Generating change through relationships
Traveling the state
In my roles of outreach and development at Bicycle Colorado, I enjoy traveling around the state to meet with members, donors and people in local communities working to improve bicycling and walking where we live.
My colleagues and I regularly visit communities across Colorado to keep our finger on the pulse of what is going on around the state and to work with individual communities on local issues. Just last night I attended my local Wheat Ridge City Council meeting to ensure that bicycle and pedestrian funding was not removed from the 2015 budget. And stay tuned for some really important updates on our work with state leaders.
Person to person relationships
The common thread among all the biking and walking progress I see is the relationships that advocacy professionals and local community members have developed with the individuals we have elected, as well as the staff working for state, county and local governments who determine how our transportation dollars are invested. These relationships take time but are well worth the effort.
Although our love of cycling can certainly be an asset in conversations with elected officials and municipal staff, it is not about our passion for riding bicycles. We have helped many of these decision makers understand that improvements for walking and bicycling are about attracting and retaining businesses and growing the economy. Our biggest gains in accelerating change in our transportation system often result when leaders become competitive towards other communities and states in the U.S.
Relationships are key to advancing Colorado at a time when other states and communities are rapidly accelerating the pace and have leap frogged past Colorado in the national rankings. Creating communities that are safe, connected and inviting for bicycling and walking is an economic development issue. Colorado is competing to attract and retain businesses and jobs, and liveable communities with great bicycle and pedestrian accommodations are key.
Lead, follow or get out of the way
Are we going to allow states like Minnesota, Oregon, Wisconsin and Delaware leap past Colorado as bicycle-friendly states through their increased investment in bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, programs and policies?
Are Colorado communities really going to allow cities with more entrenched transportation systems—like New York, Philadelphia, Chicago and San Francisco—create more liveable, appealing communities and entice employees and businesses from Colorado to relocate outside our state?
It’s not just large cities that have really stepped up their game: Missoula, MT; Urbana, IL; Cambridge, MA and Bloomington, IN are all leaders, too.
It is the amazing relationships I have seen between local bicycle community members and local and state decision makers that are key to the needed changes. During a recent visit to Fort Collins, every member I met with had attended community meetings about the bicycle/pedestrian master plan updates. In Grand Junction, the mountain bike community has regular sessions with land managers. In Boulder, members and supporters are providing feedback on the Living Laboratory experiments with various bicycle facilities.
Recently my community, Wheat Ridge, reinstated $100,000 in bicycle and pedestrian investments as a result of strong relationships and active involvement in the budget process. Lakewood is embracing community input and making important investments to become more pedestrian and bicycle friendly. In Durango, Eagle, Carbondale, Aspen, Fort Morgan, Sterling, Pueblo, Colorado Springs, Steamboat Springs, Breckenridge, Crested Butte, Summit county and more—there is amazing momentum and progress being made.
Of course I can’t possibly include all the communities where strong relationships are driving change and creating economically competitive communities that embrace best-practices for bikeability and walkability. Please use the comments section to share what your community is doing and the important relationships that are facilitating change.
And remember that just a few people showing up at public meetings really makes a difference. It is one step towards developing those critical, long-term relationships that can facilitate change.