Volunteering to Make Austin’s Streets Safer for All
Today A Dude visited the downtown Austin, Texas office of Central Texas’s leading bicycling and pedestrian advocacy and education non-profit organization, Bike Austin. My goal? To get trained by amazing Community Development Planner Shavone Otero on how to engage Austin businesses to become members to keep the group alive. That’s her pointing at me in the photograph. Together with the Bike Austin Education Fund, their mission is to:
“…improve quality of life for all of Austin and Central Texas by growing bicycling as a form of transportation, exercise, and recreation.”
Pretty simple, but not so easy to implement. Austin traffic continues to worsen, with projected population growth. Amazon is considering us for another headquarters, which would add 50,000 employees and their families to the roadways. According to the INRIX Global Traffic Scorecard, Austin ranked 42nd worst traffic in the world. Drivers spent almost two full days per year in their car. That’s up 24 slots from 66th worst in 2016. So bicycling is going to play a vital role in that whole… let’s just call it a mess.
Without Vision, the People Shall Perish
I got involved with Bike Austin (BA) slowly and in a curious way. I rented a room from Easy Street Recumbent owner, Mike Librik, who happened to be on the board of BA. While we’d talk bikes, and while I knew he supported the group, he never pushed me to join or volunteer He didn’t believe in air conditioning, which is why I eventually had to move out. (He also had a nutty guy living in a storage unit in the backyard who sometimes worked on bikes for him who did my whole move by bicycle.) But the idea of BA stuck with me.
One day a while time later the city put bike lanes on a very busy street with no shoulders that I used for biking to work (back when A Dude had a job). And then I remembered that the bike lanes were installed partly because of the encouragement of BA. It clicked in my brain that I ride my bike almost every day for almost a decade at that point, and here’s a group that’s literally saving my life. Out of enlightened self interest, I had to join and get involved as a volunteer. I also liked their Vision:
“…Central Texas is a place where everyone recognizes and embraces the benefits of cycling, whether they ride or not, and where cycling is a common aspect of daily life for everyone. … Bicycling supports the community as a whole by: increasing roadway capacity and user mobility; strengthening the economy and household affordability; improving the environment; and promoting an active, healthy lifestyle.
Volunteering for the Community Is It’s Own Reward
On nights and weekends, I started showing up to BA events. The Surviving Riverside Ride was scary but fun, and I met some cool people. We ended up like many bike-related events do, at a place that has beer. I think it’s called a “bar.” Then I was invited to help petition for Proposition 1, a bond election that would bring major funds to long-neglected sidewalks, bike lanes and make improvements to roads (especially intersections) for cars, too.
The bond passed in November of 2016, the same time as Tinyhands Orangehead got “elected” U.S. President #45 by Vladimir Putin and his hackers. I digress. I found that volunteering was fun and meaningful, I met other bike riders, enjoyed engaging people who were bike-friendly and who had not considered that separating bikes from cars helps everyone. I felt I was part of something bigger, what Mohandas Gandhi called a “constructive programme.” In this case, it benefits cyclists, pedestrians, drivers, and especially the environment. It is cool to think I helped contribute to Prop 1’s passage. Just yesterday, I saw a long-neglected sidewalk finally being repaired on Cameron Road.
After the Prop. 1 victory, I joined BA’s Rundberg-Cameron Campaign (learn more and sign the petition here). I have put in some time with a team of good folks meeting, doing business outreach, canvassing neighbors and more. The highlight so far has been Councilmember Greg Casar coming to a community event and asking the Austin Transportation Department to investigate options for making these two deadly roads more accessible. Someday not too far away I hope to see improvements on the east side, an area historically red-lined by banks and ignored by wealthier, west side whites.
In February 2017, I was the proud winner of the BA raffle. I received a Fairdale Weekender Archer bike donated by the awesome Hill Abell of Bicycle Sport Shop. That encouraged me to do more for the cause. The result of all this was that at the holiday party in December of 2017, BA awarded me their Ambassador of Advocacy for 2017! It’s humbling and an honor. But you may now call A Dude “Mr. Ambassador.”
Membership Has Its Privileges. Become One Now!
The group’s Guiding Principles I think are something everyone can get behind, regardless of whether you walk, bike, drive or all three:
“We believe that…
- Bicycling should be safe and accessible.
- Bicycling positively transforms our community.
- Bicycling benefits all people, whether they bicycle or not.
- Bicycling is an integral part of a multi-modal transportation system.”
There are three ways to become a member:
Individual memberships include a gift card and Go Local membership, so literally pay for themselves! You get free beer at the Member Love Happy Hours and knowing that you’re part of the pollution solution and helping to make Austin a safer place for everyone. They range from $20 for students to $1,000 for those with the means to contribute under $20 per week. Be sure to mention A Dude Abikes when you join!
Business Memberships also offer various levels depending on the size of your company. Starting at $250 for a small business and going to $10,000 for a corporate gift, there are many benefits: Promotion of you as a bike-friendly organization, individual memberships, and knowing that you are giving back to the community that provides you with profit.
Bike Shop Supporters join for $250 a year and can offer discounts and charge or pay for BA memberships for customers. In return the shop gets promotions, trainings and other opportunities to be part of the Bike Austin community.
So what are you waiting for? To express interest, contact A Dude Abikes via Gmail. Your life or the life of a cyclist you know may depend on it.
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