Tag Archives: bike advocacy

A Year of Adventures and Advocacy, 2014 in Review

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Though The Bicycle Story is four years old, 2014 was a bit of a rebirth for the site. For the past couple of years, the project took a serious backseat to my day job, other obligations, life in general. This year, with the flexibility of full-time freelance journalism, The Bicycle Story was once again a high priority. We published new interviews nearly every week, readership grew, and fascinating bike people shared their valuable perspectives on adventuring in far off places; the growth of American cyclocross; women and Afghani tribal politics; long distance randonneuring; race and poverty’s intersection with urban biking, and so much more. It was a good year.

Year-end retrospective lists are kind of hokey and as much an attempt to squeeze a few more page views out of recycled content as anything. But they also provide a moment for valuable reflection on the year. Looking at The Bicycle Story’s top 10 most-read interviews of 2104 helps sheds some light on what you love to read and some of The Bicycle Story’s coverage gaps. This year’s most read are:

  1. Austin Horse: From Courier to Career Adventurer
  2. Nicholas Carman: Pedaling the World as a Gypsy by Trade
  3. Cosmo Catalano: The Snarky, Outsider Voice of Professional Racing
  4. Dan Malloy: Slow is Fast When You’re Surfing by Bike
  5. Casey Greene: Mapping the Future of Bike Touring
  6. Ed Ewing: Race, Equity, and Empowerment by Bike
  7. Mary Gersemalina: Coffeeneuring, Community, and Some Seriously Long Rides
  8. Mike Curiak: Finding the Edge of Human Endurance
  9. Jeremy Powers: Life at the Top of American Cyclocross
  10. Mike McGinn: Fighting Bikelash with Seattle’s Former Mayor

It’s not surprising that more than half of the year’s most popular interviews feature bike adventurers. Austin Horse parlayed the popularity of bike messengering into opportunities to travel the world and ride. Nicholas Carman scrimps and saves for half the year, then spends six months touring around the world. Pro surfer Dan Malloy rode the coast of California surfing along the way. Mike Curiak’s wilderness adventures are both impressive and a little terrifying. It’s inspiring to read about other peoples’ adventures. I know I’ll never do a 1200km ride like Mary Gersemalina or follow Curiak’s tire tracks across Alaska’s Lost Coast, but reading their stories gets the gears turning about what’s possible on two wheels.

It’s exciting that several of the other most popular interviews are about bike advocacy. Biking-as-transportation in the U.S. has a lot of momentum right now. Cities are recognizing the need for better infrastructure. More people than ever are getting around by bike. But, there are still huge gaps in our infrastructure networks, far too many people are dying on the road, and there’s real inequity between those neighborhoods that support bicycling and those that don’t. It’s helpful to tap into the insight of advocates such as Ed Ewing and former Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn to think about the problems we’ve solved and the fights yet to come.

From the outset, The Bicycle Story’s mission was to capture the incredible breadth of the bike world. There are so many people involved in bicycling for so many different reasons. And while I’m proud the project’s work in service of that mission thus far, I recognize that there’s a ton of room for improvement. It’s telling that eight of the 10 most read interviews of 2014 are with white men. I will work harder in the coming year to elevate a broader range of voices.

Thanks so much for reading. You, the readers, make The Bicycle Story possible and I thank you for your support. Looking ahead, I’ve got a few plans in the works to help reflect The Bicycle Story’s growth and evolution. Keep your eyes peeled for details soon. In the meantime, keep coming back weekly for great interviews with the best adventurers, advocates, racers, industry insiders, and frame builders the bike world has to offer.

Happy New Year. See you in 2015!

-Josh

Mike McGinn: Fighting Bikelash with Seattle’s Former Mayor

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Former Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn. Photo by David Ryder.

Bikelash is a clever term that describes the hand-wringing cries of, “War On Cars!” that’s followed the installation of every inch of bike infrastructure in the US. Even in the bikiest cities such as Portland, Seattle, Minneapolis, and New York, new bike lanes are met with fear and anger. And though bike politics may always be divisive to some degree, in Seattle it felt like bikelash reached its virulent fever pitch during former Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn’s term in office.

The mayor himself was a bikelash lightening rod. He aligned closely with biking and walking advocates during his campaign and his term (his team even handed out “Mike Bikes” stickers and spoke cards during his first campaign). He fought against a multi-billion dollar project to build a highway under Seattle. And he implemented highly visible arterial “road diet” projects that prioritized biking and walking safety over speed by reducing the number of car lanes. In return, the media, political opponents, and the public dismissed him as anti-car, out of touch, the biking mayor, and, my favorite of the bunch, Mayor McSchwinn. I sat down with McGinn near his home in north Seattle to talk about his experience with bikelash, dealing with divisive bike politics as mayor, the role of mayors in transforming streets, how advocates can assist electeds in their job, and much more.

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Tim Blumenthal: The National Fight for People Who Bike

Bikes Belong Staff Portraits
PeopleForBikes President Tim Blumenthal. Photo courtesy PeopleForBikes

Bike advocacy is a sweeping term that captures a huge array of work. Fighting for better bike infrastructure on neighborhood streets, building new mountain bike trails, organizing charity rides, lobbying elected officials and many other things fit under that rather large umbrella of advocacy. Some might see that diversity of advocacy issues as a problem–that lots of sub-interests competing for limited funding and public attention will curb success for all. PeopleForBikes sees that variety as a boon to bicycling in America. The national advocacy organization helps fund everything from protected bike lanes to mountain bike parks; lobbies government agencies and elected officials; partners with professional cycling teams; provides grant funding; organizes their own charity ride; and much more. They’re guided by the basic principle that the more people ride, the better bicycling will be for everyone, regardless of what type of riding they do.

With over three decades of work in advocacy and bike racing, PeopleForBikes President Tim Blumenthal is a fitting leader. He got his start as a cycling journalist for publications such as VeloNews and Bicycling, worked with NBC on cycling coverage for seven Olympics, and spent 11 years at the helm of the International Mountain Bike Association before joining PeopleForBikes. I spoke to Blumenthal about PeopleForBikes’ work, his career in the cycling world, the value of combining cycling-as-sport and cycling-as-transportation in advocacy work, the strengths and shortcomings of American bike advocacy, and more.

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The All-Powerful Bicycle Lobby: Conspiracy, Control, and a 1% Mode Share

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Some say David Byrne is the leader of the All-Powerful Bicycle Lobby. Others say he’s just a pawn in their game.

Little is known about the All-Powerful Bicycle Lobby (APBL). In fact, until the Wall Street Journal’s Dorothy Rabinowitz made a video last Spring lamenting the APBL’s efforts to “begrime” New York City with Citi Bikes, few people (if any) knew that the group existed. Exactly who they are and the extent to which they influence the world’s affairs remains unclear. But, I had the rare opportunity to interview the APBL and help shed light on their dark conspiracy. In it we discuss their history, their slow and steady reshaping of the free world, their end game, and much more.

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Adonia Lugo: Race, Class, and Bicycling in America

Caption:  Adonia Lugo, a UC Irvine doctoral candidate in anthropology, has dedicated much of her academic and personal life to alternative transportation; everyday, she uses a combination of buses, trains, and bicycling to commute to Irvine from Los Angel
Photo via undergraduatestudies.ss.uci.edu

If you were asked right now to imagine a bike commuter, who would you picture? For most of you, it’s probably of a white man (who’s probably in bike shorts and a neon jacket) enroute to his middle or upper-middle class office job. It’s a reasonable image to have. A 2009 report found that 79 percent of trips by bike in the US were taken by white people and 73 percent of all those trips were done by men. But those same studies show that people of color accounted for about 21 percent of trips and 31 percent of trips were taken by people in the lowest quartile income bracket.

The sometimes-overlooked fact that biking is not just for well-to-do white guys is central to the work Adonia Lugo does as a bike advocate, activist, and anthropologist. She co-founded Los Angeles’ CicLAvia and Ciudad de Luces, an outreach project with day laborer bicyclists. After moving moved to Seattle in 2011 to complete her dissertation, she started the Seattle Bike Justice Project, an ethnographic project focused on bicycling and Seattle’s communities of color. We recently sat down to discuss her Bike Justice Project, equity in bicycling, the sometimes-narrow focus of American bike advocates, her own activism, and much more.

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