Just to keep it straight, we’re talking cycling advocacy here, and now I’ll do the dictionary definition.
The act of pleading or arguing in favor of something, such as a cause, idea, or policy; active support.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2009. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
So it is activity (note the words act and active) in favor of something. Boy that’s broad!
A cause, idea or policy. So how do we define cycling advocacy in these terms?
One of the problems with defining cycling advocacy is that cycling is so ubiquitous. It is available to everyone and everyone does it a little differently. Trying to put cyclists in neat little boxes like mountain biker, commuter, racer, recreational or utility doesn’t work very well. Many cyclists do all of those things at some point during the month.
In the United States the cycling industry sells about $6 Billion each year. Yes, that is B as in Billion.
So what does that mean for cycling advocacy in Austin and the 11 counties of central Texas?
Maybe we should just define cycling advocacy as getting more people riding more often. No distinction about what kind of riding, what kind of bike or where.
That definition does a lot of things. It helps the local economy. It increases the health of our citizens. It reduces air pollution. It relieves congestion. It saves people money. What’s not to like…oh yeah, it’s dangerous to cycle…or is it?
Cycling is not inherently dangerous.
There are no accidents. Every cycling crash can be traced to an action or set of actions that could have been avoided. That says that behavioral change could significantly reduce the number of crashes.
So if cycling isn’t inherently dangerous and could help a whole plethora of issues then why don’t more people cycle?
There isn’t an easy answer to that question. There are lots of reasons and they all pile up to keep a majority of people from riding.
That is why the question of what is cycling advocacy is so difficult to define. But one thing is clear; it needs to be a comprehensive approach. Engineering cycle-tracks like the one on Rio Grande isn’t the only answer. Education of the cyclists and motorists isn’t the only answer. Enforcement of the laws equally for motorists and cyclists isn’t the only answer. Encouraging more people to ride through government policy isn’t the only answer. But a combination of all of these approaches can make a difference and we can’t start any sooner.