Have you hugged a Cycling Advocate lately?

Photo: courtesy of wetdogproductions.com

Before we get started, I think it's important to provide a disclaimer:
*This article is going to be part advocacy, part rant and part vigilante cycling.

Last Sunday evening, I took a quick glance at the week's weather forecast and exclaimed aloud to my family "WOW! It looks amazing. We can ride our bikes all week long!" By "we" I mean, me, my husband, and our two little girls. I imagined butterflies and flowers and puppies frolicking alongside us in the meadow near the school. Me, just cruising along like Meg Ryan in City of Angels (before she gets hit and killed by that logging truck). And then reality happened. Below are all the ways we nearly died on the bike:

Photo: courtesy of www.thesun.co.uk
  • A construction crane swinging around precariously close to my daughter's head.
  • A plumbing truck nearly running my other daughter over.
  • A Prius (I kid you not) trying to dart around the plumbing truck.
  • A dog on the bike path with an uber-long leash (you know how that goes).
  • A dog not on the leash. "I'm sure Theo, your Rottweiler IS really friendly, but if you'll excuse me, I like to be a little cautious with my children's necks."
  • A huge silver SUV driving dad who need, need, needed to turn into the school parking lot first, overshot his corner. and bumped the curb near my two daughters and 12 other kids.
  • A different plumbing truck who missed his turn and just BACKED right up in front of me, going roughly 30 mph.

And that was all Monday morning before 8:15 a.m. Needless to say, in my head all the butterflies had gone up in flames, the flowers had died and the dogs were all rabid. And it was all because of cars and texting and construction and no bike lanes and just people NOT SEEING US. I went from "Happy-Laid-Back-Bicycling-Katie" to "Raging-Scary-Bike-Vigilante-Katie". At one point on the way home, I yelled at a construction worker, "HI! I'M RIGHT HERE. MY NAME IS KATIE and I'm a MOM. A mom who rides a BIKE. PLEASED TO MEET YOU!"

Not my finest hour. This rant does have a point, though. I promise. And the point is advocacy.

What do cycling advocacy groups do for us? A TON of things. But what I was reminded most of all this week is that they help the world SEE US. The people in their cars, the government officials, the people who make and enforce the laws. They make sure we are seen and heard.

As I've mentioned in the past, I had the joy of working for Bicycle Colorado for a little over 2 years on the education team. It kind of rubbed off on me--advocacy by osmosis. Previous to my time with Bicycle Colorado, I looked at riding bikes as a fitness/racing type of thing. This started to change. I began to see the value of using my bike as transportation. I wanted to drive less, ride more and pass this on to my family and other families. So much so that we ended up moving from a car-centric suburb to the city of Golden.

During the time I was with Bicycle CO, my teaching partners and I...

  • sidewalk chalked at least 700 playground black-tops.
  • fitted roughly 20,000 helmets.
  • wrenched bikes.
  • told stories to elicit giggles and make a gentle point.
  • played "walk/don't walk (our version of red-light/ green light) with wild Kindergartners.
  • had epic track stand contests with amazingly talented 6th graders.
  • wiped tears, held hands, and strategically placed bandaids.
  • taught kids and grown-ups how to ride bikes.
  • brought the FUN back to fitness.
  • taught kids (and re-taught parents) that riding bikes to school IS FUN, SAFE, AND GOOD FOR ALL OF US.

So tonight, I'll be at the Gala. And I will hug my friends at Bicycle Colorado for all the good work they do. I will continue to ride my bike even when some would claim that "it makes more sense to drive". I will continue to lovingly force my kids to do the same. And I will do my best to be seen, hold my temper and not go "all bike vigilante" on the world. Because it really is a beautiful, mostly safe place and I can help keep it that way.

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This is me, only I would obviously be wearing a helmet,
with both hands on the handlebars.

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