In the April 2 Spokesman Podcast, Tim Grahl asks the question "How do I start with bicycle advocacy in my city?"
Jonathan Maus answers: "Be there." He makes the point that every city has public meetings. Being aware of these meetings and showing up is key to getting the changes you want. Many public works engineers are unaware or unconcerned with the needs and desires of the cycling public. If you show up and express your concerns, at least you'll hear there voice.
Jonathan tells us that in Portland, cycling advocacy started in the 70s with an anti-freeway movement that transitioned to support for public transportation and improved cycling facilities.
My own experience with cycling advocacy in Colorado bears this out. When you show up to the meetings, you have influence with the planners. Public meeting notices at the federal, state, and local level are now available online.
Many changes don't have to take 30 years these days. In the U.S., we're approaching a tipping point of acceptance in the public and among planning professionals that cycling is a positive solution to problems with traffic, public health, and air quality.
Tim Jackson joked about Jonathan running for Mayor of Portland. Because of my involvement and participation on a city committee, a few people tried to get me to run for City Council. Ellen Fletcher is a former mayor of Palo Alto, CA who ran on the platform of increasing bicycle use in that city. She was voted into office and was responsbile for creating an extensive network of cycling facilities throughout Palo Alto. Ms. Fletcher was also instrumental in Caltrain being the first commuter rail line in the U.S. to allow bikes on the train.
It takes time, effort, and passion, if you want to see changes in your community, get involved. Find out where and when public meetings are at. Start small with transportation or zoning committee meetings. Get the agenda and find out what they're talking about. A great opportunity for involvement is through the Safe Routes to School program, in which effective bicycle advocacy can actually bring CASH to a local transportation budget, which every administrator loves. I'll write more about this in a later post
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Good post Fritz. I don’t mention advocacy issues nearly enough on my blog, but that might change (with maybe a new blog). I just recently took over the advocacy chair position on the board of our local cycling club. I can say from past experience that it takes some time, but the reward on time spent on local advocacy efforts is great. The squeaky wheel gets the grease, so I encourage all cyclist to get involved with efforts to make their local communities as bike friendly as possible. good points here; I’ll look forward to reading your next post on the subject.
James, that's a good point about the squeaky wheel.
Something to avoid, of course, is being the gripe gut that everybody wants to avoid. There are some people who show up at the meetings and complain about everything. For effective change, we need to provide constructive and realistic plans. It's important to have a positive attitude so the planners will look forward to seeing you.
Another important point is to squeek in the presence of the right people. I can't say how things work down your way but here in Canada talking to the city planners will only get you so far.
You see, my finace is this berg's traffic planner tasked with "alternative" means. She knows all the benefits that a larger percentage of the commuter population getting on bikes would bring. She knows all the ways that you can encourage such a change. Squeeking at her will only get you resigned argreement and the phone number of your city councilor.
You see, she doesn't control the budget. The city council sets what will get funding so the only way to effect profound change is to convince them to spend the money. Always talk to those who hold the purse strings.
Positive attitude only goes as far as others want it to, then what do you do?
The weakest link in the chain defines the outcome. Until "Complete Streets" are the norm or required by law, I'm afraid that being outspokin' (bike/pedestrian advocate) is too often seen as an additional cost with little benefit.
Check it out: http://www.completestreets.org/media.html