I’m currently reading Pedal Power: The Quiet Rise of the Bicycle in American Public Life by J. Harry Wray (thanks, Mindy, for the recommendation and stay tuned for a full review in the coming days). I came across a passage that I wanted to share with you:
“…despite the bike’s minority — possibly even fringe — status in our society, several things favor bike advocates. First, groups pushing for more bike-friendly policies are widely dispersed geographically, giving the potential to influence an array of congressmen. Second, they are well organized, as substantial effort goes into organizing and expanding local groups and connecting them. Third, by federal standards, they are not asking for much. Bicycling is so efficient that it does not take huge outlays to increase bike friendliness.
This leads to a fourth advantage: the absence of significant opposition. The kinds of changes bike advocates push for are so tiny that they mostly pass beneath the radar of the auto industry, for example. A bike lane here, bike racks there, kids riding bikes to school — such small things do not rouse the ire of potential opponents. Bike advocates hope that the cumulative effect of these changes will someday lead to significant reductions in auto usage, but each change in itself seems not to matter very much. Finally — and this advantage should not be discounted — is the transparent rightness of the cause. There are other just causes against which advocates must compete for limited dollars, and power can extort support for unrighteous causes, but the collective and individual advantages of biking are such that it is difficult to imagine a legislator opposing increased support for biking based on the merits. The other side of this coin, but equally important, is that a legislator rarely gets into trouble supporting bike growth. This is an important bargaining chip for biking interests.”
I’m convinced the author is correct — after all, this book is exhaustively researched and compiled and so far makes a great argument for the bicycle’s blooming importance in American transportation. So, if these advantages are there for bike advocates, why does it seem like we’re fighting an uphill battle? Sure, plenty of cities are getting it right — Chicago, Minneapolis, Portland, Davis, Louisville, NYC, etc., but so many others are behind the times. What could we, as bicycle users and armchair advocates, do to help spur these processes along? Discuss! I’ d love to hear your thoughts on this topic…