On Wednesday, February 5th, we celebrated the victory of Senate Bill 565 passing Committee and heading to the full Senate. This means that we are closer than ever before to getting protected bike lanes and pedestrian plazas written into the state vehicle code. The night before, though, tensions were high when we were first alerted to debate on SB 565, then about an amendment that could have hurt any progress deemed from the legislation. The amendment would have created new veto power over the installation of bike lanes in Philadelphia, which, in layman’s terms, would have meant severe delays in the installation of life-saving infrastructure.
This meant that after our typical office hours, we had to figure out how to mobilize our constituents to contact the Senate Transportation Committee — and quickly. We knew only a few hours separated this amendment being introduced and the vote, and those hours mostly coincided when people would be asleep. So we had to be swift and efficient.
So who stepped in? Of course our Executive Director Sarah Clark-Stuart jumped into action, as did our Policy Manager Randy LoBasso to figure out our messaging. They also got Amtrak tickets to Harrisburg, to take our advocacy straight to the Capitol. Families for Safe Streets co-founders Laura and Richard Fredricks were alerted, too, and decided to join us in the state capital for a full day of advocacy on behalf of Pennsylvania’s bicycling community, and everyone who wants safe streets.
Going to the Capitol to make our case, though, wasn’t enough. We needed to raise our voices in anticipation of what could have been a real fight. And that would involve a quick infusion of tech.
See, we’ve been working for years to get this legislation passed, and a debate in the Senate Transportation Committee is the closest we’ve ever come to making it reality. There was no way we were going to accept this moment passively, and that meant all hands on deck.
Just a few moments after getting the news of the amendment to SB 565, Bicycle Coalition Systems Administrator Megan Hummell stepped up.
She pulled a late night setting up the technical infrastructure that enabled 1,500 people to email the Senate Transportation Committee before the vote.
This was no easy feat, as it involved four different tech systems: our CRM, which tracks constituent interactions; an email builder; our email client; and our advocacy platform, Soapbox Engage, which allowed us to program our elected officials’ contact information and send them the message that this amendment would halt progress on bike lane installation. After alerting our members, fellow advocacy organizations Bike Pittsburgh and 5th Square assisted, forwarding our message to their membership, as well.
Our membership, supporters, and friends stepped up in a big way. It was virtually unprecedented. By the time Randy and Sarah got to the Capitol, legislators and staffers were speaking amongst themselves about how baffled they were, given the thousands of emails they’d each gotten overnight.
Another yet-uncredited player in our successful campaign is Ryan Ozimek at Soapbox Engage, who was available on the emergency line to troubleshoot some last-minute tech issues. Thanks, Soapbox Ryan, for your role in our successful campaign!
We’re sharing this to be transparent about what being a member of the Bicycle Coalition means. The unrestricted funding provided by our members means that we can invest in the technology and staff to quickly orchestrate an action alert to mobilize 1,500 people to send a message to their elected officials, and help change policy. Having the tools and resources to execute a campaign like this can make a huge difference. Without this intervention, the PA Senate may have issued a huge setback for safety of Philly’s cyclists, pedestrians, and drivers.
Thank you to each one of our dues-paying members, and everyone who sent an email Tuesday night and Wednesday morning. You are contributing to our movement that is using cutting-edge tools to deliver results for the region’s cyclists. Thank you to everyone who opened our email or clicked on our campaign on social media and took action; without you, our tools would be useless.
And thank you to the under-credited administrative, support, and technical staffers out there who may not be in the limelight but make our movements run. We see you and appreciate you.