Lucinda Means Bicycle Advocacy Day

Lucinda Means Bicycle Advocacy Day occurs every year as the final event of National Bike Month, a month that brings awareness and draws attention to the issues important to cyclists in Michigan. Joining forces to host the event were; League of Michigan Bicyclists (LMB), Programs to Educate All Cyclists, Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance, and Michigan Mountain Biking Association. Those participating in the event began their day at Municipal State Park in East Lansing - and as a group, they rode through Lansing, arriving at the Capitol Building. 

Once the group, assisted by the Lansing Police, traveled from the park to the Capitol, volunteers from participating organizations got the opportunity to meet with legislators and educate them on key policies that will help to make Michigan a
safer place for cyclists. The day completed with lunch and another, optional, ride.

Beginnings and Opportunity

The event was first held in May of 2005 in honor of Lucinda J. Means, the first paid Executive Director of LMB. When she passed away unexpectedly, the group decided to have a parade in Lucinda’s honor. They met on the capitol steps and said a few words about her and what she had meant to the group. After that, they decided to keep the parade and turn the day into a full-fledged advocacy event; in honor of a woman who did great work on behalf of bicyclists.

A culmination of National Bike Month, the day gives cyclists the opportunity to address many key issues regarding cycling and have them heard by the right people. Some of these issues include; allowing bicyclists to bypass malfunctioning traffic lights, funding for local trails, preventing a raid on funds already in place for trail projects, and funding for an infrastructure that supports multi-modal use.

Getting these issues out there and coming together in the name of bicycle safety is what Advocacy Day and National Bike Month has always been about.  National Bike month gets the league the media exposure it needs and gets people participating in events like commuter challenges and sharing the league’s message. Promoting the “share the road” message helps remind people that, like John Lindenmayer, Advocacy & Policy Director for League of Michigan Bicyclists, states, "Everyone needs to co-exist, slow down, and take their time getting where they need to go."

The Important Issues

While all the issues up for discussion this year will help Michigan cyclists, there are a few that John Lindenmayer, is particularly excited to talk about.  "It all boils down to a safety message," he says, bringing up a law that would create harsher penalties for those that injure or a kill a cyclist. The enhanced penalties would include community service, a driver improvement course, fines or jail time.

But punishments are after the fact and Lindenmayer says they also hope to keep accidents from happening.  To do this, the league is looking to establish a standard and safe passing distance between cars and cyclists. At the moment the only guideline is that you must pass at a "safe" distance, LMB hopes to get this changed to a five feet minimum passing distance. This would allow plenty of room for cars and most large vehicles to pass cyclists safely.

Another issue for the league, and for everyone who uses the roads in Michigan, is the state of the roads. "The roads are crumbling" says Lindenmayer, "And what may be inconvenient in your car is downright dangerous on a bicycle." They hope to encourage an increase in transportation funding, knowing full well it will benefit more than just cyclists. LMB is instrumental in the growing tourism industry, bringing people from all over the country to Michigan to bike. Having nice roads is an important part of that, as well as having a safe environment for bikers and all pedestrians.  

Past Successes

The day has had a very successful past. It is because of this direct contact with legislators that Michigan is now a "Complete Street" state. When volunteers met with Representative Jon Switalski to educate him on the complete street issue, Switalski took notice. Soon after, his office contacted the LMB and said he wanted to champion it. He rallied together groups such as MDOT, SEMCOG, Michigan Environmental Council, AARP and many others to draft the wording that would eventually be put into legislation.

According the Lindenmayer, "It was a true collaborative process. Once introduced, LMB helped organize the Michigan Complete Streets Coalition to pack the committee hearings on the bills with supporters. The bills passed with broad bi-partisan support in less than four months from start to finish." This timeframe is somewhat unheard of today and without Switalski’s support the process could have been a rather lengthy one.

As a result of becoming a "Complete Street" state, roads must be built with the idea of "moving people not just cars," says Lindenmayer, "It should be a basic right for everyone to get somewhere safely." This consists of considering everyone that will potentially be using the roads before building them; cars, pedestrians, wheel chairs, bikes and more. Precautions that can be taken when building roads include; crosswalks, countdown timers, and of course, bike lanes.

With another successful Lucinda Means Bicycle Advocacy Day under their belts, LMB can only hope this year is as productive as years past. If you missed it this year, League of Michigan Bicyclists encourages everyone that loves biking, from amateurs to professionals, to come out and get involved. No matter how and when you ride, you are encouraged to participate in the event that has grown so much that many take off work to come into Lansing and make sure they are heard.

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Allison Monroe is a freelance writer for Capital Gains.

Photos © Dave Trumpie
 
Dave Trumpie is the managing photographer for Capital Gains. He is a freelance photographer and owner of Trumpie Photography.
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