A while back a man by the name of Mikael Colville-Andersen tweeted this simple message:
“The people who worry about how much their bicycles weigh are probably not the people you want advocating cycling”
It is a basic message that says sports only cyclists do not understand the requirements of utility and commuter bike riders (see, I made a segregating separation there).
I think he is dead right!
When I first got involved in Advocacy, I was full of beans, I had great ideas to go with it, AND YOU WERE ALL WRONG. If you disagreed with me, I not only told you how wrong you were, I was a zealot, and I had to make sure you wouldn’t say it again. In doing so I alienated a number of people, lost some good friends and hurt people I didn’t mean to. Some of these people are now allies, some . With all my crazy ideas, some I still like, I went and hit the pavement.
I had ‘Drive to Work Day,’ not the first to have this idea, but 200 registered and a number of people did it.
‘Respect 4 Riders’ – this was a bad idea, it was saying that we needed to earn respect in order to get respect, but soon changed to motorists need to show respect before we return the favour.
And more things are coming, hopefully better ideas.
I loved all things safety, Hi-Vis and Yellow were my favourite colours, right up till being hit by a car wearing the LiveStrong kit. Let’s not even talk helmets, but a few poor buggers got an earful from me about how dangerous they were without them. Oh, and Red Light Runners? I once chased one down to tell him off, how ironic it was that I ran a pedestrian red in order to do it (but it was only orange when I got there was my excuse).
I was angry, I was frustrated and everyone had to know. But then a change happened, I saw someone advocating that was angrier than me, in fact more angry than other people I knew. It struck me that this is not what I want people to see from cyclists. I don’t want them to fear I may scratch their car or yell through their window. I certain do not condone it any more.
Others were joining the landscape, horrible images that scared people to ride bikes, and even a motoring group that has a closed group that refuses to understand cycling issues and would rather get riders off the road.
There are some ridiculous claims out there, even I have a claim or two that I know I helped with things happening, but I really don’t know how much or how little. And there is a reason for these claims. You see, advocates won’t talk to each other, they start their own groups because they have a 1 degree of separation from another group. Some are geographically separated, this causes local groups to know local issues. So the claims stand. But no one group can ever think they did one thing on their own. They simply don’t know if they did or didn’t.
We work closely with a large advocacy group, we tell them when we disagree. But we don’t do it on Facebook, we use a device that has been around for a lot longer – we call them on the phone. It makes it private and the discussion can be had, for good or bad we learn why they said this or done that. We don’t have to agree, but we also don’t have to make it into a public debate, just put up our point of view in a respectful manner and life is good.
But advocates cannot advocate for all riders. Nope, sorry, this I am sticking to my guns on. No advocate can represent all styles of riding. And not all riders want to have an advocate represent them. Some will say they do because they have it in their charter, but they simply cannot.
This takes us back to the initial point: Recreational and Sports cyclists are two very different groups. As are Utility and Commuter, BMX, Downhill, Mountain bike, Recumbent, Street Cyclist, Delivery, Courier (have I missed any?). I don’t want a sports group advocating for my rights to go shopping by using the footpath any more than I want a Helmet Lobby group represent me on my racing bike. We need all these groups, we just need to get them to talk to each other more. Set aside their differences and look for their common goals and activities. There has to be room for everyone.
Well, what are we going to do about this? This is a tough question, we work with a number of groups to communicate information out. We are not an Advocacy, but a portal for the advocacies to use. We will continue to expand this and open our eyes and minds to any group that wants to work with us. We want to see a cohesive and well oiled, organised and progressive series of advocates all over Australia. And if they allow us, we hope to help them get there.