a neighborhood park.

Our streets are not safe enough.

Deadly traffic crash on Georgia Ave NW

Last Thursday night, a four year child was killed at the corner of Kennedy St and Georgia Ave NW in Ward 4. The lives of the family, the driver, and bystanders who heroically attempted lifesaving aid will never be the same. This is unspeakable trauma. 

This tragedy was preventable. Humans make mistakes, but it’s the design of our streets that makes those mistakes deadly. We know what it takes to make our streets safe for everyone, including kids. It takes slower speeds, less driving, and more space for people outside of cars. The solutions are not complicated, what’s missing is the political will to implement them.  Please join me in writing to the Mayor and Council demanding immediate action.

I live a few blocks away from Georgia and Kennedy, and hurried to the scene when I heard the news of the crash. We all live near and travel through dangerous intersections and hostile streets. Last week’s deadly crash could have been blocks away from your home, work, a place of worship or a school.

Despite a dramatic drop in driving and commuting due to the COVID-19 pandemic, traffic fatalities are unacceptably high. People walking make up a disportionately high percentage of the fatalities and serious injuries, with communities of color bearing the burden of most traffic violence. These unjust outcomes are the result of decades of disinvestment and broken priorities.

As I stood at the corner of Kennedy St and Georgia Ave NW on Thursday attempting to comprehend the pain of a family losing a child,  across town advocates, residents, and civic leaders were pleading with city officials in a public meeting to make another dangerous corridor, Connecticut Ave NW, safer. We should not have to plead, block by block, project by project, for streets that don’t kill people. The system is broken. It’s deadly and it’s unjust.  Our elected officials bicker, and our agency leaders keep their heads down and hide behind bureaucracy, and our city fails to make sufficient progress.  Why is it so hard? We know what it takes to make our streets safer, and it might appear unpopular, but here it is:

It will take longer to drive places. It will be harder to find a parking space. 

That’s it. That’s why people keep dying on our streets. I don’t think that’s a good enough reason. 


Please join me in calling for urgent action by Mayor Bowser and the entire DC government to address the continued harm of dangerous streets in our city. The pace and scope of the District’s current safety efforts are inadequate. Five years ago, Mayor Bowser committed to  ending traffic deaths and serious injuries by 2024. The numbers continue to move in the wrong direction.  To save lives, we need commitments to the following:

The Department of Transportation must immediately implement aggressive traffic calming and pedestrian safety measures on every arterial street in the District. Speed limits, and design speeds, should be 20 miles per hour or lower.  

Further, DDOT must immediately dismantle its internal, systemic barriers to implementing safer streets, including, but not limited to: 

  • Rejecting the Level-of-Service engineering standards, which prioritize driver convenience over safety. 
  • Setting a maximum Speed Limit and Design Speed of 20 miles per hour on all streets that are not limited access highways.
  • Explicit directions to all agency staff to prioritize pedestrian safety over parking in every single instance. 
  • Drastic and immediate improvements to the agency’s  pace of Project Delivery. The status quo—safety projects that take years, and deliver piecemeal, mediocre, results—is deadly and unacceptable.  

The District’s 2021 budget must include complete funding for all elements of the Vision Zero Enhancement Omnibus Amendment Act of 2019, as well as any additional funding DDOT needs to immediately overhaul pedestrian safety on every arterial street.

Let’s ride into 2021 together.

2021 is in sight — and we’ve got a good tailwind thanks to a generous WABA donor who is matching your gifts, up to $50,000, between now and midnight. Can you make a gift right now to help WABA ride strong into the new year, and see its impact double?

We have $30,000 to go to meet our goal! So before you do your thing tonight to bid adieu to this strange and hard year (at home, with your household), celebrate by investing in a better 2021: 

  • More bike lanes, so it’s easier to use your bike to run errands, get to and from work, and safely visit your loved ones.
  • More trails, so we can more easily go for a ride or hike on a weekend afternoon.
  • Better policies that prioritize people over cars, so more people are empowered to safely bike, walk, scoot where they need to go.

This matching gift, up to $50,000, is a phenomenal show of faith in the WABA community to make it happen — we’re counting on you. Your support means a just and sustainable transportation system where biking, walking, and transit are the best ways to get around.

Can you make a gift today to invest in that vision, and make 2021 better for you, your neighborhood, and the whole region?

BIG news for better bicycling in 2021…

A generous donor has made an incredible pledge to get WABA across the 2020 finish line: she’s going to match your gifts, up to $50,000, doubling the impact of your support for more bike lanes and better bicycling all around — as long as you give before the clock strikes 2021. 

Will you make a gift today to make 2021 better for you, your neighborhood, and the region?

Here’s what’s on the horizon for WABA, our region, and our bicycling community in the coming year, with your investment: 

  • More bike lanes. In 2020 we pushed harder than ever, and completely changed the game—setting the stage for even more progress in the coming year.
  • A connected multi-use trail network. More than 10 miles of trails are under construction right now, and with your support, we’ll reprioritize federal transportation funding from highway projects (that won’t even diminish traffic!) to trail projects.
  • Culture shift. Our work is at the intersection of so many critical issues: racial justice, climate crises, affordable housing, transportation equity, and more. In the coming year, WABA is committed to contextualizing our vision of a just and sustainable transportation system within work for a region that’s just and sustainable as a whole. 
  • Power building. With training and support from WABA, community advocates like you will put more pressure on elected officials to transform streets at the block-by-block level. 
  • More everyday WABA goodness. Online and on the ground — from fix-a-flat webinars to safe group events, 2021 will bring more classes, trainings, and rides to keep us together. 

We’re glad you’re on this ride with us— $50,000 is a big goal, and we have never been challenged by such a generous match before. We couldn’t do this work without you beside us. 

Will you give to WABA today, to show your support for bicycling in 2021?

What’s on the horizon for WABA in 2021

WABA’s network of volunteers, advocates, neighbors, friends, and family made bicycling better—and kept WABA strong and steady!— in 2020.

Now, as we brace ourselves for 2021, we know that community is more important than ever. We made progress over the past year, and we’re celebrating it. But there’s still work to do building a region where you and your neighbors can safely explore, learn, and unlock the superpowers that come with riding a bike— and we’re counting on your support to do it.

Here’s what’s on the horizon for 2021 as WABA keeps working to make your ride— and our region— better:

  • More bike lanes. In 2020 we pushed harder than ever, and completely changed the game—setting the stage for even more progress in the coming year.
  • A connected multi-use trail network. More than 10 miles of trails are under construction right now, and with your support, we’ll reprioritize federal transportation funding from highway projects (that won’t even diminish traffic!) to trail projects.
  • Culture shift. Our work is at the intersection of so many critical issues: racial justice, climate crises, affordable housing, transportation equity, and more. In the coming year, WABA is committed to contextualizing our vision of a just and sustainable transportation system within work for a region that’s just and sustainable as a whole. 
  • Power building. With training and support from WABA, community advocates like you will put more pressure on elected officials to transform streets at the block-by-block level. 
  • More everyday WABA goodness. Online and on the ground —  from fix-a-flat webinars to safe group events, 2021 will bring more classes, trainings, and rides to keep us together. 

These are just a few of the ways WABA will empower people to ride bikes, build connections, and transform places in 2021.

Want to learn more about what your support made possible in 2020 and  how we’re continuing to pivot for 2021? Join WABA for a digital town hall with WABA’s executive director and development director on December 3rd. Click here to register and get the Zoom link. 

Bicycling made 2020 a little better.

I hope bicycling has made this year a little bit better for you. For me, a sunny afternoon on a busy trail was a welcome moment of levity, freedom, and connection to this wonderful community.

During the pandemic, this community brought the joy of bicycling to more people than ever before— and made our region a better place to bike in a time when we really needed it.

The thing is: the new bike lanes, new trails, and policies that make your ride better?

They add up to so much more than a great afternoon.

They’re the backbone of a safer, more sustainable transportation system that we can rely on through a climate crisis and a pandemic.

There’s no way around it: 2020 was hard. But your support for WABA made a big difference to our region and community.

Together, we:

  • Won car free spaces on Beach Drive and other park roads in Maryland and DC—not just on weekends but every day, reserving more space for people to play;
  • Expanded DC’s protected bike lane network by 45%, with even more construction planned for 2021;
  • Cleared a wonky bureaucratic hurdle that opens up federal funding for hundreds of miles of new trails in the region;
  • Celebrated major progress on car-free bridges: the Long Bridge is one year closer to reality and the arches are up on the Frederick Douglass Bridge—and both will connect to new trails;
  • Celebrated ground breaking on a wider and safer Washington & Old Dominion Trail in Arlington, our first major trail to create wide separate spaces for people biking and people walking; and
  • Pushed a robust set of policy changes through the DC Council that will result in safer intersections, slower speed limits, faster changes to dangerous roads, and prioritized investment in communities with fewer transportation options.

We did all this, together, despite all the uncertainty 2020 brought. I’m proud to be part of the Washington area bicycling community.

Statement on the murder of George Floyd

The murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Tony McDade, and the brutality inflicted—or enabled—by police every day on Black people is appalling. This violence is part of the same racist system that has sanctioned Black people being murdered or brutalized by white supremacists with impunity for hundreds of years. It still sanctions, today, the violence and brutality that isn’t caught on video. Fixing that system is our responsibility, and yours.

Based on what we know from membership surveys, if you’re reading this, there’s about a 75% chance that you’re white. If you’re not, feel free to skip ahead

White folks, (I’m going to use “we” here, because I’m a white person), we need to talk about what we mean by “safety”. 

Most of the time, you and I can move through public space without fear of harassment or police violence because of the way we look. People of color do not have that privilege while walking, or biking, or driving, or running, or taking transit. When we, white people, demand safe places to bike and walk, but only talk about infrastructure, we are perpetuating an incomplete definition of safety. 

Here is the uncomfortable reality of our own complicity: in America, whiteness is a prerequisite for safety in public space. When we advocate for more bike lanes, better trails, and bigger sidewalks, we are creating more places where white people are safer than people of color. 

Whether we intend to or not, we are reinforcing white supremacy in our society unless we are actively pursuing anti-racist policies. I don’t want any part in white supremacy, and I’m sure you don’t either.

Does that mean we should stop working for a safer, more sustainable transportation future? No. Our transportation system is still deadly and unjust, and climate change is already wreaking havoc across the world. Communities of color suffer a disproportionate burden from both these crises. 

What this means is that we cannot remain passive about racial injustice. It’s not enough to feel like we’re not personally racist, and let Black and Brown people do the work of dismantling racism. To avoid perpetuating injustice with the change we seek to create, we must be actively anti-racist. We have so much work to do.

What does that look like in practice for white bike advocates? It’s an ongoing cycle of education and action. It means that if we’re not talking about racial justice every time we talk about bike lanes, we’re perpetuating injustice. If we are not seeking out and centering non-white voices whenever we are planning, we’re perpetuating injustice. If we’re not actively supporting the groups and people leading the fight for racial justice, we’re perpetuating injustice. 

How do we do that? Here are some great places for us to start:

Things to read and watch:

Planning While Black, Tamika Butler (video)

The Urgency of Intersectionality, Kimberlé Crenshaw (video)

Being Antiracist, National Museum of African American History and Culture (online resource)

So You Want to Talk About Race, Ijeoma Oluo (book)

How To Be An Antiracist, Ibram X. Kendi (book)

The Anti-Racist Reading List, Ibram X. Kendi (pdf)

Police have always limited Black people’s mobility and freedom in public spaces, David Zegeye (News Story)

Untokening Mobility: Beyond Pavement, Paint and Place, The Untokening (online resource)

White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack, Peggy McIntosh, (pdf)

Do Bicycles Cause Gentrification? Dr Melody Hoffman (podcast interview and book)

Bicycle/Race by Adonia Lugo, PhD (book)

Seeing White, John Biewen and Chenjerai Kumanyika (podcast)

Intersectional Riding, Do Jun Lee, PhD (blog)

Bike Advocacy’s Blind Spot, Adonia Lugo PhD (interview with CityLab)

Organizations to get involved with or donate to:

For folks in this community who are people of color:

We see you and hear you. We stand with you in this miserable time, but I know that’s not enough. WABA’s work is so fundamentally entangled in the racial geography and politics of this region, and for so long we have not meaningfully grappled with that reality. We have to change the way we do many things. That will take some time, and we will surely make mistakes along the way.

I hope the paragraphs above are a first step. Dismantling white supremacy is a white people problem, and the majority of WABA’s board, staff, senior leadership, membership and supporter base is white. So my job, and WABA’s job, in the coming months and years, is to help this community of tens of thousands of inspiring, engaged advocates for better biking also become inspiring, engaged advocates for racial justice. 

What’s going to change?

This is all just words if it doesn’t change what we do every day. While we’re proud of some of the work we’ve done on diversity, equity, and inclusion, we have a lot listening, learning, and growing to do to be anti-racist in all of our work. Below is a not-remotely-exhaustive list of new work, existing work, and places we see ourselves continuing to fall short. Please tell us when we fail to live up to these commitments. 

Active Anti-Racism: In the past, WABA has seen our work’s relationship to racial justice in the context of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Those values are still important, but they are not enough. We must be part of the active fight against racism. This will play out in different ways across the organization, but some things you might expect to see include action alerts to support anti-racist policies not directly related to bicycling, more explicit anti-racist content in our education and outreach programming, and a code of conduct for participating in WABA events.

Supporting partners, peer organizations, and coalitions: WABA has a voice, an audience, and a network of amazing volunteers. In the short term, we can use these resources to support and amplify the organizations and networks that are already leading on racial and social justice issues that intersect with transportation. We also continue to seek places where we can lead ourselves. We have been working with some new and existing partners to create a framework for coordinating and supporting transportation equity work in the region, and we’ll have some additional information to share soon.

Investing staff time: We have three full-time community organizers working almost exclusively in DC’s Wards 4, 7, and 8, where most of our Black neighbors live. We focus our outreach on communities of color around the region. We know we’re not showing up to the extent we need to in Prince George’s County. 

Changing policy positions: WABA abandoned all calls for additional police making traffic stops, and we changed our approach to automated enforcement. We also push back on helmet laws and bike registration laws, both of which create unnecessary barriers to entry for low-income communities and provide a pretext for stop-and-frisk or other forms of police harassment. We know we still need to conduct a thorough, anti-racist audit of all of our policy positions. 

Ongoing staff and board work: We talk about anti-racism a lot internally, with medium- and long-term goals about changing and modifying our programmatic work and internal processes. We need to fast track that, which we hope we are well positioned to do: WABA’s board finalized our DEI statement in early 2018 (it’s here). A staff-led Diversity, Equity and Inclusion working group launched in fall 2018. It meets weekly for learning discussions and action on our organizational DEI workplan. We are grateful to have that foundation as we revise our DEI statement to explicitly incorporate anti-racism, and share more anti-racism resources with our white supporters, and build out more space to listen to our BIPOC constituencies.

What we can all do, together:

  • Admit when we are wrong.
  • Acknowledge when we are complicit. 
  • Amplify the voices of people who know more about this work than we do.
  • Keep seeking new and deeper understanding.
  • Keep listening.
  • Educate the WABA community to build continued support for anti-racism.
  • Keep talking about this, especially when it makes us feel uncomfortable, and when the news cycle moves on.

I hope you will join us.

Urgent: Fairness for Crash Victims in Virginia

People injured walking and biking in Virginia face an uphill battle to get fairly compensated for damages from a crash resulting from a negligent driver. An antiquated legal doctrine called contributory negligence stacks the deck in favor of insurance companies and against people who are hurt. Crashes can cause damage to a person’s bike and other property, run up expensive medical bills and impact one’s ability to work. Injured people deserve a fighting chance to be fairly compensated for damages.

The Virginia General Assembly is considering legislation that will level the playing field when bicyclists and pedestrians are hurt in crashes by negligent drivers. Yesterday, the Civil Law Subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee voted in support of Senate Bill 659 and tomorrow the full committee will vote on the bill. The legislation is modeled on a similar bill passed in the District of Columbia in 2016 which has shown to be effective, targeted and fair.

People walking and biking in Virginia involved in a crash with the driver of a motor vehicle can be completed barred from receiving any compensation for injuries if they are even slightly at fault. Depending on the severity of a crash, a victim can rack up huge medical bills, lost wages because of missed work, face lasting injuries and other damages to personal property such as a bicycle.

Under the antiquated legal doctrine contributory negligence, powerful insurance companies can deny all claims from a crash victim in unfair and unjust ways. 46 states in the United States have adopted the more fair comparative standard that weighs each parties negligence and adjusts compensation accordingly

Senate Bill 659 is modeled on a similar bill passed in the District of Columbia in 2016 which gives crash victims access to full compensation if they are the less negligent party. The DC law has shown to be effective, targeted and fair. Scare tactics from the insurance industry have not borne out. Virginia’s crash victims deserve better.

Yesterday, the Civil Law Subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee favorable voted in support of Senate Bill 659 and tomorrow the full committee will vote on the bill. The next step in the process would be a vote by the full State Senate if the bill is reported out of the Judiciary Committee.

Editor’s note: please pardon our typos. The Virginia legislative session is extremely short.

Today only: double your impact.

Today, five donors who have supported WABA for more than a decade are stepping up. They’re matching your donation, dollar for dollar, up to $11,000.

DOUBLE YOUR DONATION

Each of these donors has gone above and beyond through the last decade (or more), and today, they want you to join them. Can you make a gift today to help WABA enter the next ten years strong?

We have so much on the horizon for the 2020s. We’ll have multiple car-free bridges. Our trail network will near completion. We’ll have networks of connected, protected bike lanes equitably distributed across the region.

A decade ago, we didn’t have a single protected bike lane in the region. Our trail planners weren’t talking to each other. We didn’t have a robust bikeshare system, and we couldn’t take bikes on Metro during rush hour. 

But our donors had faith and hope, and generously stepped up to help build a region where getting out of your car and on a bike is not just an option, it’s a joy. 

Will you join them today? We are relying on you to build a better connected, more beautiful region. Let’s build something special together.

MATCH YOUR GIFT

Thank you!