While New York city braces itself for the largest mass cycling ride in the region—the Five Borough Bike Tour—cyclists of every stripe gathered on the west side of Manhattan for the New Amsterdam Bicycle Show. Spanning several stories of expo space, the Amsterdam Bicycling Show combined a bit of bike love with a good dose of activism. Bike Hugger was invited to speak on a panel about the influence of blogging on bike infrastructure so I had a chance to sit with bloggers from Streetsblog, Brooklyn Spoke, Amsterdamize and NYC Cycle Chic.
The interesting thing about cycling advocacy anywhere from Beijing to Brooklyn is that it starts at a local level but requires some form of upper-management participation. By that I mean that mayors, governors, senators and other legislators need to find out that cycling advocacy is good for their constituents and good for their political capital. Blogs are just a part of that—as are cycle shows and mass rides—but by no means as important as advocacy groups like Transportation Alternatives, who moderated the panel.
Bloggers can talk about bikes, photograph bikes, video bikes and wax poetic about their value in society but it’s all for naught unless our readers get out there and bang on doors, shake hands at meetings and stuff envelopes. We have to remember that until there’s a sea-change in our country’s infrastructure there won’t be a serious shift in the number of people cycling.
That’s not always obvious somewhere like New York City where a single bike-friendly politician in the right place can result in hundreds of new miles of bike lanes, but in the rest of the country it’s painfully obvious. You can easily and quickly convert a two-lane city street in to a bike thoroughfare. Remove a lane, repaint and you’ve got yourself a designated bike path. The same thing doesn’t work for much of middle American (and even for the close-to-New-York-City suburbs where I live) because so much land is locked into a massive sea of asphalt. That’s why cities like Portland and several others have lead the charge to a new bike era. The switch to an intermodal transportation system happened at the same time as local planning groups desperately wanted to rebuild the urban infrastructure.
Bike shows like the New Amsterdam are a great way for like-minded people to meet, but then they’ve got to all stay in contact and not ride off by themselves. It’s only by moving in a group that they can effect change.