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Bike Advocacy on the Move in Ohio
By Lindsay Plante, BFA Communications Intern
Bicycle advocacy is on the move in Ohio.
Last month, the League released its 2012 Bicycle Friendly States Ranking and the Buckeye State came in at #37. But, while they still face challenge in funding, infrastructure, legislative support, and public opinion, bike advocates are making headway — and improving Ohio for bicyclists.
Ohio has a long history of cycling, but it is only recently that bicycles have been widely seen as a means of transportation as well as recreation. Bicycle-friendly legislation and construction are laying the foundation for better bicycle safety, but laws and lanes aren't likely to boost cycling without the support of an understanding public. This is where advocacy can make all the difference. Luckily, strong advocates in Ohio are providing support and encouragement for longtime cyclists and new riders alike, while easing the concerns of motorists through awareness campaigns.
In a state where municipal law is so important, local advocacy has an advantage over statewide efforts. Cleveland has passed a complete streets ordinance and Cincinnati was designated a Bronze Bicycle Friendly Community both thanks to dedicated local advocates. “Advocacy in Cleveland has shifted from a small group of voices advocating only for rights to the road, to a large voice of people advocating for more livable, bike friendly neighborhoods," said Jacob VanSickle of Bike Cleveland. "Advocacy's role in the future will be to push for more progress on street bike infrastructure like cycle-tracks. We will also need to advocate for continued motorist and cyclist education on sharing the road. Our goal is to get more people on bikes more often. To do this we need to design and rebuild our streets to be intuitive. They need to be able to accommodate all types of cyclists, including youth, beginner, and advanced.”
Collaboration among local organizations has played an important role in growing statewide advocacy, too. Groups like Yay Bikes! and Consider Biking have bridged the gap between local efforts and statewide policymaking and the statewide advocacy group, the Ohio Bicycle Federation, has been gaining ground. Board members of OBF hail from all corners of the state and are active in their local communities. The OBF led the charge for the Better Biking Bill, dedication that paid off when the bill was signed into law by Governor Taft in 2006. At each level, advocates play a crucial role in changing hearts and minds, paving the way for a new generation of bike-friendly policies and infrastructure in Ohio.
Steve Magas, of the Ohio Bicycle Federation, has seen his state embracing cycling. “Ohio is an extremely diverse state from a cycling perspective," he said. "Emphasis here is on transportation, with more and more riders commuting by bike and using their bikes to go places instead of riding in circles. There is also emphasis on recreation — we have many very active cycling clubs in all parts of state. The Cincinnati Cycle Club is one of the oldest in country, founded in 1880. There is definitely an emphasis here on healthy living, too. You see more and more fitness riders, racing teams, triathlons, and other fitness events. More than that, you see people of all ages using roads, trails, sidewalks and single-tracks as a way to stay fit. There is no single definition of cycling in Ohio — it is a dynamic and diverse culture. It is also a changing culture, with the hip, urban rider coming into vogue. I see more and more folks riding in downtown areas — shopping, going to restaurants and clubs, and enjoying the freedom of movement a bicycle has always provided.”