Suburban Assault

Posts Tagged ‘Bike Advocacy

My Code For Riding – Part 5 – Bicycle Advocacy

with 11 comments

The following is a perspective based on my limited experience with street riding and the little knowledge I’ve picked up from the velo web. I feel this is relevant because I may share this perspective with many other new or aspiring riders.

Where are all the bike riders?

As with most bicyclists, I would love to see more riders out enjoying their bikes. It’s fun, healthy and great for the environment. I’ve also discovered that it’s a great way to explore the world around us while building a strong, local community. Bikes give everybody the chance to say hello as we pass each other on the streets and trails. Yet, with our busy lives, many have forgotten about this great escape vehicle that’s probably sitting in most of our garages, collecting dust.

Some cities have gained some momentum at bringing bicycle riding back into mainstream lifestyles. Places like Portland, San Francisco, Boulder and New York City are built on limited real estate, usually constrained by some sort of geographical limitation (mountains, lakes or oceans). This allows these cities to be more dense, where resources and services are closer and easily accessible – ideal for building a bicycle infrastructure. Conversely, in cities like Dallas, there are fewer of those geographical limitations and it’s easy for development to spread the city wide and sparse. The distance between resources and services are more scattered, resulting in cities that become built around the car. Bicycle advocacy becomes a bit harder in these parts.

According to a popular bicycle magazine, my city Dallas has developed a reputation for being one of the worst cities for bicycling. I have to agree. However, it’s not because we don’t have the proper infrastructure for cyclists, it’s because there are so few of us on the road. Awareness is low, making folks apprehensive about riding, which brings fewer bikes on the road. It’s a vicious cycle. I think for a city to become bicycle friendly, there needs to be more bicyclists out there, but in order to do that, a city needs to be more bike friendly.

Give them a reason

People have different reason for riding a bike. Some do it for better health, others to save gas or the environment. Whatever the reason, most of us do it for fun. I believe that if we have more motivation to take our bikes instead of cars, more folks would consider it. Instead of building wider, more scattered cities, we should focus on creating destinations close to each other.  Let folks realize that jumping on a bike to go down the street is much nicer than burning a gallon of fuel to get across the city.

We should also strive to make our towns more bike friendly. It seems like I’m seeing fewer bike racks around my local businesses. I’m sure this is from the lack of use more than anything else. However, I think that if we see more bikes parked in front of our destinations, we get inspired to do the same.

Another great way to get folks to ride is to have more social bike gatherings. Invite friends, neighbors and family to ride with you. Start a bike community in your town and organize casual rides to get people hooked on riding. Groups like Bike Friendly Oak Cliff, 75208, FMD and Richardson Urban Bicycle Club have started this type of advocacy and they are getting some great momentum. I’m hoping to see more towns do the same. Keep in mind that as your group grows, you will need to take steps to promote safe, legal and responsible riding.

It’s not perfect, but it’s a start

What about our routes? Is it possible for bikes and cars to share the road? The truth is, there is an inherent fear that NEW cyclists have towards riding on busy roads. In my opinion, this is one of the reasons we don’t see many folks riding through town. There is a perception that riding a bike on streets is dangerous.

We need to change that perception. One solution is to do our best to inform and educate new riders and drivers about safely sharing city streets, but I fear those efforts get little traction with those already set in their point-of-view. Another solution, although flawed from a road sharing advocacy perspective, is to build more bike lanes. Flawed because these lanes have a tendency to imply to motorists that bikes don’t belong on the road.

To me, the best solution is a combination of both. First, to get more NEW riders to feel confident on the road, there needs to be more ‘implied’ safe routes, which would include lanes specifically marked for bicycling. I’m talking about full lanes – not painted gutters. No matter what your perspective is, the one thing bike lanes do is give new cyclist more confidence to start riding with traffic.

I also feel that we need to step up our efforts in informing motorists about the laws that pertain to cyclists – that we do belong on the roads. Not only do cities need more signage on the road, but cycling laws should be part of EVERY driving test. In addition, I think there should have more public service announcements on the TV and radio.

In the end, I feel that if more cyclists are on the road (bike lane or not), awareness will increase and hopefully sharing the road will be more accepted. If it’s more accepted, maybe we’ll see more cyclists.

Don’t forget about safety and education

An important part of bicycle advocacy is giving folks the tools to become better and safer cyclists. It’s one thing to convince more people to ride, but advocates should also provide the right information to those less experienced. Hopefully, with a little knowledge, we can keep our streets safe with fewer accidents.

Part 1 – Introduction
Part 2 – About Me
Part 3 – Where I Ride
Part 4 –  What Kind Of Rider Am I
Part 5 – Bicycle Advocacy
Part 6 – Conclusion

Written by dickdavid

November 6, 2009 at 5:45 am