Bicycle Advocacy at the Local Levelby Rick Price - Wednesday, January 27, 2010
(April 24, 2008: for more current information on local bicycle advocacy, including our efforts to create a Platinum level Bicycle Friendly Community visit: http://www.platinumbikeplan.blogspot.com/)
Just over two years after helping to start a bicycle advocacy group, Bike Fort Collins, in our town, I’m stepping down as president of the Board. As I do, I’d like to share with you some of my thoughts on our successes in the hope it might inspire you to get involved or start your own local advocacy organization.
BikeFortCollins.org (the true name is Friends of the Fort Collins Bicycle Program, Inc.) started in the fall of 2005 in response to the “perceived” need of the city to NOT eliminate the Bicycle Coordinator position. We’ve done a lot in Fort Collins since the 1990s to build bikeways and educate both cyclists and motorists, and a lot of that came through the efforts of a the city Bike Coordinator. 2005 was a time to reevaluate that position and the city council was close to cutting it. We rallied the bicycle troops and convinced the council to give us a temporary, half-time coordinator. Success right off the bat!
Two years later, grants or contracts totaling almost $400,000 have given us a full time Bicycle Coordinator (to begin in January 2008), a Safe Routes to School program trying to get kids bicycling and pedaling to school, and the beginning of a town “Bicycle Lending Library” that will loan out bicycles to short term tourists and visitors in town. We have also successfully worked with the city and our bike coordinator to “borrow” city space to house our local Bike Collective, the group that will help us maintain the bikes for our lending program.
Other successful programs haven’t involved money or grants but rather getting organized and bringing together different groups interested in creating a friendlier bicycle culture in the community. We initiated Bike Lunch Talks once a month to bring together cyclists and non-cyclists to discuss bicycle issues. One of the local banks offers a conference room to non-profits and we gather to talk about almost anything.
Last, not least, is our Vintage Bike Museum. Our local museum director agreed that she would love to have a collection of vintage bicycles to display, but admitted that she didn’t have a place to put them. We came up with the idea for a museum without walls. The few of us who have “vintage” or other unique bicycles began placing them in local restaurants and stores. The valuable ones that we don’t want people touching are hung out of reach. Others that can’t be hurt by wandering fingers are placed accordingly. At last count we have about ten or twelve bikes placed around town with a brief interpretive sign for each one. If you have a bike you like to donate to our museum, click here!
If you have a local bike group interested in getting involved in local advocacy or educational issues, or if you are thinking about starting one, take a look at the Thunderhead Alliance web site. They do great work helping new groups launch. And you can always drop me a note, too. I’m glad to help if I can!