Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on June 18th, 2010 at 8:56 am
[Publisher's note: I've got a lot of opinions, but it's perilous for me to try and weave them into the daily news stories here. So I'm going to try and start writing them up, once a week, in the form of the Friday Opinion column. Here goes...]
over the weekend.
(Photo © J. Maus)
With the ongoing and depressing (on many levels) disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, I've been wondering -- why aren't bike non-profits doing more to seize the moment and turn anger about the oil spill into more support for biking?
The main criticism of President Obama's recent speech was that he didn't grab hold of us and offer up a tangible way we could turn our anxiety about the spill into action. He spoke of "now" being the moment to do something to make it less likely this will ever happen again.
Something like, say, ride a bike more often?
Yet, not only did Obama squander a perfect opportunity to bolster his own Transportation Secretary's rhetoric about biking and walking, but far as I can tell, big city and national level bike and active transportation advocacy organizations haven't used the disaster to their advantage either.
This is the top news story right now (and has been for weeks) and bikes are a perfectly positioned solution to help ween our country off oil. Seems to me like now would be a great time for action alerts, mailers, and campaigns to raise money and get more people to consider biking.
While I understand that the "environmental argument" for biking (or anything for that matter) is limited, this Oil Disaster is bigger than just another argument. Think of the behavior change spurred by the '70s gas crisis and the high prices at the pump in the summer of 2008.
Yet despite this advocacy opportunity, of all the organizations I get mail from, only one of them has mentioned the Gulf Oil Disaster. The Institute for Transportation & Development Policy (ITDP) sent me a letter in the mail the other day that read in part:
"The catastrophic oil spill currently unfolding in the Gulf of Mexico is just the first wave of what could become an ecological tsunami unless America and the rest of the world learn to reduce our dependence on cars."
And then the simple shout out for action:
"Fortunately there are practical solutions at our fingertips."
The letter than went on to say how the ITDP was working to help build bike networks around the globe, including a bike-share system in Mexico City. Nice work ITDP, but where are all the other orgs at?
People for Bikes, the newly launched campaign backed by Bikes Belong, wants to build the bike constituency by getting one million people to sign a pledge in support of biking. It seems like this would be a perfect thing for them to use in an email blast or other creative campaign, yet there's no mention of it on their website.
Maybe I'm just missing something, but if professional advocates want bikes to be a part of the national conversation around future energy and oil policy, they've got to make more noise about this.
Have you heard of any Gulf Oil Disaster related campaigns form bike organizations you're a member of? Do you think using this national catastrophe would be a good advocacy strategy? I'd love to know your thoughts.