Bike advocacy is a key element in the improvement of cycling in all its forms: sport, recreation, and utility. Recently, in the United States, bike advocacy issues have taken center stage, especially as cycling has become a heated issue on Capitol Hill and beyond. There have been many proposals to cut funding for bicycling and walking programs, and national bike advocacy organizations, such as the League of American Bicyclists, People for Bikes, and others are taking the lead in fighting these cuts. There is also a great deal of bike advocacy that happens at the local level, such as bike salvage and recycling organizations that work to empower people to learn to ride and take care of their own bikes, as well as local bike advocacy groups at the state, county, and city levels all over the U.S. and beyond. But bike advocacy also occurs at the international level, and it is that element of bike advocacy to which we will turn our attention today. Header image credit: Alta Planning.
What is Bike Advocacy?
To begin, it’s important to consider what bike advocacy actually means. Advocacy is generally a political process whereby a group or individual aims to influence decisions and outcomes regarding a particular topic. To that end, bike advocacy is a process of attempting to influence decisions regarding cycling from safety to infrastructure to funding and more. Bike advocacy can work to directly influence policy and legislation, such as is the case with lobbying groups like the League of American Bicyclists, and it can be less involved in the legislative process and work more directly on local perceptions. However, in general, bike advocacy is inherently political, in that it involves group or collective decision-making.
Image Credit: People Powered Movement
International Bike Advocacy
International bike advocacy could be thought of in two ways. First, from the U.S. perspective from which I write, it could be considered a reference to groups outside of the U.S. that are involved in bike advocacy. That is certainly one way to think of international bike advocacy, and there are far too many groups outside the U.S. involved in their own local or national bike advocacy to list here. The second way to think of international bike advocacy, and the idea I had in mind when I began writing this post, refers to bike advocacy organizations that seek to function outside of any particular jurisdictional boundaries and work in many different countries and contexts. This conception of international bike advocacy is useful, but the scope of many groups that fall under this umbrella does naturally tend to be somewhat regional or context-specific, as one might imagine. Nonetheless, such groups do important work on the international scale that is important to highlight.
International Bike Advocacy Organizations
There are a number of different international bike advocacy organizations, and I’m sure I haven’t covered them all here. If you see anything missing, don’t hesitate to mention it in the comments section.
- International Bicycle Fund: Primarily concerned with promoting bicycle transportation, the IBF focuses on planning and engineering, safety education, economic development assistance, and promoting international understanding. They also have a great website with a ton of useful information.
- World Bicycle Relief: In order to promote bicycling around the world, people need bicycles to ride. World Bicycle Relief has taken up the challenge of empowering people through the bicycle by providing bikes to ride, assistance for working on bikes, connections with local governments and organizations, and much more in many places around the world.
- One Street: As an international bicycle NGO, One Street helps provide coaching, assistance, and resources to local governments, non-profits, for-profits, and other groups who are seeking to improve cycling in their regions.
- International Mountain Bike Association: While IMBA is focused primarily on mountain biking, they do a ton of great work to promote safe and responsible trail use in the U.S., Canada, and 30 other countries. They also have a great bike patrol program.
- Velo Mondial: This global network of bicycle advocacy projects has been active since 2000. They are primarily concerned with cycling for transportation, and making the bicycle glamorous!
- European Cyclists Federation: ECF promotes cycling as a healthy form of transportation and recreation through a wide range of projects. Although they focus on Europe, the challenges they face are global ones, so they hope that their efforts can help improve cycling outside of the European context, as well.
- Velo-City Global: Although Velo-City is not an organization per-say, they are largest global cycling planning conference. The conference brings in people from around the world to share ideas, innovations, and discuss issues in bicycle planning from a wide range of contexts. The next conference will be in Vancouver, B.C. in 2012.
- Others: Who did I neglect to mention?