On February 28, 2011, 175 bicyclists and friends of active transport gathered in Saint Paul to discuss bicycle issues in Minnesota, and to get excited about the chance to speak up for bicycles at the state legislature. Maybe you were there. Maybe you weren’t — after all, 2.6 million Minnesotans rode bikes last year, so we have to figure that a large number of interested people were elsewhere that day.
Whether you were there or not does not matter. The most important realization about such an event is that it’s an event. A single day. And the cause of cycling requires people to be there for it every day — as Mayor RT Rybak of Minneapolis said as part of his presentation, cyclists need to push the agenda and hold politicians accountable. Whether you came to that event or not, you can be a voice for cycling.
Here are a few ideas for how you can be a voice for cycling — no matter who you are, what you do for a living, or what your personal schedule looks like:
- Review this year’s Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota state legislative agenda. Contact your legislator to advocate for items on the bill, such as increased penalties for careless drivers.
- Get your friends or family to do the same.
- Join the Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota. They are fighting the fight every day.
- Pay attention to the national cycling agenda via groups like the League of American Bicyclists or Bikes Belong. Be ready to contact your federal legislators in support of funding to facilitate active transport and modal choice.
- Get involved locally. Does your community have a bicycle advocacy group or a task force? Does it have any kind of plan for walking and cycling? Check your city/town’s municipal web site, hit a search engine, check for it. And if you don’t find anything, contact your city councilperson or the town planning office and ask.
- Get educated. The Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota coordinate a lot of super-duper awesome bicycling classes designed to create better bicycle drivers. Even if you’re pretty confident, you’ll learn something, guaranteed.
- Set an example. Most cyclists and pedestrians also drive. Drive in a way that serves as a model to others. Hang up and drive. Watch for cyclists and pedestrians at intersections. Stop at crosswalks and let people through, as state pedestrian law demands. Respect all users of the roadways.
- Get out and ride. The principle of safety in numbers suggests that the more people who ride, the safer we’ll all be.
Being there for bikes can be as simple as e-mailing your state legislator or your local town council, and getting your friends to do likewise. Being an advocate doesn’t require you quit your job and move into a box near the river with your bike, or a full-time gig with an advocacy group. Speaking up can happen any time of day or night, thanks to the power of e-mail and postal mail.
Events like the Bicycle Summit matter — they get people together to network and connect, information is shared, pep is rallied. But if a Summit is the only time legislators are hearing from the people speaking for Active Transport, progress will be slow or non-existent. By standing up for bikes at every opportunity you can, you propel the movement and make the world a better place.