Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Sticking my toe into Phoenix's bicycle advocacy community

Desmond and Courtney, both city cyclists, at the January meeting of the Downtown Bicycle Action Group.
I've been pretty hesitant to become actively involved in bicycle advocacy, partly because up until pretty recently I was a municipal employee and didn't feel particularly free to voice my opinion in public forums.  Now, I'm back in school and in a much larger city.  City size, I must say, lends itself rather nicely to anonymity.  So in the course of exercising my compulsion to schmooze, I somehow got on a email list of another bicycle enthusiast and before I knew it had "liked" the newly formed Downtown Phoenix Bicycle Action Group, otherwise known at DBAG - I know, a very unfortunate acronym for a group seeking political influence but it looks like the name will be changed.  They met a couple of times already but I couldn't attend due to previous commitments but I made plans to go to January meeting last Sunday night at Angel's Trumpet.  I decided that before I complained too loud and too often about Phoenix's car-centric culture, I should at least find out what is being done to improve upon the situation and if anyone seriously cared to make it better for city cyclists.

Normally, I don't have a lot of hope for "activists", even when I support (and I often do) their cause.  My professional experience with them is that they too frequently do not have patience with the process of how to get worthwhile but new ideas on to the public agenda and don't or aren't willing to tailor their message to the desired audience.  While most people who read this blog simply want transportation options, quite a few people out there, married to their automobiles, assume a bike lane is really a secret plot to take away their cars.  Others believe any funding for bicycle infrastructure is a certain path to socialism rather than an opportunity for economic development.  Message matters and along with that, image - one reason why I don't want a group I'm connected with to be known as "a bunch of douche baggers".

So while I feared I might be at the meeting for under 45 minutes and leave in exasperated disappointment, I ended up staying for the two hour meeting and another 30 minutes of schmoozing afterward.  When I left I felt excited and uplifted because the group clearly understands that in order to be taken seriously by the City of Phoenix and the surrounding business community we need to be about something more than "Bicycles are great and everyone should ride them" or group-rides  noteworthy only for the number of drunken cyclists buzzing lights and flipping off frustrated drivers.  Group rides are wonderful and fun but bicycles are children's toys.  Grownup and "serious people" also ride them to get places.  About 20 people, representing a range of ages, skin colors and walks of life, attended participated in an active and respectful exchange of thoughts about who we are and what we represent.  Rather than shooting down ideas that were disagreed upon, attendees shifted out the strong points and improved upon the weak.  We came up with a short and sweet mission statement that pretty much sums up what we hope to accomplish:

Inspiring cycling as a transit option for the city of Phoenix.
Objectives will follow in the next meeting.  We'll also be working on a new group name, identifying subcommittees to work on goals and objectives and looking at ways we can expand out reach in downtown and Central Phoenix.
The next meeting will be held on Sunday, February 3 at 6 p.m.  The planned location  is Angel's Trumpet, 810 N. 2nd Street in downtown Phoenix.  A group ride from an undetermined location to the meeting will begin around 4:30.  Check out the Downtown Bicycle Action Group's Facebook page for details and updates.  Sorry for the lack of photos in this post, by the way.  For some reason, the insert photos tools isn't working.  Please help, Google!

1 comment:

bikeolounger said...

Karen, if you "do" Facebook, please look up a few groups that can help you with advocacy ideas:

"I am Traffic"

"Defensive Bicycle Driving"

"Bicyclists Belong in the Traffic Lane"

Blogs worth reading include Cycling Savvy and Commute Orlando, the latter of which has this as just one post worth your time:


Cheers, and safe pedaling!