When you think about bicycle advocacy today, what comes to mind is probably the work of the non-profit groups and passionate individuals who work with elected officials and municipal transportation agencies to get more bike lanes and trails—bicycling infrastructure. This is certainly one of the things they do, but there is a lot more. According to Kevin Dekkinga, Director of Membership at the League of American Bicyclists and guest speaker at the May 11, 2021 meeting of the Chicago Cycling Club, this national advocacy group was founded in 1880 in Newport R.I. around the issue of infrastructure—they were proponents of the good roads movement that advocated for changing the gravel and dirt roads and creating smooth, paved surfaces that could be used for the high wheel bicycles that were popular at that time. Kevin quipped that the League was involved with gravel before gravel was cool! Fast forward to the present and the League is still advocating for infrastructure for bicycling, but they also have in their mission to educate and encourage and have the programs to support it.
Programs for Education
According to Kevin, the League’s Smart Cycling program was established in the 1970s and has evolved over the years. It consists of face-to-face classes held at locations across the country conducted by certified cycling instructors and online webinars. They've developed educational materials such as guides, tip sheets, and videos. The educational programs accommodate all ages and abilities and are designed to provide information about best practices to help cyclists develop confidence on the road. They even have training for motorists so they know how to share the road with cyclists. They offer the only national bicycle instructor certification.
Programs for Encouragement
Bicycle Friendly America – These programs are designed to provide guidance and standards for organizations to improve conditions for bicycling. Entities are invited to submit an application and a team assesses progress and assigns a ranking. There is a road map and recognition for the following entities:
National Bike Month - Another encouragement program is sponsorship of National Bike Month in May. There are special events and challenges though out the month, including the National Bike Challenge, an opportunity to log your rides during the month and win prizes. A special focus of the National Bike Challenge is encouraging others to give riding a bike a try.
Bike Clubs - The League supports bike clubs across the country and works with them for better cycling. Clubs have access to discounted insurance for their events, as well as resources and training for club leaders. Clubs receive an organizational listing and unlimited event listings in the popular Cycling in Your Area search page on the League website.
Programs for Advocacy
National Bicycle Summit – The National Bike Summit is the premier bicycle advocacy event of the year, gathering enthusiastic bicyclists, transportation planners, advocates, policy makers, and bicycle retailers to Capitol Hill to showcase successes, learn how they happened, and expand best practices. It takes place every year, this year it was at the end of February in an online format, and consisted of educational and information sharing sessions, networking and meetings with representatives in Washington, D.C.
Advocacy – Support and promotion for cycling legislation and programs on the national, state, and local level remains a focus for the League. Activities of the staff and volunteers include lobbying, campaigns for bike-friendly policies, and support of elected officials who promote bicycle friendly legislation and policies. The League has information on state bike laws, how to gain funding for a bike lane and how to engage diverse stakeholders in your community.
MUTCD - The Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) is a technical design guide governing traffic signs and road markings in all 50 states. The design guidelines that are prescribed have far reaching effect on the built environment for bicycling. The League has a seat on the board and provides input from the membership on features that can make the roads safe for cycling.
Over the years the League of American Bicyclists, with its staff and volunteers, has worked to promote safe streets for everyone. With the current bike boom this work is especially important to give confidence and support to all the people that want to begin riding a bicycle on the roads and trails. It is good to know the League has our backs, and our wheels, spokes, tires, handlebars, baskets, and bells, as we roll with the wind behind us on all the good roads and trails around this fine country.
Sharon Kaminecki and others comment on adventures in bicycling and other stories