Advocate for Better Bicycling
Interested in advocating for bicycle improvements but don’t know where to begin? Want to get involved and do something, but not sure what? Below you will find some basic tips on how to become a more effective advocate and get more involved in making your community and Wisconsin better places to bike. The Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin has many resources to help, but individuals like YOU are the most important advocates in the state.
Read through the general guidelines and a few in-depth resources below to find answers about your issue. If you still have questions, search the more than 600 archived articles on our blog. We have written about everything from federal transportation funding to building local mountain bike trails. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, contact us via email or call one of our offices in Madison or Milwaukee.
Repeat After Me: “BICYCLE”
We cannot stress enough how important it is for you to contact your elected representatives and tell them how bicycling matters to you. Politicians tell us all the time that they just don’t hear from their constituents who are interested in bicycling. You can call or email, but they need to hear from you whether you have a complaint, request or even just to say thanks after you have a nice ride on a local trail or bike lane. If you don’t know your elected officials are, Common Cause has a free, online search that uses your ZIP code or address.
All BICYCLING Is Local
Thomas Phillip “Tip” O’Neill, coined the often-used phrase “All politics are local,” but the same can be said about bicycle advocacy. Whether you are concerned about a personal, local, state or national issue, the most effective way to advocate for change is by organizing at the local level. This may mean joining a local bike club, forming a bicycle task force in your community, working with neighbors or area businesses, but local groups are generally more effective than individuals or even state organizations. To find existing local bike clubs, teams or advocacy groups in your area, visit our Ride On webpage here.
Bikes don’t pay for the road! Bikes belong on the sidewalk! Bicycles should be licensed! People on bikes are a bunch of scofflaws! Bicycling is dangerous!
Do you know how to respond to these common misconceptions about bicycling? If not, educate yourself so you can quickly and intelligently respond when someone you are talking to makes any of these or similar false statements. The easiest way to educate yourself on any of these issues is to do a simple search of the more than 600 archived articles on our blog. You can also look by selecting one of the categories, such as “bicycle funding.”
By subscribing to the Bike Fed’s blog, you will get a single daily email with the headlines and a short synopsis of posts we publish each day. The Bike Fed’s blog is the daily online newspaper for all things cycling in Wisconsin. You can also stay in touch by liking our Facebook page and following us on Twitter. Emails are very time intensive and only benefit the limited group of recipients. By asking your questions and letting us know what is going on in your community through the comments section of our blog and our Facebook page, others benefit from the discussion.
For those who don’t want to get a daily email, on Sunday of every week, all members of the Bike Fed will get a brief email synopsis of the blog headlines from the previous week. The weekly update will include links to each story to make it easy to go back and read issues that interest them.
On occasion, the Bike Fed will send email blasts to all of our contacts alerting them to some important upcoming legislative vote or discussion in Madison or Washington, D.C., and explaining the Bike Fed’s position on the issue. We try to limit these action alerts to only the most important feel about the issue, even if you disagree with the Bike Fed’s position.
John Burke, the president of Trek, is fond of making the point that “the world is run by those who show up.” If you want your voice heard, or at least the right to complain, it is vitally important that you show up at local meetings about trail and other bikeway projects in your community. Too often the only people who show up at these meetings are the ones who complain about how much it will cost to make the roads safe for bikes. It is very important that you stay involved in the planning at your local level. Do that by signing up for notices on your municipal calendar.
Our democracy is a tremendously effective institution, but it only works if we take part. Local meetings are part of that, but we must also stay involved at the state and national level if we are to have fair representation in our government. While dipping your toe into state and national politics may be about as appealing as going for a swim in the La Brea Tar Pits, the annual State and National Bike Summits offer average citizens an easy way to make their voices heard above all the rancor typically heard in higher government.
At the annual State Bike Summit, the staff at the Bike Fed make it easy for you to join with more than 400 other citizen advocates to meet with their state representatives and senators and tell the great story that is Wisconsin Bicycling. Bike Fed staff organize issue sessions on everything from funding to mountain bike trail building. We also supply you with everything you need to have an effective meeting with your elected leaders in Madison. We even schedule the meetings.
The National Bike Summit offers a similar opportunity to take part in our democratic process. Last year more than 800 advocates, citizens and bicycle industry leaders had positive, impactful visits with their elected representatives in Washington, D.C. We have found that our national leaders are almost always happy to meet with their constituents from back in their districts.
The nice thing about going to the state and national bike summits is the Bike Fed and the League of American Bicyclists do all the organizing for you – all you have to do is show up.