How Can I Promote Cycling



How Can I Promote Cycling

My family and I enjoyed a great Father’s Day weekend camping, away from the hustle and bustle of daily life.  It was great to spend some quality time out in the fresh air, where cars don’t rule the day and people live a “simpler” life (looking at some of the other camp setups around us, I’m not sure this is strictly true).  Anyways, it gave me some time to reflect on cycling and one of the questions I’m frequently asked, “how can I promote cycling?”  I’ll work on a dedicated page for this topic, but in the mean time, here are some of my top recommendations:

  1. Get out and ride!  Seriously.  It’s one of the most effective advocacy efforts.  Don’t just ride recreationally; commute to work, ride to the store, ride to evening meetings, ride with your family and friends, just ride.
  2. Follow the rules of the road and be courteous to other users.  I don’t want to start another debate about the merit of the laws as they pertain to cyclists, the matter of the fact is that the laws exist and we must obey them.  We can peacefully work towards changing the laws and the road infrastructure so it’s more friendly to bikes, but in the mean time we need to work with what we have.  Over the long run, it does no good to flaunt the laws.  Doing so is bound to upset motorists and get cyclists killed.  I truly believe that cyclists can be the upstanding citizens in the us vs. them of the bike vs. car debate.
  3. Learn how to ride safely.  I highly recommend you read the Bicycling Street Smarts.  It has a wealth of information, particularly for new riders but also something for those who have been on the road for years.
  4. Talk about biking with your neighbors, friends, co-workers anyone that will listen.  More people will listen now that gas is over $4/gal.  You might be surprised who you can convert and who might just be willing to pull that old bike out of storage.
  5. Interact with people you encounter during your ride.  Wave to other cyclists, yes even those of us clad from head to toe in spandex and riding full carbon fiber bikes can do this!  Also greet other people you encounter, a simple good morning can leave a lasting memory and that person may just hop in their car and treat the next cyclist they encounter with a bit more respect.  This is one of the best benefits of commuting by bike, your commute becomes a social event.
  6. Offer to meet up and ride with others.  Many people are scared to get back on the bike, especially now that the roads are so busy.  If you have the opportunity to help convince a co-worker to try bike commuting by riding in with them the first time, do it!  You’ll feel great all day knowing that you helped get one more bike on the road and they will feel more confident about starting to commute on their own.
  7. Be a more courteous driver.  Almost all of us drive a car at times.  When you get behind the wheel, remember your experience as a cyclist.  Make sure you follow the rules of the road.  Don’t try and save those ten seconds by running yellow lights, rolling through stop signs, and speeding (yes, there are speed limits and you should actually obey them while driving).  When you approach a cyclist, do so as you would want another drive to approach you when biking; slow down and pass the cyclist with plenty of room, don’t ride up on them, etc.  Perhaps, just perhaps, we can get enough cyclist aware drivers out there to make other drivers begin to respect us.
  8. If you have kids, get them out on bikes.  The best way to ensure cycling continues to get better in this country is to ingrain good cycling habits into our future generation.  Teach them how to be safe on the roads and how to behave properly.

If you have additional recommendations, please comment and I’ll role it all into a more polished static page.


  • Jun 18, 2008 at 9:50 am

    1 & 7… YES! Furthermore, they should require applicants for trainer's permits to ride bikes first and pass a simple "road test" by bike. Do you want someone slinging around tons of hostile metal without any balance, poise, knowledge of laws and sensitivity to other road users?

    8. When you bring kids on bike outings, YOU wear a helmet TOO.

    2 – 6… automotive propaganda… pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. If bicyclists get any humbler than they already are, they'll simpy disappear, which violates 1.

    I don't wave to knuckleheads willfully riding on the wrong side of road or sidewalk or without a helmet. On the other hand, I do wave to cyclists who've been so deslected by poor road design as to be forced to use sidewalk instead of ride. I can instantly tell the difference between idiots and cyclists, while bike nazis who accept no comment to the contrary can't.

    You can't have it both ways. Either a bike is a vehicle, which means it can be used like a car in all respects, which means occupying travel lanes and let motorists wait behind you, or it's not, which means the laws don't apply. It's in everybody's interest that the bicycle be returned to the same status as walking in terms of the laws. I'm sorry if you find this reasonable argument offensive, but anybody who rides 1000 miles a year or more would find it intuitive.

  • detay61
    Jun 18, 2008 at 10:49 am

    That got my attention…

    "bicycle be returned to the same status as walking"? I should hope not. That means I'd be on the sidewalk, waiting for a crosswalk signal, among other things. I'd much rather play in the traffic with the cars and get to work on time.

    I'd just appreciate a law that makes it a crime to hit and kill a cyclist when you're driving.

  • Jun 18, 2008 at 12:19 pm


    I can't agree with your more on the helmet issue, I'll definitely add something about this in the final page. One of my pet peeves is riding along the bike trail with my family and seeing the kids out there with helmets and the parents without one. Just as annoying, is the seeing the kids with the helmets improperly fitted, basically falling off their heads.

    I don't find your opinions offensive, but I do often find your delivery unfortunate. There is no need to degrade yourself to the point of name calling, why refer to people as knuckleheads, nazis, and accuse people of spewing automotive propaganda? This type of delivery frequently leads to unproductive communications and can stop all civil discourse. Please, everyone, think about how you present yourself to others before posting. It's fine to express an alternative opinion, just do so in a civil manner.

    As for bikes as vehicles, I firmly believe they are a type of vehicle. They can't go as fast as cars and, therefore, I see no reason why they should try to drive the same way. There are times when I take the entire lane and there are times when I stay to side and let the faster traffic pass. I don't see an inherent problem with this approach, it doesn't make me any less of a vehicle. Motorists use the same approach on a multi-lane road, slower traffic should remain in the right hand lane, when it's safe to do so. I ride my bike in the same fashion, I just require a LOT less space. My fundamental belief is that infrastructure should be maintained in a way that maximizes the movement of people not cars; after all, it's the people that really matter.

    As for pedestrians, I don't feel they garner enough respect from motorists either. Motorists in this state either don't know they are legally obliged to stop for pedestrians in crosswalks or just plain don't care. The first boils down to a training issue, the later to an enforcement issue.

  • Jun 20, 2008 at 3:46 am

    I add this to helmet issue:

    Parents who don't give kids (to 16 years old) helmets is JUST like parents who don't put kids in car seats, both of which are already illegal.

    Parents who don't wear helmets are risking their own lives. In over 90% of bike fatalities, rider wasn't wearing a helmet. So, by not wearing a helmet, they are still abusing their children, who get deprived if they foolishly die.

    As far as your belief in bikes as vehicles, this in only ONE OPINION supported ONLY by the automotive community, not history, not bicyclists in general, not rational sense, and not me. Bicycling everywhere is an inalienable right, just like walking, which includes walking in streets and crossing at will, since you couldn't paint enough crosswalks or bikelanes. Motoring and flying airplanes and operating trains are licenced privileges, and rightly so, for the potential damage they can do if done badly. Bikelanes are a convenience MOSTLY FOR motorists benefit, and I support that wholeheartedly. The best way to educate motorists is put controls in plain view as daily reminders… skip the pamphlets which never get read. Do you know that for 49 of 50 states, motorist educational pieces are not on the internet? Guess which state does.

  • Jun 20, 2008 at 7:13 am

    So, you peeked my interest… what did you mean by "Do you know that for 49 of 50 states, motorist educational pieces are not on the internet? Guess which state does.", what constitutes an educational piece? I originally thought you were referring to drivers manuals/handbooks, but a quick search turned up many states had theirs posted online.

    I think we've beat the how bikes should behave issue to death and clearly, you and I have differing views. It remains to be seen how the larger cycling community feels about the issue, hopefully, we can continue to flush this out through discussions on this site.

    As an aside, the actual law says anyone under 15 must wear a helmet. Unless the version of the RI bike laws posted on the RIDOT BikeRI site is out of date.

  • Jun 20, 2008 at 8:06 am

    When I first wrote about driver's ed instructional materials not on the internet 5 years ago, only Florida had theirs posted. Since then, this criticism has filtered throughout states and a few have responded after a fashion.

    But, I repeat, this is not the best way to educate motorists. Smart people who ALSO read already know they can't run over bicyclists and walkers with impunity. It's illegal everywhere, despite the circumstances. That's why they make drivers carry insurance, which doesn't help bicyclists much. Not everybody is connected to internet, either.

    No, stripes on streets, signs… these are daily reminders of motorist duties. There are probably more NO BICYCLE OR PEDESTRIANS signs than BIKE ROUTE, if you don't count the Cranston and Warwick neighborhood bike network signs which lead you in unuseful closed arcs around sections of cities. Of RI cities, I'm proud to say, Cranston has ~40 miles of signed, if discontinuous, biking infrastructure in addition to a few miles of actual bikeway, more than any other city. Rivals the 42 miles of actual bikeways shared by 14 cities/towns, a mere 1% of roadnet.

    There are ~4000 miles of roads in RI, 25% of which are banned to bicycling, either officially or tacitly. This is illegal, state and federal, IF there's no alternative. Take, for example, Rt 103 in East Providence. Most of Pawtucket Avenue is tacitly unbikeable, but there's the parallel EBBP, so cyclists have nothing to moan about… unless EBBP is closed for another season of pipe digging. Then, by law, they have to post signage on how to exit EBBP, put shared use signs on streets, and, if necessary, detour motor traffic.

    Since cyclists don't have anyone to speak up for this right, towns don't do it. This recently happened on Allens Avenue's bikelanes during "Big Dig", until I complained and they put detour signs up Public to Eddy. I've been taking Eddy for years instead of Allens anyway, since there's always been tracks, horrible debris in shoulders, runoff, and, lately, construction. But that underpass next to hospital is – whoa – a nightmare! A few weeks ago I showed conditions to RIDOT's Intermodal Chief, who took photos and promised action.

    Access to top officials isn't hard. They're quite responsive. But there are many issues they can't do anything about any more than youor I can. You have to understand who has jurisdiction over a bikeway or street. Bikeways go in through RIDOT, but become something for towns to maintain. West Warwick can't maintain theirs, because they are a poor community. Minimum there should be a state funded monthly sweeping program that covers all bikeways in the state. RIDOT has no money either, after Big Dig, connector to Quonset fiasco, and latest bridge debacle. Then there are city streets, which you're entitled by law to ride on. Only they remove shoulders and make extra lanes. Greenwich Avenue is the latest victim of this. Warwick has become nearly entirely unbikeable, sad because it's pretty darn flat for the most part, potentially a biking mecca.

    The worst offender of all is Providence, who have had RIDOT's support for years, federal earmarks, grants, paid organized advocacy, and do…. nothing! Worse, they clamor about what they're planning. Just do it, why don't you? After 5 years of promising stripes on Broadway, if you hear that again next Bike to Work Day you should picket ciity hall and demand mayor's removal. City may be strapped for cash, but I guarantee you could get a grant and volunteers to do it within a week.

  • Dennis
    Jun 20, 2008 at 9:39 am

    Alan Barta said,

    "Smart people who ALSO read already know they can’t run over bicyclists and walkers with impunity. It’s illegal everywhere, despite the circumstances."

    – I always thought that it was illegal to hit and kill anyone while driving your car. Then last year a woman hit a cyclist after she made an illegal pass of another car and over-corrected, swerving into the breakdown lane (where the cyclist was riding). No penalty, no ticket.

    "No, stripes on streets, signs… these are daily reminders of motorist duties."

    "After 5 years of promising stripes on Broadway, if you hear that again next Bike to Work Day you should picket ciity hall and demand mayor’s removal. City may be strapped for cash, but I guarantee you could get a grant and volunteers to do it within a week."

    -I can't agree with you more on the need for striping on streets, anywhere and mostly in Providence. Unfortunately, RI drivers see these indicators as a "suggestion". The first step would be to paint the lines, the second step would be to enforce the laws.

    And as for the Helmet issue, now that more people are riding bicycles for transportation we need some education. Bike fatalities will start to rise because many of these new riders think that because they put that helmet on their head they are safe. I see more every day riding on the wrong side of the road, weaving between parked cars, running stop lights…. When that 2000 lb car slams into you all that helmet will do is preserve your corneas for donation.


  • Jun 20, 2008 at 10:38 am

    Obviously following this thread…

    35% of fatal bike collisions are from wrong side of road. Rest are mainly from being overtaken. They don't want you to know this, so they skew statistics to obscure, cite intersections, which represent on average 5% of road segments.

    I've been hit 3 times, all from behind. I haven't donate corneas yet. There's something interesting that's never mentioned anywhere except my book… When you're hit on a bike, you ROLL. You're 6 to 7 times more likely to be killed as a pedestrian, because you weren't born with wheels to take up the shock. The defacto speed limit for 90% of RI roads is only 25 mph. So, bicyclists are moving almost as fast as traffic, where they're allowed to ride, and suffer fewer ill effects during collisions. It's just physics. Bicycling is, by far, the safest form of transportation. Statistics bear this out.

  • Jun 20, 2008 at 10:44 am

    Dennis said:

    I always thought that it was illegal to hit and kill anyone while driving your car. Then last year a woman hit a cyclist after she made an illegal pass of another car and over-corrected, swerving into the breakdown lane (where the cyclist was riding). No penalty, no ticket.

    I actually added a post shortly after the AG dropped the criminal charges. I'm not a lawyer by any means, but my layman's understanding of criminal cases is that there must be some form of criminal intent. In this case the AG found that there was no intent and that this was purely an accident. Yes, it was horrific, but it Ms. Hurst did not intend to cause death. She was brought up on civil charges and, while I can find no reference to the outcome of that case, I can't but believe that she was found guilty.

    It's a tough question, one that I've mused about often. What is the proper punishment in a case like this. Sure, they can bring civil charges and fine the person, but that really doesn't make up for a death, nor does putting them in jail. I for one would like to see someone who kills someone with their car, loose their license. Perhaps forever. Yes, it's going to change their life drastically, but they killed someone! Why someone like this is allowed to keep driving, I don't understand.

    As for striping streets, my jury is still out on this one… Fundamentally, I like the idea of bike lanes, but I'm concerned that motorists will then feel bikes MUST be in a bike lane. This causes problems for when you want to turn left or the bike lane ends. Also, I'm not sure that many roads around the state have enough width to accommodate the lanes of travel, bike lanes, and the current parking. Something must give. Until society changes rejects it's car first policies, I find it unlikely that parking places will go away to allow bike lanes. In an area like this, I think sharrows are the answer. They should be official at the end of this year and then we can start a real push to get some paint down.

  • Jun 21, 2008 at 7:13 am

    Sharrows are good. But, all such controls are for the MOTORIST's convenience. The bad actor is always the motorist. Since you have a perfect right to ride and walk in streets, it's up to them to avoid killing you.

    Frank Cabral wasn't so lucky. Last year, on the wide shoulder of Rt-1 in Charlestown, some gal on a cell phone in an SUV ran him over, dead. Road was plenty wide, but nothing's going to stop bad habits unless it's yank the license. I just watched Cityscape Judge pass a guy for driving in a highway breakdown lane, justified considering circumstances.

    This issue of roads not being wide enough is specious. Traffic planners are obligated to complete streets from the outside in. 1st priority is a sidewalk, 2nd a wide shoulder (where you may stop disabled cars, not park), 3rd an automotive lane (1-way), 4th an automotive lane in opposite direction, 5th, an additional (climbing, turning) lane, 6th parking spaces, and lastly, additional motoring lanes (best left to limited access highways with 80' or more width).

    In RI, having 2 lanes in both direction takes precedence to even a sidewalk (see Apponaug). Not only is this highly illegal, it jeopardizes motorists as well. If there's not enough width on a right of way for a sidewalk and shoulder, no extra lanes can be allowed. Period. Streets like East Avenue, Greenwich Avenue, Lambert Lind Highway, North Main, Post Road, Warwick Avenue, East Main Road (Portsmouth) have no right being multilane. They are not wider than Broadway or Reservoir Avenue in Providence, boh of which only support 1 lane in each direction.

    There's been an ongoing battle by residents alongside Rt-44 about this for years. They are right, state won't change, and motorists die every year at a ridiculously skewed percentage on multilane roads. The only justification for it is to flow as many cars as possible, thus use fuel faster, which they can collect most taxes from.