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How to Turn Your Town into a Bicycle Friendly Community
is the next step if you feel that your community has taken significant steps
to be bicycle-friendly or if you would like it to move in that direction?
You and other bicyclists in the community can bring this program, particularly
the application, to your mayor or county council to initiate positive change
in your neighborhood.
Here are the steps you can take to bring bicycling improvements in your
- Download the Bicycle Friendly Community
information packet. As you review the materials, you'll see that
all types and sizes of communities can be positively affected by increased
bicycle accommodations. Whether decisions that affect your bicycle plan,
routes, and facilities occur in a township, town, borough, city, or
county level, this application can help framework a discussion with
your decision makers.
- Review the application yourself to see how bicycle-friendly
your community is today. Is there a written policy on maintaining bicycle
safe streets? Is there a bicycle advisory committee and/or a bicycle
coordinator? These basic resources can be vital to a town's ability
to respond to bicyclist's needs. Highway engineers often will not change
their practices unless written policy tells them to do so. A bicycle
advisory committee is a good structure for getting such new policies
written and formally proposed. Having someone on staff designated as
bicycle coordinator can be crucial in achieving these measures. (Remember,
it is a cardinal rule in every bureaucracy that any task not specified
as someone's job is a task that will never get done.)
- Plan your strategy for pitching bicycle-friendly improvements. Obviously,
if the mayor is a ride leader in the local bicycle club, your strategy
is simple - show him or her the application! Most communities will take
a little more work. First, you must identify the decision makers responsible
for the policy changes you seek. In big cities, the mayor's office would
typically delegate responsibility to the city's head of transportation
or public works. In a smaller town, there may be a full-time city manager
that reports to a citizen city council. In any event, you must make some
calls to determine who needs to be persuaded before you can set out to
persuade them. Next, find one or two bicyclists who have some influence
with the decision maker. If you're lucky, there is a local government
official who is an avid cyclist. Without such a person, identify the most
visible bicycle dealer in town and the leader of a local bicycle club.
Ask around and find support. If you find a bicyclist who are already known
and trusted by government leaders, your work will be much easier.
- Gather support. Ask for a letter recommending the Bicycle Friendly Community
program from any organization that might be inclined to support better
bicycling. The local bicycle club is a natural first choice, but local
environmental groups, civic organizations and others will tend to cooperate
if you make it easy enough for them. Draft the letter for them so they
know exactly what you need to minimize the amount of work you ask of them.
The Bicycle Friendly Communities program frames positive change for bicyclists
into the form of a "yes or no" question to a political leader: "Will you
support this program?" Politicians hate to say "No" to anyone. They especially
do not want to say "No" to an organized group of people. And it's not
likely they will want to say no to many different groups.
- Call your government official and request a meeting. Attend with your best spokesperson
and copies of the letters of support with you to the meeting. Talk about
the benefits that the bicycle improvements you desire, as well as the
benefits of a Bicycle Friendly Community designation.
- Ask for something specific and try to get a specific commitment. A good starting point is
to ask if the person will submit the application for Bicycle Friendly
Community status. Another good ask is how long it will take to designate
a bicycle coordinator. You could propose working with the new coordinator
on implementing the other bicycle-friendly criteria items (such as convening
the bicycle advisory committee, proclaiming Bike to Work Day, developing
bicycle safe engineering policies, etc.). Be specific in your requests
and, if the official raises concerns, ask him or her to be specific. Following
the meeting, write a thank you memo that spells out your understanding
of what was agreed to.
- Follow up and follow up (and follow up). Lack
of persistence is the downfall of many a bicycle advocate. Motivated people
motivate politicians and their employees. If you raise an idea and then
don't pursue it, they grow suspicious about just how important that idea
is to you. So many people are clamoring for their time and attention,
they will forget if you make yourself forgettable. Keep calling back and
keep going back. Commit to the result and make it happen!