Monday, June 16, 2014

NBP denies golden opportunity to advocate for bicycle safety

In response to a recent blog post calling into question Newark's proposed parking garage, Ricky Nietubicz, Planner/DNP Administrator City of Newark Planning & Development graciously replied:

"As you can imagine, balancing the transportation and parking needs of our business community, downtown residents, visitors and those simply passing through, presents interesting infrastructure challenges, and complexities that have evolved over decades. As the Newark Bike Project is both a downtown business (which we are very proud to claim you as part of our business community!) and a community group with deep ties to the bicycling community, we would welcome an opportunity to sit down and share ideas on what opportunities we may have to continue improving our bicycle infrastructure (and, hopefully, increase our “bike friendly community” level) as well as safety and downtown access for users of all transportation modes. Moreover, we would welcome any opportunity to work together to increase the number of residents and visitors taking the opportunity to bike, rather than drive, downtown. If at all possible, we would welcome the opportunity to begin a dialogue and gather valuable input from your organization – are there any days or times the week of June 23rd that we could sit down and share some thoughts? Thank you."

This was an unprecedented and wonderful invitation - one that long time advocates had hoped for - to be heard, to have input on cycling conditions in Newark. And an opportunity that the Newark Bike Project, who purports to care about getting people cycling, should have jumped on.

After clarifying that I was unable to speak on behalf of NBP because I am not a current board member, and including NBP in CC, a newly elected board member wrote:

"Yes, Newark Bike Project advocates bike enablement (people having access to bikes and bike repair knowledge), but we currently do not engage in political advocacy regarding transportation policy. We simply don't even discuss or have opinions on such topics as a group, as they are too complex and warrant a level of discourse and education that NBP does not facilitate."

When asked for her advice on the subject, Amy Wilburn, Chair of the Delaware Bicycle Council commented:

"I think they should get involved.  They don’t need to do proactive advocacy, but they should darned well weigh in when asked for input. Even if only as individual members with the caveat that the organization doesn’t have an official stance. Although, in a case where they are asked for input, it would be a good thing to bring this to a discussion and vote and to have an official organizational position. It’s got to be a bit of a big picture, if you’re going to encourage folks to bike."

Why are folks so afraid of bicycle advocacy? Especially when invited so politely to a discussion by such an influential person such as Mr. Nietubicz? It would seem a sacred responsibility - not only to get people on bikes, but also to ensure that the roads that they ride are safe. And to work for, and fully co-operate with, people who share those goals.

We are not sure what to make of NBP's position, except that it's unique for a bicycle co-op to prioritize non-bike specific activities such as hip-hop nights, food co-ops, devotional gatherings, etc, over advocacy for safer conditions for the very folks they encourage and sell bikes to. Among the top attendees at the National Bike Summit was bicycle co-op representatives, including the Reno Bike Project, and MoBo Bicycle Co-op, whose missions include:

"Advocating for cycling rights and cycling growth in the Truckee Meadows by working with public officials and other organizations that are key players in transportation planning."

"MoBo facilitates healthy and sustainable transportation through bicycle programs, events, and advocacy in our immediate community and beyond."

It is our sincere hope that, although this offer was first extended to the NBP, that Mr. Nietubicz will still be open to having this discussion with members of Delaware Bikes. As experienced and dedicated bicycling advocates, we will welcome the opportunity to discuss ideas that will make Newark more bike friendly.


  1. Don’t lose perspective. Cycling is a big subject full of lots of specific sub-subjects. NBP focuses on getting people on bikes and teaching them to fix bikes; they don’t do mountain bike trial building and maintenance. The Trailspinners do trail building and maintenance, but don’t have a bike shop to teach people to fix bikes. Urban Bike Project focuses on Earn-a-Bike programs for youth, but doesn’t do anything for adult bike racing, yada yada, so forth, so on. There are many bicycle advocacy groups. Let them advocate. Can’t the other bicycle groups focus on their missions without being called out as having screwed up for not joining in on political advocacy? Political advocacy has a tendency to degrade in to petty arguments and stances that takes too much energy away from the core mission. This posting is a prime example of that.

  2. This entire article is based on the two quoted sentences I wrote above, in a very rushed and brief and private email to correct the fact that this blog author had sent an email (subject "Re: New Parking Garage") to the entire City management criticizing their parking garage plan, using "Newark Bike Project" in his email signature. Below is my entire email.

    I was speaking only about the subject of the email (parking garage), and didn't even notice while skimming on my handheld screen two levels deep in the email thread that the City Planner Ricky Nietubicz had offered to discuss other items.

    Rather than try to reach NBP for comment or statement, this blog author unfortunately took my two sentences in a private email about the garage and wrote an entire blog article, titled "NBP denies golden opportunity to advocate for bicycle safety".

    This blog is incorrect that this is an unprecedented opportunity. In fact, NBP has an open invite from the Mayor, the City Manager, and the Planning Department to discuss general biking concerns.

    Also, this blog is incorrect in that NBP was copied on the email. Only I was copied and via my personal email, and I don't make public statements on NBP except those related to NBP history, as I am a co-founder (Frank is not). We have a board of Directors for advocacy and public statements, and I'm not currently on it. Although I'll start my board term next month.

    As for the garage, it is a complex topic. NBP has zero credentials in transportation planning, and -- as an organization -- we are uninformed and not all on the same page about transportation policy issues even if we were informed. As for general -- and less political -- bike advocacy topics, I am personally involved in bike advocacy of the very issues Ricky mentions. But NBP as an organization does not have the structure currently to build consensus around those issues. Not to mention we're in the middle of a move that is taking up dozens of hours of my time each week.

    Hopefully, this article will be corrected or simply taken down. There's really nothing here once my statements are seen in the context of the parking garage referenced in the subject line and in the original email.

    - Jamie Magee

    Full email, with [ ] added to indicate the intention.

    "Yes, Newark Bike Project advocates bike enablement (people having access to bikes and bike repair knowledge), but we currently do not engage in political advocacy regarding transportation policy [e.g., a parking garage]. We simply don't even discuss or have opinions on such topics as a group, as they are too complex and warrant a level of discourse and education that NBP does not facilitate [e.g. a parking garage]. Sorry NBP was on Frank's signature for that email. However, you might wish to discuss with him directly, as he's very experienced and informed and has dedicated himself to making Newark more bike transportation friendly."

  3. I think it is a shame that one advocacy group in Delaware is so disrespectful of another group, especially when using sound bites to make their point.

    We should respect each advocacy group's boundaries they have setup for them selves. Different groups have different focuses yet they all contribute to better cycling infrastructure in this state. This pettiness just slows down progress.

    NBP has always been ultra clear in their stance that they focus on the community bike shop and they don't sway away from that. As part of building that community bike shop it makes perfect sense that they do activities as a community such as Hip-Hop night. Those types of activities promote the "community" in the community bike shop.

    Keep going strong NBP.


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