How to get involved by Greg Raisman

Here’s Greg’s Bio…

Greg Raisman lives in Portland, Oregon with his wife Beth and dog, Dot. He’s been bicycling for transportation for more than a decade. He had an advocacy background in poverty, homelessness, and environmental issues when tragedy led him to become a bike advocate. Read about it HERE.

Greg currently works for the Community and School Traffic Safety Partnership at the Portland Office of Transportation where he specializes in bicycle safety, school traffic safety, drunk driving, red light cameras, and crash data mapping and analysis. Greg also assists with “green streets”, pedestrian safety, and traffic calming.

The most effective cycling advocacy I’ve seen has been a mixture of fun and a bunch of other wonky stuff. The more fun you have, the better advocate you’ll be. As much as possible, the core elements of advocacy are building networks of people, gaining knowledge on policy and the “toolbox”, and creating a framework to convince others that your ideas make sense.

Sometimes fun advocacy can be pretty simple. You can have fun and advocate just by riding your bike. I think there’s a strong case that can be made that as more people ride, even more people start to ride. When it becomes very realistic that the person you just passed on a bicycle could have been your neighbor, friend, or family member, the whole equation starts to change. The perspective changes both from a “I should be more careful around that person” and a “Should I ride my bicycle?” viewpoint.

Photos by Brad Reber

The more you ride your bicycle, the more likely it is that your friends will ride. Suddenly, the trip to the restaurant may grow by 5 minutes in length, but you’re having fun with your friends and getting some exercise along the way. It’s as if your groups are being passive advocates (and also ambassadors – so watch those stop signs and red lights).

Also, the more you ride your bicycle, and as more people join you, the less likely it is that crashes will occur. Safety is consistently the top reason people don’t ride. Safety in numbers has been playing out in every city in the world that has seen explosive growth in bike riding (safety for everyone, not just cyclists). Check out this excellent article for more background: HERE.

You can notch the fun up by recruiting total strangers. In Portland, there is a monthly event called Breakfast on the Bridges. This simple event can happen anywhere. You meet new friends, build a network of advocates, create a predictable reason to ride your bike to work on a Friday, and drink coffee. Here’s a great short video about BonB.

It’s interesting, Fridays look to be the day that fewest people ride. A scientist at a local hospital was tracking bicycle use on his hospital campus. He eventually came up with a regression analysis that quite accurately predicts into the future how many people will ride to the hospital. Here’s how it looks *dork alert* Total bikes on campus = 5.675 + .309(temperature) + -.295(wind speed) + -.307(cloud cover) + -1.673(Friday). Cloud cover is a 1-10 scale (0 = very clear, 10 = very cloudy). The model is significant at the p<.001 level. Thankfully the 5.675 has to keep increasing as the number of cyclists grows each year. The basic message: CREATE REASONS FOR PEOPLE TO RIDE ON FRIDAYS.

If you really get into things, you can start having all sort of bike fun events. In Portland, we supposedly have upwards of 2,000 bike related events a year. Some are wacky, some dorky, some pretty wholesome. Who wouldn’t want to take their family on this ride?

Ramona Quimby is one of Portland’s most beloved literary characters. Most folks know she lived on NE Klickitat, but where else did she go? We’ll go for an easy ride around the neighborhood, visiting some of Ramona, Beezus, and Henry’s favorite spots and learning a little history, too. Everyone that comes gets a free Ramona related goody!”

So task one: Have fun and get people out riding.

The rest of the tasks are not as much fun (unless you’re a dork like me). You need to learn your stuff. Become knowledgeable about your rights and responsibilities under state law and local ordinance. Learn what the rules of the game are for managing the streets, for building new roads, for building new developments, for tenant improvements, for bike parking, for whatever your particular interest is. No one can master them all, but there should be elements in the movement that can give real input when the opportunity arises. A lot of this stuff is about incremental change.

You’re going to try to tell someone that things can be better than what’s in their current comfort zone. Remember that the people you’re going to try to convince are not your enemy. They likely haven’t thought about bicycles as much as you have. In a lot of ways, it’s about finding mutual interest so that they don’t see you as the enemy either.

Here’s one approach that the Bicycle Transportation Alliance offers to share the idea of Bicycle Boulevards with people. This video is not geared towards “cyclists”. It tries to express why bike boulevards are good for those not in the choir. Check it out. Use it. Or, if you don’t think it will work in your neighborhood, modify its message – then use that message.

For even more background on bike boulevards, including a toolbox overview, check out

Speaking from experience, I can tell you that you make a difference. If you’re advocating in Long Beach, you have a jump start on a lot of places. Bike Station is a world-class model for an “end of trip facility”. Parking, repairs, security, services. It’s a gold standard that creates a place to organize from. If you’re not in Long Beach, find out if your community has a similarly amazing jumping off point.

Do you have a bicycle advisory committee? Join it. Volunteer for Bike Station or another local advocacy group. Run for your neighborhood association board. Start your own effort. Support local and state funding efforts that provide the necessary resources. Attend every street project meeting you can. Remember that as we increase safety for the most vulnerable roadway users, we increase safety for everyone.

Thanks for making the world a better place by riding your bike.

Greg Raisman
Portland, Oregon


  1. Ghost Rider January 28, 2008 9:31 am 

    Fantastic stuff! Thanks for chiming in with this, Greg.

    You’re right — improvement in bicycling infrastructure is all about incremental changes. I think a lot of times, we cyclists expect (and demand) huge, instant improvements, but the wheels of government turn much more slowly than that…we have to learn to appreciate the slow assembly of pieces and encourage further assembly as we go along (all the while thanking the local and state government for any positive progress — an important step in “smoothing the ruffled feathers”!).

    So, everyone: get involved, if you can, at the local level. Letter-writing campaigns are a great first step for folks who can’t or won’t attend bicycle/pedestrian advisory meetings — send them to your city and county commissions, the mayor, your state representatives, etc. Spell out the kinds of changes you’d like to see, be encouraging and calm, and offer potential solutions that are both reasonable and possible within the framework of applicable laws and codes.

    Also, talk to your local transportation planners (some of them LOVE to talk “shop” about bicycling infrastructure and “complete streets” )and seek their advice for the best ways to get things happening in your area!

  2. Laura January 28, 2008 9:43 am 

    I want to go on the Ramona Quimby ride! I loved those books when I was a kid.

  3. Brendan January 28, 2008 11:52 am 

    In Denver, we do a Thursday Night Dinner Ride — we just meet at the same place, same time every Thursday and take a leisurely ride to a restaurant, maybe 2 miles at most. It was probably inspired by our favorite bike shop’s Sunday morning breakfast ride, and it’s a great way to get like-minded folks together for a high-visibility good time.

  4. Ghost Rider January 28, 2008 12:15 pm 

    Brendan, that’s a great idea — presenting a bike event for “regular folks”. No Lycra or megabucks racing machines required!

    We’ve been doing a bit of this locally…getting bicycling fans together for peaceful, slow-paced rides around our community. Lots of folks who really aren’t all that “serious” about bikes come out and have a surprisingly good time…and the pace of the ride lets people actually have a conversation with each other!

  5. russ roca January 28, 2008 2:45 pm 

    Great! Inspiring! I’m actually getting involved in a group that will try to create a bike advocacy presence in Long Beach! I love the BonB idea and will propose something like that in the future.

  6. Greg Raisman January 28, 2008 6:00 pm 

    Seems like there’s a lot of energy in Long Beach. It makes me think that some resources from Shift to Bikes might be useful. Shift is the “Bike Fun” group — loose knit — in Portland that organizes a lot of rides and Pedalpalooza, BonB and such. Here’s are two resources from them:

    1) How to plan a bike event:

    2) Shift Calendar. Note that anyone can post to it. It’s a nice resource to have.

  7. Jett January 29, 2008 5:41 pm 

    Greg, this is great stuff. There’s lots of talk about getting the government and big business to change, but I’m having way more fun by riding my bike, inviting others to ride with me, and making incremental improvements where I live.

    We are ambassadors for cycling and I intend to be a smiling ambassador.

  8. Greg Raisman January 29, 2008 7:29 pm 

    Thanks, Jett.

    The fun stuff is definitely important. But, it’s not the whole enchilada.

    There’s lots of need for changes in government and business. There will definitely be times to role up the sleeves and get down and dirty with the policy and budgets.

    The fun helps with getting more people involved, keeping people energized, and helping people to realize that there’s a lot of benefit in making our communities more friendly to walk and bike in.

    As people become involved, hopefully there’ll be some that are almost cultivated for the, uh, differently fun task of those policy and budget issues.

  9. Jett January 31, 2008 12:58 am 

    No doubt Greg. It’s just that we hear so many people talk about others needing to make the change when I feel cyclists can be the change.

    Governments and big business sometimes lead and sometimes follow. Where the leadership is not there, we can become the leaders through advocacy. Where government and big business do not follow, we need greater numbers and more visibility.

    Perhaps we can get more of the budget and policy people on bikes. I happen to run across a lot of university professors and information technologists on my commute, but cycling and finance or politics are not incompatible.

  10. Greg Raisman January 31, 2008 7:47 am 

    Rock on. I couldn’t have said it better myself.

  11. Mitch March 13, 2008 7:23 am 

    The link is dead. Where else can I get that information? I’m working with a group to get Newport, Ky’s BFC Bronze status and this would be great information to have.

  12. Andrew Feldman February 10, 2009 8:00 pm 

    Great to see you old friend. Would love to catch up.

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