WASHINGTON, D.C. (BRAIN)—In its eighth year running, the National Bike Summit is setting new records this year with more than 500 registered attendees including more than 70 retailers, more than double the number of retailers from previous years.
The annual gathering kicked off last night with a keynote dinner in a packed ballroom of the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center.
"About 150 people attended eight years ago...this year we passed the 500 mark," said Andy Clarke, president of the League of American Bicyclists, organizer of the two-and-a-half-day event. "We have the CEOs of Trek, Giant, Pacific, Fuji, SRAM, Saris and QBP among many others," he added, underlying the importance of having the voice of the business community to deliver cycling's message and impact on the Hill.
Aside from advocates, retailers, suppliers, pro racers and riders and ride directors from nearly all 50 states, Clarke said the conference also attracted attendees from Canada this year.
After Clarke's welcome, the crowd heard rousing speeches from David Jones Jr., chairman of the board of healthcare giant Humana, and Brian Wademan, chief of staff for the U.S. department of the interior.
Jones, a competitive triathlete, spoke about Humana's successful bike-sharing program, Freewheelin', which launched last fall.
"You see me here standing as a corporate suit, but I started riding as a teenager as a bike commuter," he said, adding that though he rode his bike throughout his schooling years, later in life it became harder and more scarce.
"By my early forties, I was borderline obese," he said. "Biking brought me back from the brink. I became a middle-age roadie."
Cycling was key to his path back to health and something he sees as key to America's growing obesity and health problems. "We want the bike to be the champion in health improvement," he said.
Wademan spoke about the National Park Service and the importance for attendees to promote access to parks and wild life refuges for mountain bikers.
"National parks are an American issue, not a democrat or republican issue," he said. "Don't be shy to advocate for park (access)."
The department of the interior currently manages 391 national parks and 560 wild life refuges, he said.
John Burke, president of Trek Bicycle, was also honored at the dinner for his company's fundraising efforts through its Two Wheels One Planet program. Clarke handed him the John Torosian Award.