National Bike Month: Meet the League of American Bicyclists

May is National Bike Month, a celebration of all things cycling, so it seemed like the perfect time to chat with our great cycling advocacy partners who work hard to make riding bikes better. Every week this month we will introduce you to a different group that is making a difference here in the US. First up is Andy Clarke, President of the League of American Bicyclists.

League of American Bicyclists Logo

What’s the goal of your organization?

The mission of the League is to lead the movement to create a Bicycle Friendly America for everyone. We believe that bicycling brings people together, and that as more people ride life is better for everyone; communities are safer, stronger and better connected; and our nation is healthier, economically stronger, environmentally cleaner and more energy independent. We want everyone to enjoy the benefits and opportunities of bicycling. I’ve been with the organization for more than ten years, and I feel like our mission is more relevant and valuable now than ever. ( I can’t speak for the entire time since we were founded in 1880!)

League of American Bicyclists in DC

Advocating for cycling on the steps of the US Capitol

What projects are you working on currently?

Today, we aim to achieve those goals through advocacy, education, and promotion. We have a national advocacy presence in Washington DC where we work with Congress and the Federal agencies to ensure funding, policies and programs are in place to build a more bicycle-friendly America. We run the Bicycle Friendly Community (and Business, University and States) program that recognizes cities for their work but more importantly provides a roadmap or blueprint for becoming much more bike-friendly. On the education side, we run the only national certification program (with curricula and materials) for bike education experts — we currently have around 2,000 active League Cycling Instructors sharing their passion and knowledge for safe cycling with anyone that will listen!

National Bike Challenge

Events like National Bike Month, Bike to Work Day, and the National Bike Challenge fall into the promotion category along with the extraordinary volume and variety of rides that our 900+ affiliated local clubs and advocacy groups put on year-round. The National Bike Challenge has to be the most inspiring way of getting more people riding. Every year we are blown away by the stories of lives transformed by participation in the Challenge. We love it and hope you are signed up and part of the Challenge. And as if that weren’t enough, we are also actively engaged in promoting greater participation by women in bicycling, the bike movement, and the bike industry.

May is Bike Month

What actions can I take locally to make the experience of cycling better in my community?

In each of those areas, there are ways for individual cyclists and local organizations to plug in and take action. You can sign up for action alerts — both national and local “calls to action” when we need the voice of cyclists to be heard — or attend the National Bike Summit each March to be part of the advocacy team. We have scorecards you can use to do a quick analysis of your community or business to determine how bike-friendly they are; every BFC  and BFB application generates specific feedback — we encourage you to join your local advocacy group to get plugged in there. If you can’t stop talking about bikes and bike riding and safety…maybe you need to share that passion with others by becoming an instructor. If you aren’t quite ready for that, the classes those LCIs teach are full of great advice whatever your level of experience.

Having said all that, there are TWO really simple things you can do to make your community more bike friendly. Number one: ride your bike. Number two, write to your Mayor, County Executive or Council member and tell them you care about bicycling and want bicycling to be better. Throw in a couple of specific examples of improvements, and you are on the way!

National Bike Summit 2012

Last week, like many other cyclists and cycling advocates from all corners of the country, Carol Wentworth, Senior Vice President of Marketing for Performance Bicycle, headed up to Washington, DC, to take part in the 2012 National Bike Summit. Organized by the League of American Bicyclists, this annual, and growing, event serves as a forum and meeting place for a wide variety of cycling advocates and industry leaders. Summit attendees got to meet with fellow advocates and organizers, and to learn more about both the challenges and opportunities to improve cycling safety and awareness. Breakout sessions at the summit covered topics as varied as calculating the value of bicycle tourism, mountain biking access to national parks, and even a session about pro cycling advocacy featuring cyclocross star Tim Johnson (fresh off of his Ride on Washington, an awareness and fundraising ride from Boston to DC).

Of course one of the main reasons for the summit was to take this pro-cycling message to the decision makers in government. As a board member of Bikes Belong, a leading cycling advocacy group made up of members from the U.S. cycling industry, Performance was there to not only participate in the National Bike Summit discussions, but also to advocate for dedicated federal funding for cycling projects. In addition to scheduled group sessions that included members of the Congressional Bike Caucus (which is led by cyclist and advocate Rep. Earl Blumenauer, whom we met earlier this year during his visit to North Carolina), Carol directly met with representatives from our home state of North Carolina. In these meetings we pushed for continued support of dedicated federal funding for bicycling and walking, especially in the upcoming federal transportation budget. This dedicated funding is a tiny portion of the overall transportation budget, only 1.5%, even though 12% of trips are made by foot and bike. The message we brought was that public investment and pro-cycling policies are good for business and the community, and also essential for the continued success of programs such as transportation enhancements, safe routes to school and recreational trails.

The National Bike Summit brought together passionate cycling advocates from across the country, giving each of us a sense of the power and influence cyclists can exert when we rally together to support a common cause. Events such as the National Bike Summit help spread the word that policies and projects that support cycling are good not just for cyclists, but for an entire spectrum of stakeholders.

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