We all are bicycle advocates. Every time we get on or off our bicycles, we represent all bicyclists everywhere. Every time we enter a store, or stop by the side of the road, or camp by a river, put our bicycle on a bus, or lock our bike to a nearby street sign or tree, weave in and out of traffic, or stop carefully for a car or pedestrian, we are making a statement that all non-bicyclists and other bicyclists, see and interpret.
And in this increasingly divisive world where it seems like everything is divided strictly into black and white and good or bad, part of the difficulty between those who like bikes and those that don't is that there are two strict camps: Those stupid ignorant bike riders, and those equally stupid and ignorant car drivers.
I recently attended the "Bike Oregon Summit" a day-long meeting attended by about 120 people representing all aspects of bicycling. From the head of the State of Oregon Department of Transportation explaining how her budget had bicycle and pedestrian money for cities and counties of Oregon, to a medical doctor talking about the alarming rise of overweight and obese people in our population, to mountain bike riders talking about how they revived a small Oregon city by creating a "fantasy land" for mountain bike enthusiasts.
I came away from that meeting realizing just how huge a commitment and job it is to convince a mostly motor-vehicle based culture, that there is room for more human powered activities and that, not unlike the efforts in the 1970's when efforts to create the Americans with Disabilities Act, took place, so too is the decades long continuing efforts of many to transform our car-centric urban environment into one that accepts, allows, and funds efforts to make walking, and bicycling a more integral part for all of our daily lives.
So it comes down to what each person can do to guide government and private business to become more active and responsive to the needs of the walker and the cyclist. Because as we all know, when the collective voice of many is heard, government and business respond in a positive manner.
There are an estimated 103 million bicycles in the US, with another 15 million sold each year. If ever time one of the bicycles was sold - what if information about bicycle advocacy issues locally and nationally were made part of that sale? What if 10 % of those people who bought a new bike actually did reach out in their community, or to their federal representatives, and told them that they expected more funds and more thoughts and bigger efforts to be directed toward making our streets and sidewalks safer for bikes and peds?
It's worth thinking about. Every bicycle manufacturer, every bike shop, and every bicycle repair shop has a vested interest in seeing a better environment for bicycles....so why don't they band together to support the bigger cause? The voice would be huge, and the changes would accelerate.
Washington Bikes or the nationally oriented
League of American Bicyclists, and their local and national elected officials to make a difference and to demand change.