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  1. #1
    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    How can I become a true advocate in my own city?

    I read a post in another thread by alanbikehouston. He talked about the differences between posting here and doing real advocacy in your own city. It really inspired me to raise my voice in my own town.

    I know many of you are "real" cycling advocates in your communities. How did you get started? How did you find others who shared your ambition? Where can advocates have the most impact on a local level? I know every locale is different, but there must be general principles or personal experiences that would be relevant to others.

    i will appreciate any ideas you pros can provide.


    "Think Outside the Cage"

  2. #2
    Banned. Helmet Head's Avatar
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    Find out what the local advocacy group is. Join. Participate in email discussions, meetings, and events. Find out how to get on the board. Get on the board.

  3. #3
    Senior Member bikebuddha's Avatar
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    Ride everywhere.
    The few, the proud, the likely insane, Metro-Atlanta bicycle commuters.

  4. #4
    Al noisebeam's Avatar
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    One can start with tactical advocacy by reporting dangerous conditions, unresponsive ights, debris, potholes, etc.

    Al

  5. #5
    Dubito ergo sum. patc's Avatar
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    Attend every open-house and public consultation your city hosts. Comment in writing on all road construction, zoning, and landscaping plans. Contact your representative on the city council and the mayor's office whenever a cycling-related issue comes up at city council. Send the occasional letter to the newspapers. Demand that businesses install sufficient bike racks. Basically make a pain of yourself, but me nice about it.

    Be cautious about joining advocacy groups. They sometimes accomplish a lot, but they can also get less than nothing done if too many hotheads join. You may find yourself spending 15 hours a week working for a group only to find a phone call to city hall would have been more effective. Before joining ask to see the mission statement, by-laws, minutes of the last year's board meetings, etc. Its usually pretty easy to see how effective and focused the group is currently.

    And, of course, ride your bike! Ride it with pride. Brag about it a bit, and don't be afraid to tell people about how much fun it is, how healthy, and affordable.

  6. #6
    totally louche Bekologist's Avatar
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    ride as much as you possibly can for as many trips as you can get away with.

    What little 'advocating' I do involves giving kids I see cycling all the encouragement I can while passing by to 'always wear your helmet' or like today, when I told a kid on a trike "cool safety vest" as I dinged and passed him by.

    I think being a good biker to other drivers is key, and so is being nice to pedestrians and the like. also ripping bad drivers a new one if you can do so safely....In Seattle, taking the lane and keeping up with traffic seems to get bikes a little cred sometimes, in my experience.

    Also, it feels like an organic form of bicycling advocacy when riding my loaded touring bike and interacting with people in the towns and drivers on the highways. I love getting the thumbs up sign from drivers while on tour, it's very validating.

    I'm always waving the 'down low' to truck drivers, good passers, drivers that yield to me, etc....as a way to somehow show a little solidarity from the brotherhood of the road.


    At times, however, I'm an assertive, red light jumping, urban tricks cyclist that may not be considered a stellar example of good biking.
    Last edited by Bekologist; 01-18-06 at 05:29 PM.
    "Evidence, anecdote and methodology all support planning for roadway bike traffic."

  7. #7
    lunatic fringe Dogbait's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roody
    ......Where can advocates have the most impact on a local level? I know every locale is different, but there must be general principles or personal experiences that would be relevant to others.

    i will appreciate any ideas you pros can provide.
    Try to get a dialog going with someone in the public agency that has responsibility for the area you want to address. For example, if there is a dangerous pothole or drainage grate that makes your commute/ride hazardous, contact the 1st line supervisor for whatever agency handles potholes or grates. You have just talked to the person who will assign the work and have cut out a whole bunch of intermediates. Chances are that action will be taken sooner.

    Dogbait

  8. #8
    Older I get, Better I was velonomad's Avatar
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    Never underestimate the power of the individual. I don't belong to any group other than LAB (I don't advocate for them). I go to town board meetings, email and/or write federal state and local representives when there is an issue, I also let them know when they do something right.
    I volunteer for 2 kids bike safety rodeos every spring and ocassionaly do presentations about bicycle touring and commuting.This amounts to about 2 hours of my time every month

    the Bekologist has it right about being a good ambassador. give off positive vibes and you usually get them in return

  9. #9
    N_C
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roody
    I read a post in another thread by alanbikehouston. He talked about the differences between posting here and doing real advocacy in your own city. It really inspired me to raise my voice in my own town.

    I know many of you are "real" cycling advocates in your communities. How did you get started? How did you find others who shared your ambition? Where can advocates have the most impact on a local level? I know every locale is different, but there must be general principles or personal experiences that would be relevant to others.

    i will appreciate any ideas you pros can provide.


    To answer your questions I got the advocacy group I am involved in by placing a phone call to someone who I had discussed issues that need to be addressed in the past. The time span from when we first discussed it to the time I made the 1st call was about 3 months. That person gave me a list of a few others to call, I called those people & the list grew & grew. Now we have what is called the Siouxland Trails Foundation.

    You may not be as fortunate to have this happen as I did in my community. But what I do recommend is this:
    1. Get in touch with like-minded individuals who are after the same goals as you.

    2. It helps if they are cyclists but it is also ok if they are not. There a quite a few who are not cyclists in the trails foundation but they are like-minded when it comes to advocationg for the benefit of the community.

    3. You will probably need to form a non-profit organization with the appropriate tax exempt status, etc.

    4. It helps tremendously if you have an attorney & a financial expert, such as a CPA as part of your group. It helps even more if they are cyclists or like-minded individuals. Because they often times will not charge for their services. Fore example in the trails foundation we have an attorney who is also a cyclist. He drew up the documents for our by-laws & articles of incorporation. And we have a CPA who filed for the tax exempt status, she is also a cyclist.

    5. Get the local city government/officials on board. Like Parks & Rec. Directors/people, the city managers office, the city council, hell even the mayor if you can, the city engineers officice & do not forget the local police department. At some point you are going to need something from all of these parts of the city govt. so you may as well talk to them as early as you can about your efforts. And who knows maybe someone in those depts. can help you or have an idea on what to do & how to do it.

    6. Set up a time & place to meet for the first time. You do not need to have the tax exempts status or be set up as a non-profit at this point.

    7. At your first meeting outline the problems & some ideas on how to correct them. If you can come up things that need to be done & how to do them then go from there.

    8. For more information read the info. here: http://www.bikeleague.org/educenter/basics.htm

  10. #10
    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    I have read all your wonderful responses carefully. I was happy to learn that I'm already following a couple guidelines--I ride everywhere (literally) and I talk about my experiences with friends, coworkers and anybody else who is foolish enough to make eye contact. One coworker almost took the bait about commuting, but he transferred before I could "set the hook."

    I liked the suggestions for "lone wolf advocacy" from patc, Al, Bek dogbait (love that user name!) and velonomad. This seems doable with a minimum of effort, especially if I can't find a sympatico advocacy group in this city.

    Iplan to follow the advice of HH and others to find a localadvocacy group. The Tricounty Bicycle Association is the only one I'm aware of, but they appear to be more of a riding club, which I'm not really into. I'm not sure I have the motivation to start a newgroup, as N C suggested, but the link to the Advocacy Education Center looks like it's worth exploring.


    "Think Outside the Cage"

  11. #11
    Wheee LilSprocket's Avatar
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    WOW! Thanks for the great ideas!!!
    If you can't be a good example, then you'll just have to be a horrible warning.
    http://www.myspace.com/qwtrailbuilders
    rip sydney

  12. #12
    Ride the Road Daily Commute's Avatar
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    The most important thing is to go to the meetings. Any meeting of any local government committee or agency about cycling. Call your city's transportation department, your mayor's office, or the office of any local elected official to see where to start. People who go to all the meetings get listened to. People who don't, don't.

    It may not be a good idea to join your local cycling advocacy group. Under the Planet-Bike funded Thunderhead Alliance, many existing groups are encouraged to forbid members from any voice in the group. The board chooses new board members, and regular members are allowed only to pay their dues. This is the way it is in Columbus. Ask if you'll have a vote before you give them any money.

  13. #13
    your nightmare gal chipcom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Daily Commute
    The most important thing is to go to the meetings. Any meeting of any local government committee or agency about cycling. Call your city's transportation department, your mayor's office, or the office of any local elected official to see where to start. People who go to all the meetings get listened to. People who don't, don't.
    Actually you have to take it a step further, not only going to meetings, but building relationships with decision makers and their staffs. Though we like to think all decsions are made in the sunshine of open meetings, that isn't the way it works - the public meetings are theatre, the decisions are made through relationships, deals and compromises outside of public view. If you want to be an effective advocate, you gotta have those realtionships and access outside of public meetings. To help build those relationships, don't start off being perceived as a troublemaker or a single-issue zealot, you want to give the first impression that you are a citizen who is concerned with the community as a whole, rather than a single issue, and that you beleive in working with and within the system rather than being a loose, anti-establishment, cannon. In politics, you get more with honey than you do with vinegar. You gotta stroke these folks and make them think you are on their side, even if you are not. Once you develop a relationship, it is much easier to discuss the issues where you differ and have your viewpoint taken seriously.
    "Let us hope our weapons are never needed --but do not forget what the common people knew when they demanded the Bill of Rights: An armed citizenry is the first defense, the best defense, and the final defense against tyranny. If guns are outlawed, only the government will have guns. Only the police, the secret police, the military, the hired servants of our rulers. Only the government -- and a few outlaws. I intend to be among the outlaws" - Edward Abbey

  14. #14
    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    I'm willing to go to meetings as DC suggested. My only problem with that is that I work evenings, when most meetings are held, but I'm going to try to make it to some on my nights off. Chipcom knows a lot about the political insider track, but I'm afraid I don't have the time or temperament to get involved on that level.

    The last big issue lately for cycling was a couple years ago. The city had grant money to restripe a busy street with bike lanes. GM and their parts suppliers got over ahundred people to show up at a city council meeting to argue against bike lanes. They thought bike lanes would make the hundreds of trucks late on their schedules to shuttle partially assembled cars from plant to plant. Of course the bike lanes were voted down.


    "Think Outside the Cage"

  15. #15
    your nightmare gal chipcom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roody
    I'm willing to go to meetings as DC suggested. My only problem with that is that I work evenings, when most meetings are held, but I'm going to try to make it to some on my nights off. Chipcom knows a lot about the political insider track, but I'm afraid I don't have the time or temperament to get involved on that level.

    The last big issue lately for cycling was a couple years ago. The city had grant money to restripe a busy street with bike lanes. GM and their parts suppliers got over ahundred people to show up at a city council meeting to argue against bike lanes. They thought bike lanes would make the hundreds of trucks late on their schedules to shuttle partially assembled cars from plant to plant. Of course the bike lanes were voted down.
    There is another avenue of advocacy that nobody has mentioned...it's what ended up getting me into politics in the first place - writing. Do some Op-eds for the local paper and/or see if you can get one to let you do a regular column on cycling - you'd have some good insights on both commuting and the car-free lifestyle (not sure how car-free would go over in car country though). Every paper loves to have a viewpoint that might 'stir the pot' some and generate responses.
    "Let us hope our weapons are never needed --but do not forget what the common people knew when they demanded the Bill of Rights: An armed citizenry is the first defense, the best defense, and the final defense against tyranny. If guns are outlawed, only the government will have guns. Only the police, the secret police, the military, the hired servants of our rulers. Only the government -- and a few outlaws. I intend to be among the outlaws" - Edward Abbey

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