ExperiencePlus! Blog

Are you a Bicycle or Walking Advocate?

Are you a Bicycle or Walking Advocate?

Our friend, Verdiana Vandini, still bicycles to the gelateria for gelato (Italian ice cream) at age 75! Shown here in February 2005 in Italy

An Italian woman out for gelato on a blustery day

Variables in your local bike and pedestrian advocacy program:

  1. What are the funding sources for bike trails, paths, lanes, and for road improvements to benefit walkers and cyclists?
  2. Do you have excellent local transportation planners and park managers watching for those state and federal grants for local bicycle and/or pedestrian projects?
  3. Is there an institutional framework in local government to solicit input from the bicycling and walking public (like citizens advisory boards, a transportation board, and a parks and trails board?)
  4. Are your local politicians supportive? Or do they wax and wane with each election?
  5. What kind of grassroots involvement do you have beyond all of the above? Do bicycling and walking advocates show up at city council meetings, write letters to the local paper, and lobby local businesses to do the same? Are your local bike clubs and hiking clubs active?

You can’t do much about numbers 1, 2 and 3 above until you do something about numbers 4 and 5. Even then, number 1 may depend on federal legislation (which is pending right now, as a matter of fact). And number 2 may depend on your bicycle and walking friends arguing (via number 5) effectively that your transportation planners need to include traffic planning for safe turn lanes for bikes and safe crossings for pedestrians. And on and on.

In short, in the advocacy process, one thing leads to another and your house of cards can easily crumble if you don’t have a good foundation. That foundation depends, we’ve noticed, on the amount of public input you have in local decision making. And that starts with you attending your next city council meeting (or transportation board meeting, or school board meeting . . . ) and getting your neighbors to do the same.

We’re trying an experiment at ExperiencePlus! Our city has done without a Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator for almost a year now. The position was frozen when the last person to hold it took a similar job with the Colorado Department of Transportation. The city has been “making do” to see if we can all do without such a coordinator. Quite frankly, nobody in my circle of friends has noticed the lack of a coordinator, mainly, I think, because in the past the coordinator simply performed a marketing function trying to leverage a few more souls out of their cars and onto a bike for bike to work week. Now that bike to work month is upon us some of us have noticed that it wasn’t until two weeks ago that the 2005 Bike to Work Week program replaced the 2004 program.

So we’ve started a bike and walking blog trying to raise local awareness about bicycling and walking in Fort Collins and Larimer County. Have a look .

Our primary focus, at least for now, is to get citizens to attend public meetings to speak up in support of bicycle programs, walking programs, and any program that encourages people to get out of their car, get healthy, walk to work, and bike to run errands. In short, in Colorado six months out of twelve should be bike or walk to work months. Why aren’t they? And what can local government do to make it so?

We think the answer is community involvement and public outreach. People need to be taught that it’s ok to bike and walk. And local government needs to learn that it provides a valuable service by encouraging people to do the same. There are many ways to do this but the best way to start is with education: teach people that it’s ok to walk to work, bike to go shopping, and do either to get to school. Set an example, send us an anecdote, and let’s get this ball rolling!