The following is a guest post by Jerry Norquist. Jerry has been the man behind the great team at Cycle Oregon for more than a decade. He’s also a tireless advocate for cycling and cyclists on a local, state and national level.
I’ve been lucky enough to be part of the bicycle industry in one way or another for the better part of 35 years, and have been involved with advocacy nearly as long. In many ways, it seems as if cycling has finally managed to go mainstream and become part of our national culture. Cities like Portland, Seattle and Minneapolis have long been recognized as cycling meccas, and even some of the busiest and seemingly bike-unfriendly places are making major strides. New York City is getting ready to implement a bike-share program, which should provide a tremendous boost to a city that has made some major strides in recent years. Even car-crazy Los Angeles is finding ways to cede its streets to cyclists, if only for a few hours at a time.
As an advocate, it’s great to see strategic battles being won on so many fronts. However, if the main objective is to ensure our needs are consistently considered when it comes to transportation and road-use policy, we’re still a far cry from winning the war.
And that’s where the NRA comes in.
Love ’em or hate ’em, organizations like the National Rifleman’s Association or AARP have the visibility, ability and resources to get things done. They are brutally effective at influencing policy, and are guaranteed a seat at the table whenever and wherever important decisions are made.
That’s why, when people ask me what they can do to help our cause, one of the first things I suggest is to join an organization. The cycling equivalent of the NRA is the League of American Bicyclists, which was actually founded in 1880 by cyclists (then known as “wheelmen”), who were challenged by rutted dirt and gravel roads as well as antagonism from horsemen, wagon drivers and pedestrians. The wheelmen started the safe roads movement and played a huge role in developing the road system we have today.
The league is heavily involved in advocacy at the national, state and local levels, and has been accomplish a lot on our behalf. The Bicycle Transportation Alliance is another great organization that focuses on the cycling interests of Oregonians, and there are plenty of other great organizations in other states. They all need our help.
The more support we provide to organizations like these – through donations of time or money – the stronger they become. If every past, present and future Cycle Oregon participant made a modest annual contribution to organizations like this, we alone could make a measurable and meaningful difference. And if all cyclists did so, we’d be well on our way to wielding some significant power.
Beyond that, there are several other things you can do, including:
- Participate in Cycle Oregon and other rides that help support cycling advocacy.
- Commute by bike and encourage others to do the same. The more bikes are used as transportation rather than just recreation, the better.
- Make sure you’re counted. Take part in surveys, and economic impact studies such as the Travel Oregon Bicycle Survey (http://rideoregonride.com/make-cycling-in-oregon-even-better/). There’s power in numbers, but numbers can be hard to collect. Make it easy.
- Join a local bike club or organization that emphasizes advocacy.
- Pay attention to transportation issues at a local level and make your voice heard. Contact your congressman and senator and ask them to pass a transportation bill that funds bicycling and walking.
Cycling is important. It’s more than just a fun way to exercise or commute. It’s a lifestyle and a solution to a lot of the problems we face today. It’s something worth fighting for. So let’s fight.