When we take the time to write a letter to our members of Congress, we all like to think our duly elected officials read and react to our concerns and ideas. But let’s be realistic. Many times, those notes never get past the eyes of administrative staffers. If we’re lucky, we might get a polite form letter with the Congressman’s stamped signature in response.
But rally a million people and deliver your message in dramatic fashion directly to Congress? You better believe policymakers will pay attention. Social change is built on strength of numbers.
That’s the logic behind the People for Bikes campaign: A million voices united to show Congress there’s a big, broad, vocal constituency that cares about bicycling.
For many, the 2010 National Bike Summit had a clear highlight. Ray LaHood, the U.S. Secretary of Transportation, didn’t just show up and give lip service to the assembled bicycle advocates. He literally jumped on a table, broadcasting in enthusiastic form his commitment to elevate biking and walking to equal status as the automobile. Not surprisingly, LaHood’s message — and theatrics — drew media headlines and made an impression in the halls of Congress.
Now you can broadcast your message to Congress, too — no table-leaping required.
The National Bike Summit was also the start of the People for Bikes campaign. The ingeniously simple idea came from the Bikes Belong Foundation, an organization funded by the bicycle industry to improve funding, infrastructure and policies related to biking.
“Every day, millions of Americans ride for their health, for the environment, for their communities, and for the pure joy of bicycling,” the groups's president, Tim Blumenthal, said in a press release. “But until now, only a fraction of riders have stood up to help improve bicycling in America. Peopleforbikes.org is going to change all that. We'll build on the expert work of existing bike advocacy groups – our partners – to develop a powerful movement with the clout and influence to get things done. That means promoting bike-riding on an individual level, but also sending a unified message to our elected leaders, the media, and the public that bicycling should have their full support.”
The timing is key. In coming months Congress will tackle the next federal transportation bill. It’s a vast and complicated piece of legislation, but, rest assured: What’s in that bill will impact the face of transportation in your community. Do you want dollars dedicated to bike lanes and multi-use trails? Do you want policies that make streets safe for everyone and promote kids riding their bikes to school? Then you better hope Congress gets that transportation bill right — because we’ll all be stuck with the results for at least the next five years.
So here’s the beauty of the Bikes’ Belong campaign. It’s not complicated. To be part of this tidal wave of public opinion, you don’t even have to change out of your pajamas. You don’t need to travel to the nation’s capital. You don’t have to write a letter or buy a stamp. Just surf on over to the Web site. Give your name and email. Take the pledge.
Over the past six months, People for Bikes has built an army. Lance Armstrong signed the pledge and even sported the campaign’s decal on his bike during the Tour de France. The beer makers at New Belgium Brewing Company invited People for Bikes to join their popular Tour de Fat festivities in cities across the nation. Even beyond the bicycle world, marketing magazine Fast Company took a shining to the campaign, touting PFB’s “ingenious bike branding campaign that presents a refreshingly sunny view of life on two wheels."
With more than 7 million media impressions, the PFB movement is building. It took the campaign more than four months to hit 50,000 signatures. But then, last week, this announcement hit my inbox: "PFB tops 100,000 pledges in support of bicycling!”
“Only a month ago, we were at 60,000 pledges,” Blumenthal wrote in the message. “We've nearly doubled in the last 30 days — that's major momentum!”
Which begs the question: Are you for bikes? Can you spare 20 seconds for safer streets? Will you add your name to this Million Cyclist March?
It doesn’t matter if you ride a mountain bike or a city commuter; if you bomb down remote dirt trails or carefully navigate crowded urban streets; if you use your bicycle as your primary means of transportation or just dust it off for the weekend joy ride. Even if — no, especially if — you don’t ride a bike at all, because you don’t feel safe two-wheeling around your community, this pledge is for you.
The People For Bikes campaign gives you a megaphone. Send a message to Congress. For once, you won't have to wonder if your voice was heard.