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Competing with high-powered road, railways and waterways interests to win congressional funding for bicycle lanes and other “transportation enhancements” isn’t easy, but Caron Whitaker is used to fighting for causes that don’t always attract the most money to K Street.
Before joining America Bikes, a coalition that lobbies lawmakers to keep cyclists in mind when making federal transportation policy, Whitaker managed land use, smart growth and community engagement campaigns for the National Wildlife Foundation. She previously worked as a community land use planner for the North Carolina Coastal Management Division.
After four years at America Bikes, Whitaker will take her experience in planning and transportation policy to the League of American Bicyclists, where she takes over as vice president of government relations on Dec. 1.
The new job makes Whitaker Washington’s most prominent bicycling lobbyist. The League of American Bicyclists is a member of America Bikes, and Whitaker will continue to serve as a lead contact for the coalition.
Whitaker, who holds a master’s degree in environmental management from Duke University, said her work in urban planning and sustainability drew her to the job of lobbying for bicyclists.
America Bikes staff members practice what they preach, too. Many of the employees cycle to work, and there is an office bicycle available for staffers to ride to meetings on Capitol Hill.
She credits Senate Environment and Public Works Chairwoman Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., with keeping cyclists in mind in writing the surface transportation law enacted earlier this year. She also counts Senate Transportation-HUD Appropriations Subcommittee Chairwoman Patty Murray, D-Wash., as an ally.
“Sen. Murray has been a great leader on how to solve our transportation problems, and thinking outside the box,” Whitaker said.
In her new job, Whitaker is hoping to make a common-sense argument that bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure is a good investment.
“It costs an average of $5,000 per mile to build a bike lane, versus millions for vehicles,” she said. “It’s smart policy.”