That's why Grow Smart Rhode Island, a public interest group that promotes sustainable growth, is recognizing Bike Newport as the "Outstanding Smart Growth Leader" award at their annual summit on May 23 at the Rhode Island Convention Center.
“This award shines a welcome spotlight on a young organization that is working very hard to make a difference,” said Deanna Conheeny Casey, board chair of Bike Newport, a nonprofit that works to improve, encourage, and facilitate bicycling in andaround the City by the Sea. “We are truly grateful for the recognition that bicycling is indeed smart growth, and can have a powerful impact on the health of a community.”
More from a Grow Smart RI Press Release
Bari Freeman, Bike Newport’s founder and executive director, is a 53-year-old native New Yorker who became a Newport resident in 2009. She explained that her early motivation for establishing Bike Newport came from not wanting to depend on her car during Newport’s busy summer months. Seeing the challenges to cycling and cyclists, she created Bike Newport as a website in 2010. Her goal was to discover and connect with other cyclists interested in encouraging bicycling in the area. “Many people were already thinking about getting more people on bikes for transportation and recreation, for health and quality of life. The goal of this new organization was to bring these people together in the best interest of community,” she stated.
Since officially launching as a Rhode Island nonprofit in 2011, Bike Newport has encouraged biking and has led a collaborative effort by city government, businesses, and community-based organizations to improve bicycle safety and enhance the overall experience for bicyclists. The result is a more bicycle-friendly urban community, with municipal stakeholders committed to supporting more and better bicycling for residents and visitors. Thanks to these improvements, in October 2013, the national League of American Bicyclists recognized Newport as a Bicycle Friendly Community—making it the first municipality in Rhode Island to achieve that honor. Freeman noted: “We hope to be the first of many bike friendly communities all over Rhode Island. This award will help to make that happen.”
Freeman elaborated on her discovery of the commonalities between Grow Smart RI’s work with that of Bike Newport. “I heard Scott Wolf, Grow Smart RI’s executive director, for the first time at the 2010 Power of Place Summit. He was discussing the importance of focusing on the state’s assets for recovery from the economic crisis,” she said. “His message resonated with me. In fact, it’s what Bike Newport represents and believes in.” Freeman credits the same “smart growth” focus on benefits with helping Bike Newport gain traction and become funded and staffed in a short period of time.
Founded in 1998, Grow Smart RI has become the leading advocate for sustainable economic growth, revitalization, and improved quality of place in the state’s urban, suburban, and rural communities. According to Wolf, summit attendees should expect a much needed boost of morale that is timely, in the wake of a recent Gallup Poll that ranked Rhode Island lowest in the country for collective state self-esteem.
“Our Power of Place Summit is as much an educational, as it is an invigorating experience because we’re focusing on the assets and strengths that contribute to our state’s exceptional quality of place,” said Wolf, who indicated that Grow Smart RI is determined to combat the state’s lack of confidence—an issue that he considers to be one of the biggest economic and marketing challenges facing Rhode Island.
He continued, “While our Power of Place Summit celebrates numerous indicators of progress and success that should restore some of this essential state pride, it is also designed to push for continued collaboration among federal, state and local governments, the private sector, citizens, and organizations like Bike Newport towards building stronger communities.”
Freeman is pleased with Bike Newport’s contribution to Grow Smart RI’s efforts of combatting the state’s self-esteem issue. “Bicycling brings you physically closer to the places where you live and travel,” she said. “Enjoying the beauty of our cities and towns inherently improves our pride of place, as in Newport with our concentration of natural and historic beauty. To bike Newport is to love Newport.”
The Power of Place Summit runs from 8AM–5PM and offers attendees access to:
- A thought-provoking keynote address called, “If Mayors Ruled the World” delivered by international political analyst and author Dr. Benjamin Barber—presented in partnership with the Providence Preservation Society
- An exclusive gubernatorial candidates’ panel discussion on how Rhode Island can better tap its full economic potential through smart growth strategies and policies, and
- 19 informative and engaging workshops presented by respected and accomplished local and regional professionals
- More than 20 exhibitors offering the latest research and services to shape more resilient and vibrant communities
Online registration for Grow Smart RI’s Power of Place Summit is open until 12PM on May 20, after which the admission fee will increase to $175 and only phone and onsite registrations will be accepted. Register and view rates at www.GrowSmartRI.org.