|A classic! A bicyclist waits for the pedestrians to cross before riding onward. Photo by Sam Laser|
As bike advocates begin to make more comprehensive demands to ensure equal access to the roadways, public support from non-bikers becomes more important. As individual cyclists we may just be trying to get from place to place in one piece. But as individuals who support more bike lanes, traffic calming, equal rights and safer streets, we become bike advocates. It's a radical idea to think of yourself as more than just a person trying to get around but as a bike advocate and even a bike ambassador.
We all come across moments astride our bikes that are opportunities for grassroots alliance-building. With the pedestrian. With the commuters filling the sidewalks. With merchants. Yes, even with (gasp) the SUV-driving yuppie Mom dropping her kid off at school.
|Bicyclists share the pedestrian/bike path in the Panhandle. Photo by Sam Laser|
Another fickle friend of cyclists is the merchant, some of whom fear adding bike lanes at the expense of parking or lanes of traffic will drive their customers away. Bike ambassadors can assuage their fears by shopping with helmets in hand, thanking them for bike racks near their shops, and mentioning that they stop in much more often because of the bike-friendly neighborhood.
Being a bicycling ambassador does not mean compromising your own safety. I'd rather be aggressive and visible, than polite and dead. I cringe when I see other cyclists riding too close to parked cars Ð in the "door zone." Not only is it unsafe for them, it perpetuates the impression among motorists that cyclists should not be in their "way" at the expense of the cyclists' own safety.
Whether you consider yourself a bike advocate or a bike ambassador or not, keep in mind that we each have the option of taking a leadership role at key moments, every time we ride.