Cyclist: You're Just a Number (Be Counted)

Our Josh Lipton was interviewed about Bike to Work Week yesterday on local radio by Steve Benning (our e-bike commuting Guinea Pig), along with Anthony Quintile from our local advocacy organization.

Anthony, Steve, and Josh
Anthony Quintile, Steve Benning, and Josh Lipton

I snuck in halfway through, and snuck out again before the interview was over. (My sneaking is in full view in the video below.)

The full interview is about 24 minutes long, and we talk about a lot of local stuff, and shameless self-promotion.

Anthony, being a smart guy, was able to put the fun side of Bike to Work Week into a bigger wonky picture (at 08:30):

There’s the obvious, direct ways, that if more people ride bikes, traffic congestion is less… all the things that bikes bring to a community. But the indirect ways that the event itself helps Flagstaff is that we are trying to document how many folks are participating in this event through the work site challenge and the registrations online.

Those numbers are used by our local multi-modal planner and the other government agencies in town to support grants and things like that help improve our bike lanes, bike paths, bike routes, multi-modal…

I had a case of, “I can sound smart too,” and tried, unwisely, to go wonk-to-wonk with Anthony–for the sake of you, Dear Readers, who mostly are not residents of Flagstaff or Arizona.

I followed up with this:

These numbers that we gather on people commuting in Flagstaff, not only helps Flagstaff, in the ways that Anthony mentioned. That’s good data to help other communities around the country.

When other people go to their legislatures asking for money for cycling infrastructure, the legislators are going to say, Well, what happens with this money? What’s the proof that it gets used? What’s the proof that it benefits the community? Flagstaff can be held up as an example, and other communities can be held up as examples, by saying, Look, when you invest in this kind of infrastructure, when you promote cycling, in the way that Flagstaff has, you will have the same results that Flagstaff has.

I think what I said is probably true. I know that’s the argument I used when I made my rookie attempt at lobbying.

The point is, with the transportation bill, we cyclists are reduced to pleading to a largely (majority) unsympathetic Congress. Numbers, and data on participation in Bike to Work Week can only make it more difficult for anti-cyclists to argue that cycling is a luxury, and not relevant to real transportation issues.

If you haven’t read it yet, take a look at yesterday’s post, “Pleading for Protection: A Transportation Bill Review” by Stacey Moses, for an update on the perpetually stalled Federal Transportation Bill.

And if your local advocacy organization is gathering data on participation, make sure that your participation is counted.

Maybe the numbers provided by cycling and it’s advocates can pull this bill out of the ditch.

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