Bicycle advocacy (n.): The active support of all things related to bicycling; a bicycle activist.
Last fall, on a whim, I completed my first bicycle tour - 600 miles through remote Southern Utah and Colorado. And through the trip - the irate motorists, the narrow road shoulders, the restrictive laws - I realized something: cyclists really do need advocates.
Before taking on the role of bicycle advocate, one must pick a cause. In order to fight the powers that be, one must decide what one thing impedes bicycle transportation more than anything else, and attack it head-on.
But what would make the world a better place for cyclists? Considerate motorists? Attentive public officials? Bicycle-friendly laws? An extensive trail network?
All worthy causes, but what the bicycling world needs first are more cyclists. More bike nuts. More pedal pushers who still believe fossil fuels are carrots and bananas, and 80 miles is a day’s (not an hour’s) distance.
The are a lot of people that bicycle and a lot of reasons they do it. Health. Fitness. Recreation. Environmental concerns. Because it’s faster than walking. But what I’m proposing is finding more people who bicycle as a way of life - as a reason to get up in the morning and fall asleep at night. A true means of travel. I know it sounds silly, but hear me out.
The greatest power known on earth is a majority, and the majority, fellow cyclists, we are not. If anything, our numbers are dwindling in the wake of SUV’s, all-terrain vehicles, eight-lane Interstates and sprawling suburbs. We survive amid progress that outstepped our abilities over a century ago, and relish in a simplicity almost obsolete in the modern world.
And yet we know exactly why we’re here, using all the steam we have to roll down the highway at an unforgivably slow pace. Because we’ve been there, at the top of the mountain, drenched in sweat, gasping for air, in awe of the vast landscape before us. And, in that moment, we can’t envy the blur of SUV’s speeding by. They can have their air conditioning and four wheel drive and all-leather interior. We know that we’ve found a superior mode of transportation.
So what is our cause? It’s the liberation of the cyclist through public awareness and enthusiasm. And the best way to promote a cause is to live it.
On August 20, 2003, we will embark on a cross-country bicycle tour with no agenda rather than see as much as we can and spend as much time on the seat of a bicycle as possible. Our trip will be self-supported and sustainable - meaning a lot of camping and cooking and baths in the river. We will leave Salt Lake City and arrive several weeks later in Syracuse, New York. Through our journey, we hope to raise awareness and promote bicycle travel through presence, narratives, word-of-mouth, and, most importantly, this web site.
The journal includes insights into bicycle touring, as well as a detailed account of a two-week tour we took through Colorado and Utah last fall. It’s an e-column of sorts, so check back for regular updates. After April 1 we will start our travels that preclude the bike trip, and I will begin e-mailing a new column weekly to all of our sponsors. Through this column, I hope to compile a detailed observation of the trials and triumphs of bicycle travel. In the future, I hope it can be a window for public awareness. But for now, I just hope it can help us survive this trip - our first cross-country tour - because you can’t have knowledge without experience.
So become a sponsor, and help us make it through the trip of a lifetime!