10 Ways to Pedal Toward Bicycle Activism
1. Educate Yourself About Car Culture
Most of us take cars for granted. It seems everyone drives and much of our landscape is set up as to require a car. But this doesn't mean all this adds up to a good idea and it certainly doesn't mean we can't create change. Do your transportation homework and then, in the words of the immortal Freddie Mercury, get on your bikes and ride.
2. Educate Yourself About Bicycles
Since 40% of everyday travel in the U.S. are trips of two miles or less, choosing to bike makes plenty of eco-sense. When Worldwatch Institute compared energy used per passenger-mile (calories), they found that a bicycle needed only 35 calories, whereas a car expended a whopping 1,860. Bus and trains fell about midway between, and walking still took 3 times as many calories as riding a bike the same distance.
3. Buy a Used Bike
In one fell swoop, you're challenging the the car culture and the consume-and-dispose mentality. As Jasmin Malik Chua suggests: Keep your eyes open, research the brand, look for major problems (some bike problems can be repaired, other's can't), and consider your needs. And don't forget to choose used bike clothes, too.
4. Participate in Bike Sharing
We're talking about a system in which a small fleet of bicycles are made available for shared use amongst individuals. None of these individuals own any of the bicycles; they simply pay into the program for the right to use/share the bikes. Such an effort lessens impact and increases a sense of community. Find out about the bike sharing programs in your neck of the woods.
5. Learn How to Repair Your Bike
Developing some skillz with the tools will give you a feeling of empowerment while also making it more likely you'll hang on to that old beater bike even longer. Also, taking a repair class is a great way to meet like-minded souls.
6. Combine Cycling With Freecycling
Don't toss your old, unwanted bicycle: give it away. Whether it's Craigslist or a local bike shop bulletin board, there are plenty of ways to be sure your bike finds a new home. Another option: Donate it.
7. Volunteer With a Local Cycling Activism Group
Time's Up is an excellent example of how cycling and environmentalism are compatible dance partners. To discover a broad range of other potential resources, check out the links provided by Transportation Alternatives and Recycle-a-Bicycle.
8. Good First Campaign Idea: Traffic Calming
As the aforementioned folks at Transportation Alternatives explain, traffic calming holds that streets are "valuable public space and should be shared equally by all users. It is a set of street designs and traffic rules that slow and reduce traffic while encouraging walkers and cyclists to share the street. Traffic calming methods include: speed humps, raised crosswalks and raised intersections; extended and widened sidewalks; mini-roundabouts; widened medians; bicycle lanes and rumble strips." Download a free PDF guide to traffic calming activism now.
9. Join Your Local Critical Mass Rides
Critical Mass started in San Francisco in 1992 and the idea has never stopped spreading: a monthly bicycle ride to celebrate cycling and to assert cyclists' right to the road. Critical Mass (CM) "has no leaders, and no central organization licenses rides" and is viewed as "an idea and an event, not an organization." Find the CM group in your area and experience the solidarity.
10. Display Your Activist Spirit--Everywhere