How to Advocate for Progressive Bike Policy and Infrastructure in Your Community


| 12/29/2017 11:14:00 AM


 

Progressive bike policy offers a number of benefits to personal, environmental, and community health; in my last post, I put the spotlight on Minneapolis-St. Paul, one of the most bike-friendly metropolitan areas in the world that has already reaped the benefits of greater bike utilization and bicycle commuting. But what if your community isn’t so bike-friendly yet? 

Biking alongside traffic can be dangerous even for experienced cyclists, and it is certainly intimidating to those new to biking. Biking on the sidewalk is illegal in some jurisdictions, and it is actually linked to more accidents than road biking, according to the League of American Bicyclists [1]. The Washington Post reports that cyclist-automobile accidents and air pollution can create real dangers that are mitigated by progressive bike infrastructure such as dedicated bike lanes and trails [2].

To recap the community benefits of biking, the United States and much of the developed world is struggling with rising rates of illnesses related to poor diet and lack of exercise. Biking—especially bicycle commuting—is a great way to get your CDC-recommended 2 hours and 30 minutes of weekly exercise [3], and good infrastructure also benefits community members who may not be able to afford a car: The Simple Dollar, a financial planning website, featured an excellent breakdown of the comparative costs of driving, biking, and walking, which also accounted for time and health costs and benefits—and biking was the clear cost-effective winner [4]. Bike infrastructure is also enormously beneficial to local economies, the American League of Bicyclists outlines in its 28-page report on the link between bicycle advocacy and the economy [5].

The benefits of bicycling may not be in question, but local government’s willingness to improve bike infrastructure often is. Here, I’ve collected three community organizing strategies to ensure that your politicians are serving your best interests and the best interests of your community.



Connect with or Start Local Bicyclist Leagues

In addition to providing strength in numbers, bicycle leagues like the League of American Bicyclists often offer toolkits for local activists, and may provide funding and a body of research to help you persuade local politicians. Local leagues may offer even more targeted assistance, including help with interpreting local laws. The League of Michigan Bicyclists even offers an easily generalizable advocacy toolkit [6]! There are also special-interest bicycle leagues, such as the Major Taylor Bicycle Club in Minnesota, for African-American bicyclists [7].



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