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Great Strategies to Get Protected Bike Lanes in Your City!

Last week I was invited to speak to a group of bike/safe streets advocates in Montclair, NJ about what are some good strategies to get better people who bike and walk in their town. I gave a good accounting of ideas I thought were important but realize there are a lot of Streetfilms resources for anyone who wants to get better bike lanes in their city that I could pen. So here's some advice!

  • START WITH A CORE OF DEDICATED VOLUNTEERS/COMMUNITY MEMBERS:  You simply can't do it without some very motivated people in your city wanting to help manage and motivate your neighbors (and eventually push back against the sure to come NIMBY naysayers) The video below shows how it is done. Visuals. Energy. Sign up sheets. Facts & info about what you want to do. Engaging, happy people. Now this NYC Transportation Alternatives event for the PeopleWay had dozens of volunteers stopping by to help all day. But NYC is big. Your smaller city or town might only need 10. Or maybe 3 to 5 highly energized people.

  • DREAM BIG, BUT WITH AN EYE ON WHAT YOU CAN WIN IN INCREMENTS:  A lot of people like to get jealous of progress made in cities like Portland, Oregon and (of late) here in New York City, but the truth is you can't win everything all at once. If you're in a big city your goals may be different than a smaller town which might have limited funding and/or public support. For example, instead of your dream master plan try proposing extending trails or greenways outward to adjacent roads. Or by asking for more safety near schools or universities and protecting a few popular bike routes where they become the most hairy for biking.

  • ORGANIZE NOT ONLY RIDERS, BUT POLITICIANS & BUSINESSES:  The Streetfilm above shows how just four Londoners formed CyclingWorks, where they pursued business support for the Cycling Superhighways proposed there. Over 180 business CEOs signed on with smart campaigning (just watch the short video). It has been duplicated in other places since and many other cities are plotting to do the same. Another great tactic is to get your elected leaders involved, out on the streets with you. NYC's TransAlt loves to cajole city council members into ride alongs. See the very successful one below with Ben Kallos and many others during Bike Week 2017. It's fun, momentum, investment and exercise!

  • DOCUMENT DANGEROUS AREAS, OR BIKE LANES THAT AREN'T WORKING:  This is key. You'll need the evidence. And unless you have an often-riding bike mayor or elected town officials, it's likely they don't know conditions that suck or are frightening.  Here's just one example: one simple shot of a painted bike lane on Lafayette Street in NYC that obviously isn't providing any protection or help to cyclists. You must do this as much as you can.

  • TRY TO GET CREATIVE IN SHOWING WHAT COULD BE OR SHOW UNIQUE BENEFITS THAT MIGHT WIN OVER OTHERS WHO DON'T BICYCLE:  If you want more or better bike lanes, you may have to emphasize the overall package that they can bring. Slower, calmer streets. Shorter, safer crossing distances for pedestrians.  A nicer business environment. And as below shows, even greener, more attractive streets to live on.

  • AND USE STREETFILMS AS A RESOURCE AS MUCH AS YOU CAN!

And finally, as we know visuals are the best. They put people more at ease as to what to expect and is achievable. Many times you can watch the enlightenment unfold on folks faces when watching a video about a hard to grasp transportation concept. So whether you use our Streetfilms, others on the internet or ones you make yourself, spread them around. And note: you are certainly free to hold screenings using our films provided you just give us the heads up and don't re-edit them. Another good suggestion is to intersperse local films amongst ours in a screening or to insert even just small bits or photos of your own city pointing out problem areas.

The amazing thing is, if you're looking for videos about protected bike lanes, well we got 'em. Heck, we got more from more places than anybody! How many? OVER 80!! You can scroll thru them all on Vimeo at this link and simply hit the download button to get a digital copy if you want to show it at a screening or just sit down with your local leaders and pop it into a laptop!

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