Creating great communities for biking and walking by developing more effective advocates
A new program from the League of American Bicyclists
We strengthen local groups by addressing the top organizational capacity challenges identified by local groups, like:
- Stretching staff too thin
- Board engagement
- Trying to cover too large a geographic area
- Recruit, manage and retain volunteers
- Media attention
Support Professional Development
We conduct trainings and develop resources for staff to become more effective in key skills, such as:
- Hiring, managing and retaining talented staff
- Strategic planning
- Program management and delivery
- Constituent relationship management
advance equity diversity and inclusion
We recruit and develop new leaders by advancing equity, diversity and inclusion through the promotion of:
- Strategies local groups have used to advance equity, diversity and inclusion in staffing
- Organizational assessment tools local groups have used successfully
build a state by state strategy
The Bicycle Friendly State ranking and report cards show wide differences in how supportive state DOTs are in creating great biking and walking communities. The effectiveness and capacity of state advocacy groups also varies widely – 19 states have no paid advocates working on statewide issues while only three statewide groups have 10 staff or more.
Our state strategy will:
- Create a national campaign to address the top obstacles at state DOTs
- Increase funding for biking and walking by fostering partnerships of bicyclists, walkers, and health partners with traditional transportation funding coalitions
- Strengthen state advocacy by conducting trainings specifically for statewide advocates, developing fundraising resources that make the case for state advocacy and exploring campaign partnerships with the Bike League and America Walks
Learn to tell persuasive stories
We want to learn how to tell great stories about active transportation. We speak the language of policy well. But there is more to the story: the joy of a bike ride or a walk through the neighborhood, the boost that biking and walking can give to making communities great.
Susie Stephens, a founder of the Alliance for Biking and Walking, was a charming and persuasive storyteller. We honor her spirit every year by awarding the Susie Stephens Joyful Enthusiasm Award.
The good news: Rates of bicycling are on the rise. By some accounts, bicycling has grown by more than 65% nationwide in just the past fifteen years. In the same time, bicycling has grown over 110% in Bicycle Friendly Communities, one of our major programs at the Bike League.
This illustrates what has become increasingly clear in recent years: Change is Local.
Local and state groups advocating for biking and walking have grown at a remarkable rate, from 225 to 720 full-time staff in the last five years. The State of the Movement report estimates that local groups raised $88 million in 2014 to advocate for biking and walking. This growth was driven for the past twenty years by the work of the Alliance for Biking and Walking. But there have been growing pains, too.
The bad news: Every week, a chance to build a bike lane, a trail or another bicycle facility passes us by because we were not in the right place at the right time. And the right place is almost always a planning meeting years before any construction or paving begins. By the time a transportation project makes local headlines, by the time the big public meeting describing the project is held, it is often too late to get anything changed.
Too often, bicycle advocates fall into the “too early, too late” trap. Bicyclists come to early planning meetings and are told it’s too early to plan for implementation of a bike lane. Then, we come to the public meetings at the end of the process and the project is too far along to make any of the changes needed.
It’s like fishing: We cast our line in meeting after meeting, never knowing which meeting is going to land the boon for biking that we seek. Early meetings elicit vague promises of including bike facilities “if we can find funding” or “if we can get the right of way.” Those promises melt away without a persistent presence at follow-up meetings.
When advocates have the resources to attend the meetings that matter, and the training to know what to ask for, we get the bike lanes and trails we all want.
This is the slow and steady work of advocacy.
The Active Transportation Leadership Institute will give local advocacy organizations the tools to become better advocates by teaching the skills we need to build strong, sustainable local organizations. For the first time in our 136-year history, the League of American Bicyclists will invest in local groups by offering capacity building, best practices, technology, human resource benefits and leadership.
The Institute will advance equity, diversity and inclusion, working to recruit new leaders and helping existing organizations to develop and diversify their leadership. Only by including a wide array of voices from within and outside the movement can we advance bicycling with new audiences. An inclusive movement is a strong movement.
The Bike League has decades of experience when it comes to providing comprehensive training to individuals. Our League Cycling Instructor program currently trains more than 500 new instructors each year, who then teach bike safety and skills to thousands of adults and kids. The Bike League also has experience in building programs in partnership. The Institute builds on the Advocacy Advance partnership we formed with the Alliance, learning from the Alliance's decades of experience supporting local advocacy groups.
With the founding of the Institute, the Alliance for Biking and Walking has decided to shut down. The Bike League is honored that the Alliance has entrusted us with their proud legacy of supporting local advocacy.
Imagine the transformative effect that a national support network can give to both established and budding local advocacy groups all across the country.
The Active Transportation Leadership Institute can be that catalyst: a classroom for best practices across the country, advancing biking and walking from coast to coast.
For information on the opportunity to become a founding donor or sponsor, please contact Interim Executive Director Bill Nesper or make a donation online now.