We’ve been doing this for going on 10 months now. This group was started when a passing wind of indifference fanned the coals within the hearts of a couple local cyclists into a fire of passion. Things had to change and we were going to be the ones to do it. It started out as little more than an idea to unite everyone who loves bicycles under one banner. We just wanted to try to raise awareness and bring people together. For me, every conversation I would have with someone who rode a bike, a person who had experienced the dangers of the road, or the joys of a trail, merely fanned the flames of my fire. To this day, every time someone shares a story good or bad, about an experience involving cycling I am only reminded why I believe in what we are trying to accomplish.
I have learned several things over the past 10 months. I have learned important lessons about working with people who have the ability to enact the changes I want to see, as well as how to interact with those who don’t. I have learned that just showing up is 80% of the work. I have learned about the duality of the bureaucrat who insists upon debating the merits of a change that would clearly have positive benefits thus standing in the way of progress in the name of progress while simultaneously encouraging change and improvement at a grass-roots level. I have learned that no person can do what I am hoping to do alone. Most importantly I have learned that I don’t have to.
For the most part, it has been a positive 10-month start to our little organization. We have moved from a group who just met weekly in our favorite local bar to talk about bikes and share a brew, to meeting at Virtuous Cycles and leaving the beer at home in favor of productivity. Our meeting numbers have dwindled in part because of that, but our effectiveness has grown. We have begun attending as many political meetings as possible in an effort to be able to speak for the cyclists where possible and ensure that our voices are heard. We have finalized our first round of educational materials, which we hope to distribute at the July Mosey and several events thereafter. We have lobbied and fought for the passing of the 3-foot ordinance in West Lafayette and plan to do the same in Lafayette before the end of summer. We have countless other projects in the works. In short, we are busy, but we are seeing the beginnings of a positive change forming within our community.
So why am I writing this now? The truth is, I am very passionate about what we are doing. I would imagine that is fairly obvious. Passion is a driving force in my life, often taking me places I didn’t even know I wanted to go…sometimes to places I really didn’t want to go. Sometimes I find myself in these places and I suddenly have to take back over to make sure that my passions don’t run me into the center of a fire just because it looked pretty. Bicycle Lafayette has been met with an unbelievable amount of support from many in our community, and we are eternally grateful for that. As such it has been easy to ignore the voices of dessent…until recently. It truly is exciting and encouraging to know that members of local government, the mayors, even the police departments, and so many more are supportive of our cause. However, the vast majority of those we share the road with on a daily basis…are not supportive. It’s easy to work or hang out downtown or on campus and forget that the vast majority of citizens of this community don’t live or visit those places all that much. Unfortunately the reminders of these facts come quickly when you take a trip on your bicycle outside of the safety of these small pockets of support and realize that the vast majority of those cyclists share the road with do not respect us. In fact, I would wager that most of them don’t even know Bicycle Lafayette exists, and if they did they wouldn’t really care all that much.
But now I am done. I am fed up with the people who want to yell at cyclists. I am tired of people who think we don’t belong. I am angry with the people who continually want to point out the cyclists who run stop signs or lights or break other laws as a way to imply that change isn’t needed or worse isn’t deserved. I’m tired of cyclists saying they don’t care what drivers think, they will do what they want because of “freedom” or some such nonsense. Is all of this valid? Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. The point is what are YOU going to do about it. If you are a cyclist and you don’t think the laws make sense for you, then do something to change it. Come to our meetings and give us some ideas. Hell, come to our meetings and tell us we are doing it wrong, I am ok with that, I promise. If you are a driver and you think cyclists don’t belong on the road, then come tell me why. Come explain to me why 35mph versus 15 mph is such a big deal. Help me understand why arriving at your destination 5 minutes earlier than if you had stayed behind that cyclist for a few seconds until you could safely pass is such a big deal. Quit hiding in your car and acting like you know something everyone else doesn’t. If everyone that has taken the time to point out how “they think it’s really great what we are doing, but yesterday they saw a cyclist without a helmet run a stop sign and ride off into the sunset dragging a kitten behind their bike and screaming about anarchy all while reading Mein Kampf” and instead provided one possible solution to improve things for cyclists and drivers…perhaps we could actually begin working together to make a change.
Consider this a challenge. The next time you want to swerve at a cyclist riding their bike somewhere to be funny, throw something, yell something, share some kind of opinion about your superiority for driving versus cycling…instead…don’t. The next time you come to a light or a stop sign on your bicycle and decide you don’t need to follow the rules like everyone else stop and think about why that is for a minute. Write down whatever you felt when you were going to do/say that and bring it to Virtuous Cycles at 6pm on Sunday. We meet nearly every week outside of special occasions. Bring me your piece of paper and let’s talk about how we can make it better for both of us. The beauty of our group is that there is no danger of being wrong. Bicycles bring people together. We want to make that true for more people. You can tell us whatever you want, in person, to our faces. We aren’t here to cause problems, we are here to help make it better so how about everyone quits standing in the way and starts to consider contributing to the solution instead.
If you don’t want to take the challenge that is ok too, however you should know that I am not going to quit yelling about what I think needs to happen. Right or wrong, until someone comes to provide me with a better solution, I am going to continue presenting my own. I don’t believe in sitting back and complaining about things. I believe in taking action, so that is what I am going to continue to do. The more unified our voice, the louder we can be, the faster we can make changes happen. Quit being part of the problem and come be part of the solution.