While biking around town, I do a lot of thinking about how things could be better for people on bikes. I think, why did they design the intersection like this? It could be so much safer. Or, why isn’t there a bike rack at this store? So many people get here by bike. Or, I’m following “bike directions,” but this is actually a terrible way to get where I’m going by bike.
Before I started working for a bicycle-focused organization, I didn’t realize that there were ways that I could help change the things that I found difficult. Now I know there are ways to do it. If you want to help change things for the better but aren’t sure how, try some of these.
1. Bike as often as you can. Okay, I know I’m starting with a softball here, but this really does contribute to better bicycling. The more bikes there are on the street, the more people get used to seeing bikes. The more people get used to seeing bikes, the more they start to keep an eye out for them and the more they figure out how to interact with people on bikes.
2. Talk to owners of local businesses. Thank them for having a bike rack outside, or let them know that it would be really great to have a bike rack. If a business owner knows that a lot of people are biking, s/he is more likely to support things like protected bike lanes on the street in front of the business.
3. Contact your local government. If you hear about a project that accommodates bikes, contact your city council representative or county commissioner and let them know you appreciate it. If they know that their constituents appreciate bike infrastructure, more funds are likely to go towards bike projects. Similarly, if you hear of a project being built without consideration for bikes, let them know that you think the needs of people on bikes should be addressed.
4. Help make bike directions better. Did you know that you can suggest a better bike route to Google? If they agree, they will change their directions. I’ve done it, and it works. It is quick and easy, and you just might save the next person from biking on an unsafe street.
5. Actively look for opportunities to participate. Public meetings about bike-related issues do happen, and bike advisory groups do exist. But they are not always well-publicized. Follow the Facebook and Twitter feeds of bike-related groups and your local government, and you may find out about a meeting where you can talk to decision-makers about issues that are important to you.
6. Get involved in the community by joining or supporting a bicycle-focused organization. There are many different kinds of groups—state, local and national advocacy organizations, nonprofits that offer camps for kids and earn-a-bike programs. If you’re able to join an advocacy organization, your financial contribution makes it possible for that organization to do more to improve bicycling. You can also ask about volunteer opportunities or help the group keep their finger on the pulse of what’s going on in your neighborhood.
Once you start to get more involved with the bike community, reach out to others and invite them to join you. We need a whole lot of voices with many different perspectives to really improve biking for everyone.
This column appears courtesy Bicycle Colorado, which originally published it.