Having Innovative Ideas Is Easy. Funding Innovative Ideas Is Hard.

Below, you’ll find WABA’s annual appeal letter for your year-end, tax-deductible donations to the work that we do. WABA members have already received this appeal by surface mail or email. We’re reprinting it here because we’re doing something a bit different this year: Instead of asking for funding to support the kind of work we’ve done, we’ve come up with a number of great ideas that won’t happen unless they are funded through donations. You can contribute to WABA’s work right now. Read on for more details on the things we’d love to do in 2014.

Dear biking friends,

Rather than sending you the traditional year-end plea for funds—which is usually a recap of the Washington Area Bicyclist Association’s 2013 work accompanied by a picture of cute kids on bikes—I’m writing to you today with a list of ideas.

WABA has been recognized by major news outlets and organizations for conducting some of the most innovative work in the nation to increase bicycling. With your support, we will continue our efforts to transform this region into one that is truly built for bicycling.

Your membership dues fund our general advocacy, which includes actions like attending public meetings, working with public officials and decision-makers, testifying at hearings and commenting on plans, and mobilizing grassroots support for biking. But, if we hope to continue to accelerate the D.C. region’s biking movement and the accompanying improvements for people who bike in this region, we must be able to go beyond traditional advocacy and continue to develop, fund, and implement innovative programs that expand and improve bicycling.

Here, we are presenting you with a list of projects that WABA has designed and wants to undertake in 2014—but lacks funding to complete. The following four projects were cut during this year’s annual work-planning and budget deliberations. Because we are efficient in our work and are blessed with the support of so many volunteers, these projects can be done for $30,000. But the only way we can do this work is if you help us pay for it.

Make a year-end donation to WABA to make bicycling in the D.C. region better.

The WABA Policy Fellowship
Every time a crash is reported, WABA responds. We have created a tracker to ensure that crashes in our jurisdictions are brought to our attention. We also have a mobile app that helps crash victims know what they, and we, need following a crash. Each time a crash is reported, we help the bicyclist understand the process for properly reporting the crash and provide advice on how to proceed through the complicated process of recovery. We speak with every crash victim possible, but we need to do more.

Advocacy depends on data. The realm of bicycle advocacy has precious little, which hampers how effective cycling advocates can be. WABA needs to be able to gather and analyze data from logged crashes in order to develop convincing arguments for specific bicycling improvements.

For much of 2013, WABA retained a policy fellow, Janie Nham, who crunched numbers from our crash tracker and assessed the best practices of police departments across the nation. She spent countless hours looking for patterns in data and developing proposals for legislation and enforcement improvements. Some of Janie’s findings have already made their way into law through D.C.’s Bicyclist Safety Amendment Act, and we are using her best-practices research to engage with law enforcement officials throughout the region and improve their understanding and enforcement of biking laws.

But we do not have the funding necessary to regularly compile the data that comes through the crash reports to identify trends, note unsafe conditions in need of improvement, and call out systemic errors in police response. The WABA policy fellowship was funded from January through August 2013 through the support of two generous donors, but there are no funds for a 2014 fellow.
Estimated need: $1,000/month stipend, totaling $12,000. Donate now!

The Learn-to-Ride Traffic Garden
There are too few places where kids in the D.C. region can learn how to properly ride bikes. Major trails are too crowded with fast-moving users. Surface parking lots are disappearing. WABA’s own classes have been kicked out of certain locations as space becomes scarcer or more difficult to permit.

We want to install a traffic garden, a dedicated space where kids can learn how to ride their bikes. The traffic garden will have a marked streetscape for practicing balancing and pedaling, and kids will be able to learn the rules of the road and trails on simulated surfaces. We teach over 3,000 kids how to ride safely each year as parents are teaching their own children. Why should there be dedicated spaces for every other outdoor activity—fields and courts and playgrounds—but none in which kids can develop bike skills?

After a great deal of searching, we still haven’t found a landowner willing to allow a full traffic graden with plantings, curbs, and other amenities integrated into the best models. However, the National Park Service will allow us to redesign a space in Alexandria as a pilot version. To get that done, we need to design and build the traffic garden ourselves.
Estimated Need: $3,000 in supplies, plus volunteer support. Donate now!

We want kids to have a safe, dedicated place to learn to ride bikes.

The Commuter Seminar Program
For the past three years, WABA has provided lunchtime commuter seminars to area offices, during which a WABA staffer visits a workplace and gives an interactive presentation. Commuter seminars provide employees everything they need to know to start biking to work. These sessions are incredibly successful at helping people overcome barriers to biking for transportation. As biking grows, the demand for these seminars has outpaced our ability to deliver them without a funding source for the staff time involved, and it’s hard to enlist volunteer support midday on weekdays.
Estimated Need: $5,000. Donate now!

The Regional Trail Summit
For all our success in growing biking over the past few years, we’ve failed to bring meaningful progress to our regional trail network. Continued movement on the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail and the Rhode Island Trolley Trail are notable exceptions to the fact that the Met Branch Trail isn’t complete, that Rock Creek and the Capital Crescent need major infrastructural work, the Suitland Parkway Trail is falling apart, or that the Washington, Baltimore & Annapolis Trail doesn’t begin or end at a main destination. Too many projects are taking too long and have lost momentum. Interjurisdictional battles and land use disputes have dragged on to the point that project managers don’t even talk to one another anymore.

It is time to convene a regional meeting to bring together responsible agencies, relevant elected officials, and the general public to rebuild a vision for our trail network and reinvigorate efforts to build it. WABA can convene such a meeting, but big meetings take time and money.
Estimated Need: $10,000. Donate now!

In addition to the above projects, we are excited to launch the second year of our innovative Women & Bicycles program, which has attracted over 1,000 particpants and landed WABA outreach coordinator Nelle Pierson in the pages of Bicycling magazine (she was regarded as an “innovator to watch”).

All of the projected listed above can be done for $30,000. A bonus $30,000 would fund the next year of Women & Bicycles, which will involve initiativesproven to get more women on bikes, like peer-to-peer meetups, skillshares, and safe spaces for discussions about gender-specific issues in bicycling.

Sixty thousand dollars total may seem like a large number, and it may be hard to process that a single outreach program can cost as much as four smaller initiatives. But we believe that your support can help us reach the total that we need to build our advocacy capacity, get more kids and adults biking, reinvigorate the expansion of our trail network, and continue to build a more equitable and inclusive biking movement by getting more women on bikes.

Our Women & Bicycles program has proven results. Help make its second year a reality.

Without your support, these projects will stay on the cutting-room floor. If you believe in what WABA is doing and are able, please consider an end-of-year, tax-deductible donation to make these projects happen. With your financial support, all of these things can be added to our workplan within the year.

We are so grateful for your support, which allowed us to make 2013 a successful year for WABA and the D.C. region. From Census and American Community Survey data to Bicycling magazine to Bike to Work Day’s record-breaking totals, every metric is capturing the growth of bicycling in our region.

If you are a current WABA member, you will soon receive your final RideOn newsletter of the year by mail (or, you can read it online here). That issue has been modified from our usual quarterly content to provide you with an annual report of our work throughout 2013. But with this letter, I’m asking you tohelp fund our future programs and keep us innovating in the pursuit of better bicycling in the D.C. region.

Thank you, and here’s to a biking-filled 2014.

Shane Farthing
Washington Area Bicyclist Association Executive Director