By promoting cycling we can reduce the problems caused by cars – global warming, pollution, wars for oil, and the carnage caused by collisions. Here are ways to promote cycling.
What individuals can do
Be the change you want to see in the world
Usually, activists spend their time begging their government for change. It’s easier to effect that change if you are the government. Therefore, one of the most powerful things bike proponents can do is to get themselves into positions where they help call the shots. Bike advocates would be well advised to seek leadership positions in:
- Their local neighborhood organization (whose power shouldn’t be underestimated)
- City commissions
- The City Council
- Regional transportation planning organizations
Work with the city
- Get a City Bicycle Program started. Your city government can accomplish way more than you or your small group alone can do. Therefore your #1 priority should be to get your city to start its own Bicycle Program if it doesn’t already have one. See What cities can do at right.
- Interact with the City Bike Program. Meet regularly (at least once a month) with Bike Program staffers so that there’s a dialogue between the City and the citizen bicycle community.
- Lobby for a strong Bike Program. Get the City Bike Program to do all the things listed at right, under What cities can do.
- Join an established group already working on these issues. For some reason, most people who ask me about beginning their advocacy want to know how to start a brand-new organization when there’s already at least one existing group they could work with. Don’t re-invent the wheel, and don’t divide limited resources. Join up with people who have the same goals and already have something going.
- Join your Neighborhood Association. Bill Canfield writes: “Neighborhood associations have a fair amount of political clout in many cities. They can make or break proposed bicycle-friendly projects in their area. Most NA’s are open to anyone living in the neighborhood, not just landowners. They tend to be run by a small number of enthusiastic people who want their neighborhood to be a nice place. Many issues that are important to them are also important to cyclists (e.g. how to reduce traffic volume and speed). The cores of the groups tend to be pretty small, and they are always glad to hear of someone who wants to contribute. You can get your hands on some of the clout just by showing up! You may not feel like you’re changing the world right away, but by working your way into the city’s informal power structure, you will be able to contribute significantly in the future.” [Here’s are links to several NA’s in Austin.]
- Send specific requests or complaints about specific roadways to the City’s Bicycle Program (if one exists), or the Transportation Division (if there’s no Bike Program). Request a response and if there is no satisfactory answer, take the issue to the City Council.
- If there is no City Bike Program to do this work (and you can’t get the City to start one), lobby the city directly for things like (a) a ban on cars parking in bike lanes, (b) a requirement for bike lanes to be installed on every new roadway build, (c) bicycle boulevards, (d) ciclovias. See What cities can do at right.
- Learn about the politics of transportation planning. We didn’t wind up with a crappy transportation system by accident. Find out what’s driving bad land use planning and why building more roads isn’t the answer.
What cities can do
- Create a Bicycle Program within the city government. Progressive cities have dedicated bike Programs which work actively to make cycling safer and to increase the number of cyclists on the road.
- Adequately fund the Bicycle Program. A Bike Program does no good if it’s underfunded. It must have sufficient staff and resources to execute its mission.
- Make any roadway design, redesign, or construction go through the Bicycle Program before being approved. It’s crucial that the Bike Program be involved in roadway planning so that it can identify problems with bike access and cost-effective ways to address those problems. Here again, if a city simply creates a Bike Program but continues its old roadway-building as usual by leaving the cyclists out of the loop, you can’t expect much change.
- Task the Bicycle Program with developing a comprehensive, long-term plan for improving cycling access.
- Ban parking in bike lanes. Fortunately few cities are so short-sighted as to allow motor vehicles to park in bike lanes, but unfortunately some do. Probably nothing sends a stronger message that a city doesn’t care about bike access if it lets cars park in the one place that’s supposed to be for bikes.
- Require bike lanes on all new roadways. It’s often difficult to install bike lanes on existing roadways because of space constraints. But on new roadways, there should be no excuse. Amend the city code to require this obvious improvement.
- Install bike parking racks throughout the city, especially in downtown areas. The ability to easily park a bike makes cycling more attractive.
- Require sufficient bike parking at all new developments, and at existing large commercial property.
- Require the largest employers in the area to provide bike racks, lockers, and showers to employees who want to bike to work. See Yahoo’s Commute Alternatives Program.
- Create “Bicycle Boulevards”. These are streets with barriers that allow cyclists to pass through but not cars. When the street is no longer a thoroughfare for cars, it becomes a more attractive and safer place for cyclists.
- Create “Ciclovias”. A ciclovia is the shutting down of certain streets to automobile traffic at certain times. For example, Bogotá, Columbia closes several streets to become car-free every Sunday. Cities experimenting with this can certainly try it for only once a month, or as a one-time event to gauge response, of course.
People for Bikes’ Guide to Advocacy This national coalition group has published an online guide for doing bike advocacy work in your community, with an emphasis on using federal money for bike-friendly transportation projects.
International Bike Fund Huge advocacy site/organization, with resources about urban planning, bike to work programs, safety and more. The group is oddly named since it has nothing to do with money or grants.
League of American Bicyclists (LAB) Very large group which supports all types of cyclists (sports, rec, commuting, advocacy).
National Center for Bicycling & Walking Site includes detailed PDF reports on implementing facilities improvements like bike lanes and bike boulevards.
Sustrans (U.K.)5000 miles (with more to come) of continuous routes, running right through urban centers and reaching all parts of the UK (eventually passing within 2 miles of half the population). Almost half the Network will be entirely traffic-free, built along old railway lines, canal towpaths, forestry tracks riversides and urban space.
Regional Bike Advocacy Groups/Sites