Community Building: Cycling Organizations
At Utility Cycling, we„ve discussed how bicycles can bring together people of similar interests to create communities of likeminded cyclists, and how bicycles can be used not only for transportation, deliveries and services, but also for social gatherings and social action, and self-expression. There is a utility in all of these activities, whether the goal is to ride to a destination or to garner support for a charity. This community building through bicycles would not be possible without the support of many different cycling organizations, which serve a variety of purposes and exist at many different levels.
Cycling organizations is a very broad term and includes groups at international, national and local levels. Associations such as USA Cycling focus on developing competitive cyclists and maintaining consistency among local groups. The International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) works to partner trail advocates and land managers to responsibly develop mountain biking in the US and abroad. Within the realm of utility cycling, national and local bicycle advocacy organizations push for greater education and infrastructure through legislation as well as through grassroots efforts. We„re also including bike salvage and recycling organizations, and we„d love to hear from you in the comments section belowif we„ve missed any other important organizations.
Coordination and action at a national level is critical to advancing bicycle advocacy. With hundreds of millions of federal dollars at stake for human-powered transportation infrastructure in the United States, the League of American Bicyclists serves an important role not only in lobbying Congress to secure funding for better bicycling infrastructure, but also in creating programs to educate current and potential cyclists. From rewarding bicycle-friendly businesses to supporting Safe Routes to Schools programs, the League and other national organizations create the fabric of advocacy for organizations at the local level.
For advocacy to be effective, local organizations work very hard to execute programs designed at the national level as well as to create activities and plans of their own within their communities. The League of American Bicyclists has created Bike to Work Month, but the action takes place at the local level to produce successful Bike to Work events. Securing funding is also a concern for local organizations; planning and executing trail and road surveys to quantify cyclists within an area is one of many essential activities that local organizations perform to work towards improving cycling conditions.
These diverse operations give old bikes new lives with new owners. Many cities have some sort of bicycle cooperative that fulfills many different needs within a community. Bicycle salvage and recycling organizations provide veteran cyclists with a place to donate unneeded bicycle parts, young cyclists with a place to learn about riding and bicycle repairs, and other community members with an opportunity to procure an affordable method of transportation or recreation.
Cycling organizations, despite having a multitude of specific and differing goals, all seek to create a better experience for people on bicycles. Bicycle advocates are driven by various motivations, but whether you ride for environmental, economic or health and well-being reasons, better infrastructure and better education benefits cyclists of all backgrounds.