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September-October 2002 Newsletter

Ambassadors — Be All That You Can Be!

by Cheryl Brawner


This summer has been eventful, with Critical Mass making the front page and police showing up at our Tuesday night rides. Who is right? Who is at fault? How do these incidents affect us in the long run? Will the bad behavior of a few ruin it for all of us?

There seems to be turmoil among the road-using masses. More cars on the road with drivers in a frenzy to reach their destination. More cyclists taking up more space on the road at a slower pace than motorized traffic. These things up to mounting anger and frustration. What can we do about it? How can we make a difference?

More and more often the executive committee of the LBC is sought out for answers to these important issues. Governmental agencies and political candidates come to us, knowing that cycling as transportation and recreation is an integral part of the livability of our community. We want safer streets and more bicycling facilities. But what if “we” aren’t good, law-abiding citizens? Should we demand respect if we don’t give it? Should “they” fund our bicycling facilities?

As a cycling advocate, I have learned that leading by example is a good start (albeit I am not without sin). I realize that many of the folks who are causing problems are not members of our organization, but they do often look like “us.” We avid cyclists and members of the largest bicycle club in Kentucky need to work harder at being the best cyclist we can be. Now more than ever, we as an organization must lead by example. That being said, where do we — individually — begin?

We can start on the bike —

  • Be courteous. I know — sometimes it’s hard, but let’s make friends, not enemies, of drivers — I may be next up the road in his path, and I don’t want him to already have an attitude about us cyclists! For instance, don’t make a car pass you more than once. Think before making hand gestures or shouting colorful metaphors at frustrated or discourteous motorists. Make eye contact and smile at an intersection. Yield to “cars back” when it is safe to do so. Thank motorists who allow you a moment of courtesy — a wave and a “thank you” will go a long way in promoting cycling advocacy. Also, if you see another cyclist being unsafe or discourteous, let them know you noticed. They might not be aware that their actions are setting us back.
  • Be predictable — use hand signals and obey traffic laws (not just when it is convenient). Don’t dodge in and out of traffic or blow through stop signs. Don’t ride on the sidewalk — it’s against city ordinance. A bicycle is a vehicle, not a toy, and we need to act like one in order to demand and receive respect from other road users. Remember, we have both the rights and responsibilities of any other vehicle on the road. Let’s not act like children.

Off the bike, we can

  • Educate the non-cycling public. When others make derogatory remarks about us cyclists as a whole, analyze their concerns and give them knowledgeable answers. Make them aware of the laws regarding cyclists, but don’t force the issue of our rights to the road. For instance, if someone complains that cyclists don’t yield, you might want to explain that there are in fact “bad apple” cyclists, just as there are motorists who don’t obey traffic laws. You might also interject that a good cyclist will yield when it is safe for passing, and explain why we sometimes do “take the lane” for our own safety. Don’t just say the law allows us to ride two abreast. Give-and-take is the key.
  • Make a personal connection. Volunteer for community organizations to promote their causes, such as the Brain Injury Association of Kentucky, Kosair Charities, the Red Cross or your church or synagogue. Make it known that you are a cyclist and that you are a member of the LBC. Give them a hand, and they will appreciate us. The contacts you make will think better of us when they see us on the road — that person they are about to pass might be their friend.

If we can’t depend on cyclists who are not members of our club to do the right thing, we must represent ourselves — members of the LBC, the local voice of cyclists — in the best possible light. You can be the voice of reason by being the bicycling community’s “ambassador.”


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web posted: 9 September 2002
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