Is your elected representative bike friendly?
Tuesday, November 6th is election day and it's your chance to make an impact on the future of cycling on the local and national level.
Feel like you need to educate yourself? Want to get involved? Want to know who to contact? I did too! Bike advocacy is an intensely local pursuit. I appreciate when I hear that New York City is adding 255 miles of bike lanes, but I want those things in my back yard more (no offense to New York; I just don’t live there). The League of American Bicyclists is the best resource for those interested in learning more and getting involved.
Unfortunately, with the passage of the new transportation bill (MAP-21), guaranteed funding for biking and walking projects has been severely cut, and we won’t have a chance to speak out in support of its revision until 2014. In the meantime, what can we do? States still get funding that can be used for biking and walking projects, but it can also be diverted elsewhere. Unless you’re a senator or congressperson, you do not have direct influence over how this funding gets spent, so the best we can do is influence them – let your legislators know you’re a constituent and that you value a balanced transportation policy that includes biking and walking rights of way.
Who should I talk to? Thanks to the interwebs, looking up your representative has never been easier.
What should I ask? First, these are busy people, so do your homework. Check to see if there are local issues that will impact your community. Local clubs and organizations will have their thumb on the pulse, so they are great people from whom to get background info. If there aren’t any specific, local issues, consider asking your legislator if he/she supports “complete streets legislation.” Complete streets is both a generic reference to balanced transportation policy and a part of Smart Growth America. Awareness of the concept demonstrates some understanding or familiarity with bike and pedestrian advocacy. Of course, if your legislator doesn’t know what you’re talking about, have a 30 second synopsis ready – just make sure you’re concise.
How do I get involved? This is probably the most important question you can ask. Check with the League of American Bicyclists to see if there is an advocacy group in your area. These are amazing opportunities to meet new people, volunteer, and get to know cycling in your area. If there isn’t an organization in your area, of course you might consider starting one, but if you’re not that ambitious, pick and issue and throw yourself into it. Have a street that you think could use a bike lane? Check with your city’s planning committee to see if meetings are open to the public. Got an abandoned rail bed in your backyard that you think should be a trail? Check with your parks and rec department to see what you can do to make it happen. There is an overwhelming number of opportunities to get involved, doing as little or as much as you’re comfortable with.
And last but not least, VOTE.
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