Last week, on streets.mn, I posted a review of the recent legislative record of the League of American Bicyclists and the National Bike Summit. It led to a series of comments about the importance of having a national gathering of bicycling advocates, which is actually something I stated was important within the post.
Entertainingly — at least to me — as coverage of this year’s festivities has filtered in, some of my positions seem to be supported via things being said:
- The League itself went over research on the acceptance of cycling on Capitol Hill. A few of the findings?
- Cycling advocates are perceived as sore winners over their response to MAP-21. Hey, I admit that as victories go, I don’t find it especially fantastic. I can see where that perception comes from.
- The message of “bicycling!” is accepted as a mode of transportation; advocates need to relate it more strongly into a multi-modal system of transportation now. (Something, I’ll note, advocacy in Minnesota, as well in a few other places, do a great job with.)
- Dedicated funding is not something Congress is going to embrace. State/local control is the current wave.
- Advocates need to stop asking for dedicated funding and find ways to get the funding pools that exist allocated to their programs.
- Advocates need to present bicycling as complementary, not alternative, and be less arrogant.
- Meanwhile, Bike Portland covered a PAC fundraiser for cycling. The key point?
“For the bicycling agenda to have any chance of competing on Capitol Hill, it will take cash donations to members of Congress and direct lobbying. That might be an inconvenient truth to idealistic advocates; but insiders say it’s simply how the game is played.”
People have been asking me why I’m a crank. In some ways, these points help sum it up. I do think that national gatherings are important, but I’m not sure that the League is really the “unified voice” of cyclists, or that in trying to represent cycling alone, they are a key point of progress. The proposed merger last year of the Bike League, Bikes Belong, and the Alliance for Biking & Walking was a potential step in creating a more unified voice — with Bikes Belong being the organization with the strongest financial argument, and the Alliance having better cross-modal ties. That merger fell apart, as many corporate mergers do. And like corporate mergers, it likely fell apart over primacy (who gets to be lead dog) and money.
I’m a big fan of local groups. People have noted I’m less critical of BikeMN and some of the local city-level groups. I think they get more done, and in the case of BikeMN, have less history of marketing bloat of achievements. I’ve always been a believer in local progress, as bicycles are inherently local.
Elections are also inherently local. If your representative is Michele Bachmann, no amount of citizen lobbying will make her a bicycle ally. If your representative is Keith Ellison, he’s natively pro-bike. Again, the influence of the lobbyist is low, save for providing anecdotes that help him in his day-to-day operation.
Viva la cranky.