What’s cool about the Miami Valley Cycling Summit

National Bike Month is ending with a bang as the premiere bicycling event in the region  – the Miami Valley Cycling Summit – will be held Friday, May 29, at the Fort Piqua Plaza Banquet Center.

At last count Wednesday morning, 353 people had registered – close to a new record, according to organizers.Summitlogo

And the coolest thing of all is that none of those people will have to spend a dime once they get there. Thanks to the generous sponsors, the summit, which will run from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., is free. You can still register and find more information at the event website, or you can register at the door Friday morning.

The keynote speaker will be Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Perduto, who is working to make his city a pedestrian- and bike-friendly city. Other speakers will include Stephen Clark, the bicycle friendly community specialist for the League of American Bicyclists, Melinda Huntley from the Ohio Travel Association and many others.

The program includes four tracks of sessions in the morning, free lunch, another set of sessions followed by community work sessions in the afternoon, exhibitors, raffles and other free stuff, with an Advocacy Social at the 311 Drafthouse from 4 to 6 p.m.

Sounds like fun to me. But it’s about more than just partying with your cycling friends.

Emmy Fabich, program manager for Bike Miami Valley, which is now in charge of the biennial event, said the summit is foremost an opportunity for cyclists, business owners and policy-makers to get together in the same room and talk about common interests.

“That doesn’t happen by chance very often,” Fabich said. “So it gives the opportunity for business owners to interact, and for the everyday riders to interact and talk to the policy-makers to let them know what they would like to see for improving amenities on the streets, for improving incentives for business growth, and for the policy-makers to learn what cycling can do to grow a municipality.”

The summit is also about the effort to “elevate cycling as a form of respected transportation.”

“Bicycling doesn’t just end at the trail,” Fabich said. “Getting people off the trail and into the city centers is what those policy-makers need to understand.”

The first three cycling summits were held in Dayton (twice) in 2009 and 2011 and then in Springfield in 2013. In both cities, the summits kicked off a number of cycling initiatives. Dayton earned Bicycle Friendly Community status in 2010. Springfield grew a local organization, Bike Springfield, and has recently spun up its own advocacy chapter of Bike Miami Valley.

Chris Schmiesing, city planner for the city of Piqua, said many in the city are stoked to be hosting the summit this year.

“We’re working really hard at cultivating a bicycle-friendly environment in our community,” said Schmiesing, who is in charge of coordinating the Piqua summit. “And for us to be able to host the premier event that speaks to the best practices in the cycling community, and have the representatives from the various organizations share their insights and observations is really pretty invaluable.”

A big part of Piqua’s strategy to grow its economy centers around “quality of place and quality of life,” he said.

“I don’t think that anyone can argue with the fact that cycling is a highly sought after amenity by a big segment of the current market trends. And so when we look at demographics and our ability to be able to attract millennials to live, work and play here, we want to be able to offer those kinds of amenities that they’re looking for.”

Whether it’s a “bicycle-friendly culture” or downtown living or river-based recreation, he said, “we’re really working hard to make sure that we have all of those offerings so we can be a place where people want to live, work and play.”

So if you’re interested in how to get new bike facilities in your community, or learning about the economic impact of bicycling tourism, or working on how to get the business you own or work for to be bike friendly, or how to support and promote bicycle education and safety, you might want to register for this event.

Or if you like free lunches, or if you want to have adult beverages and food after with at least 353 of your closest friends.

Hey, they’re all good reasons.

Ken McCall is the database reporter for the Dayton Daily News and an avid cyclist. He is a member of Bike Miami Valley, where he serves as co-chairman of the Regional Advocacy Committee; the Dayton Cycling Club; the Ohio Bike Federation; and the League of American Bicyclists.

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