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A movement for a million new riders begins in Portland

Posted by on April 17th, 2008 at 11:12 am

“Think of this as the cycling equivalent to Woodstock — but in 50 states and upwards of 100 rallies all on the same day.”
–Joe “Metal Cowboy” Kurmaskie

If any one person could be the spark that ignites a national cycling movement, it would Joe Kurmaskie.

Known to many as the “Metal Cowboy”, Kurmaskie is a nationally recognized magazine columnist (Men’s Journal, Outside, Bicycling), author of several bike books and a tireless speaker and personality who’s performed at bike clubs and corporations at hundreds of events from New York to New Mexico.

And he’s no stranger to big ideas.

Joe Kurmaskie-2.jpg

Joe Kurmaskie, speaking at the
“We are All Traffic” rally last November.
(Photos © J. Maus)

When he needed a home for his non-profit, Camp Creative (which vows to “Leave no child left inside”), Kurmaskie somehow managed to secure a lease on Government Island — a state-controlled, carfree island in the middle of the Columbia River just miles from Portland’s city center.

When he wanted to wow his editors and publishers with a big idea, he saddled up his wife and three kids (ages 1, 7, and 9) for a 3,000, self-supported bike tour across Canada.

And now, spurred by a spate of tragic bike crashes in Portland last October (including two that happened less than a mile from his North Portland home) and inspired by U.S. Congressman Earl Blumenauer’s call for a “national movement” during a visit to Portland back in January, Kurmaskie is planning for perhaps his most audacious idea yet — One Million Bicycles.

The official logo (website will be launched May 1).

Kurmaskie’s plan? To enlist one million cyclists to unite in rides and rallies in cities across the country next summer and to collect one million bicycles to give away to new riders.

“Think of this as the cycling equivalent to Woodstock — but in 50 states and upwards of 100 rallies all on the same day. We’re trying to be positive agents of change by talking our talk through the rallies and walking our talk, or in this case, riding our talk.”

To make this change happen, he’s spent the last three months organizing and coordinating a “national day of action” that will happen on August 9, 2009 (which happens to be Bridge Pedal in Portland!) where rides and rallies will be held in every major city across the country (including a rally in Washington D.C.).

And the rallies won’t be just photo-ops for the media. Kurmaskie says the purpose of the movement is also to: support Congressman Blumenauer’s National Bike Bill, to call for a doubling of current funding for bicycling at the state and national levels, and to give away one million new and used bicycles — creating one million new (and returning) riders.

tour de fat 2007-31

If you don’t think he can pull it off — think again. Kurmaskie, using his list of over 10,000 bike-related contacts culled over seven years of performing and speaking, says he already has confirmations from hundreds of bike shops and other organizations eager to participate.

In addition, he’s already got commitments to hold rallies from advocacy groups in scores of cities including; Seattle, Salt Lake City, Pittsburgh, Indianapolis, Tampa, Phoenix, and many others.

In a nutshell, the plan is to have people register for $5 online (website not live yet) or at their participating local bike shop, bike club, school, and so on. Then they’ll receive an online registration packet with a number, ride and rally location/details, a bike giveaway card and a pledge sheet.

(Why a $5 fee? Here’s the breakdown from Kurmaskie: For every dollar raised, 75 cents goes to the repair and tune-up of used bikes and the purchase of new bikes for the giveaway; 15 cents goes to promotional and ride/rally support; 10 cents goes to administration.)

On August 9, 2009, each participating city will hold rides to the rallies (there are also coast-to-coast and long distance group rides being planned to converge at the Washington D.C. rally). Each rally will include food, booths, a press conference, speakers, music, activities, presentation of our support for the National Bike Bill, and the bike giveaway.

The bike giveaway is the key focus of the project.

Earl Blumenauer in Portland-8.jpg

Congressman Earl Blumenauer called
for a national cycling movement
during a speech in Portland in January.

According to Kurmaskie, an estimated 25 million bicycles sit in garages and basements, unridden year after year. “We’ve gone from hunters and gatherers to hoarders and storers.”

Now, he says, it’s time to dust them off and give them new life.

To make it happen, Kurmaskie says he and his volunteers need all the help they can get. They plan to hire two positions soon and the official launch of the website and online registration will be May 1st. Until then, feel free to contact him via email (mtcowboy at teleport dot com) if you’d like to get involved. He’s also ready to answer your questions in the comments below.

For more about this exciting project stay tuned for the launch of OneMillionBicycles.org, and read more details on Kurmaskie’s blog and read the Q&A with him below…


How did the tragedies in Portland last fall impact your involvement with this?

The rally we held in Portland last November after the rash of cycling deaths was the rebirth of my own grassroots activism. Then, when Congressman Blumenauer challenged the community to step up and start a national bike movement, I knew I could play a role in that movement…and this is what I’ve come up with.

This is a very ambitious undertaking, how can you possibly pull it off?

I think my connections to clubs, organizations and the industry, put me in a unique position to help bring this thing together. I’ve led non-profits, I’ve done speaking gigs all over the country, and more importantly there will not be a better time to take our stand and call for change and be that change we want to see. I don’t just want to do everything I can so that I can look myself in the mirror. I truly believe if we take this moment in time to stand together — we don’t have to agree on everything – but stand together for more bicycle funding, and to create more riders, we could be the difference.

Who are these rides/rallies for?

Everyone and anyone who rides or has every ridden a bike in any form or who supports the National Bike Bill and the ideas and actions of One Million Bicycles. We hope to get a broad base of people involved — families, businesses, schools, governments, civic groups, youth, retirees, etc..


You use the words “cycling rights movement” and “revolution”…is this is a militant thing?

No, not at all. Think personal, community and social revolution through example and large scale, positive action. We want to change the landscape, both politically and physically – so that it’s safer for everyone to use bicycles. We are doing that by showing our numbers, making specific measurable requests and by actually putting additional bikes under non riders and riders who haven’t pedaled in awhile.

Is this movement anti-car?

No. It’s pro-bicycle. We would like everyone to drive cars less, yes, but we are not a militant group, we’re you — that person who knows we can make a cleaner, healthier society by driving less and shifting our transportation choices to bikes some of the time. That person who knows it will help reduce the overall carbon imprint America places on the world for many reasons — foremost because our energy consumption and transportation choices are negatively impacting our quality of life, threatening our national security, and hurting the health of our environment.

Why do you think this movement will succeed?

The time is right for this. Too often a movement gets energized, gets people out in the streets, but lacks specific things for people to do. That’s how a movement takes hold. When you see and participate in shifting the priorities of a nation and the daily actions of communities – that’s real and lasting.

This will also be a broad coalition…We are reaching out to all manner of groups and businesses outside of the cycling world including moveon.org, political and environmental groups, health and safety officials, and celebrities like Robin Williams, Lance, musicians, and others.

=======

Stay tuned for more coverage of One Million Bicycles.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Thank you — Jonathan

54 Comments
  • Qwendolyn April 17, 2008 at 11:44 am

    Ummmm….

    effin cool

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  • Ashley April 17, 2008 at 12:01 pm

    zOMG awesome. My heart just exploded in glee!

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  • BikeBillboards dot blogspot com April 17, 2008 at 12:07 pm

    Kewl. All the bike lanes and boxes in the world are no good without the warm bodies on bikes. I\’m IN.

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  • Elly Blue April 17, 2008 at 12:11 pm

    If anyone can cajole a million plus bikes out of American garages and onto the streets in the course of a day, it\’s Joe…

    I know he needs a lot of help getting the word out — and getting the bikes out. I know we\’ll be doing some major publicity about this movement in connection with the Towards Carfree Cities conference.

    If you\’ve got friends elsewhere in the US (or the world) who are active in bike, livability, or enviro organizations, make sure you let them know about this.

    Also, if you convince a non-bicyclist to start riding now, I think that counts as part of your registration \”fee\”…it\’s not too early to start working on that part.

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  • Marion rice April 17, 2008 at 12:31 pm

    Wow, this is so exciting Joe, you can count me in to help where and when I can!!
    Great article

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  • BikeBillboards dot blogspot com April 17, 2008 at 12:32 pm

    Well, they did have the D.C. Million Man March. So, maybe Million Bike Ride in D.C.? Ya never know. Stranger things have happened.

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  • Metal Cowboy April 17, 2008 at 12:37 pm

    FYI – The date of 08/09/09 happens to be … Bridgepedal here in Portland – We are working with Rick and hosting Portland\’s 1,000,000 Bicycles rally at the finishline party of Bridgepedal. Talk about a party! You can do Bridgepedal then the rally – but you do not have to do Bridgepedal – we expect groups of all stripe – zoobombers, tall bikes, everyone to ride to the rally from every corner of Portland!

    We need all the help we can get – right now we need contacts around the country for groups who will sign up their members, host a rally, and shops etc. that want to get in on signing up riders and rehabbing bikes donated in their community.

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  • Metal Cowboy April 17, 2008 at 12:42 pm

    Oh, i\’ve been getting emails about whether our logo will be offered as a bike sticker.

    YES! once the site is live we\’ll have bike stickers, etc. with all sorts of great slogans and graphics. Our graphics quru out of Pittsburgh has endless talent and energy.

    Should we offer it as a CAR bumpersticker? We are conflicted about this – it does smack of irony… any thoughts?

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  • albert April 17, 2008 at 12:53 pm

    Spring has sprung in Pittsburgh and so will all the K-runs, a 1,000,000 bicycle rally is just what we need to get rolling! Cool logo

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  • fish-e April 17, 2008 at 12:54 pm

    offer it as simply a sticker- non, er, gender specific. folks can put it on cars, trucks, buses, bikes, trikes, skateboards, hydrofoils or whatever they like.

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  • Robin April 17, 2008 at 12:56 pm

    This is wonderful news. The funny thing is I might even be in D.C. about that time next year. Thanks for the heads up, I heard some chatter about this but didn\’t know exactly what was up.

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  • Hanmade April 17, 2008 at 1:14 pm

    Um, how about a warm up rally in Portland on 8/8/08? I\’m ready!

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  • Hanmade April 17, 2008 at 1:14 pm

    oops, I meant 8/9/08

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  • Mmann April 17, 2008 at 1:18 pm

    I\’ve been waiting for the specifics ever since I heard the hints dropped months ago. I\’m in and willing to do whatever\’s needed to get – and keep – a bunch more folks on bikes.

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  • Metal Cowboy April 17, 2008 at 1:24 pm

    vehicle nonspecifc stickers – that\’s the ticket – stick it on whatever you want – helmet, bike trailer, truck moped!

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  • BikeBillboards dot blogspot com April 17, 2008 at 1:36 pm

    Here in Tulsa, we DON\’T rehab bikes. We simply scam Trek for new rides. Life\’s schweeeeeeet in Tulsa. 😛

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  • Metal Cowboy April 17, 2008 at 1:41 pm

    Tulsa… we need a rally in Tulsa… you ready to join the cause? We have all the blueprints ready for you to pull off a schweeeet rally!

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  • BikeBillboards dot blogspot com April 17, 2008 at 2:02 pm

    Yep. We\’re IN. Post all your p-ganda OFTEN here or here.

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  • Stripes April 17, 2008 at 4:00 pm

    This is A-W-E-S-O-M-E !

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  • mark April 17, 2008 at 5:14 pm

    awesome!!!!! I am so in!!

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  • metal cowboy April 17, 2008 at 5:26 pm

    Thanks Tulsa! We\’ll be in touch with propaganda and what not.

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  • DJ Hurricane April 17, 2008 at 6:09 pm

    And this is just the beginning! Joe is our leadoff hitter – watch (and help) him go!!

    Seriously, this is a defining moment – the official beginning, if you will – of the Velorution. Come on out and show the world who we are.

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  • Opus the Poet April 17, 2008 at 6:10 pm

    As the chair of the Transportation Ministry for Pleasant Valley UU Church in Garland I\’m about 90% certain we will be behind this at this time. Drop me a line at my spam trap addy opus_the_poet@juno.com with something I can present to my church, we might get Social Action to work on it, too.

    Opus

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  • metal cowboy April 17, 2008 at 6:38 pm

    Will Do Opus – Thjis is exactly the cross over to churches and social service organizations that we hope to get involved. I have the entire talking points outline up on my blog over at wwwmetalcowboy.com/blog and I will be more than happy to speak with any board, representative etc. by email or phone to clarify goals, etc. to help get your church onboard. Thanks in advance.

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  • joeb April 17, 2008 at 7:39 pm

    I\’m in… for the 8/8/08 warm up too. Will the Bite of Oregon be running during/after Bridge Pedal?

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  • Metal Cowboy April 17, 2008 at 9:50 pm

    That\’s the plan – built in stage and food for a finishline party and one millionbicycles rally – as long as the bite falls on the same day. i\’ve been in touch with the organizers of the bite and they would love to see our numbers at their event. I\’ll be backkk in touch to make sure they are still interested in having it on the 9th rather than august 16th.

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  • […] More […]

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  • anakcu April 18, 2008 at 4:41 am

    A couple of years ago this would have seemed impossible. But things are changing fast. Just yesterday I had the pleasure of welcoming two new bike commuters to the fold–one a colleague who rides on the weekend but after 3 years of my prodding took the plunge on a new fixie. Another recreational cyclist I didn\’t know asked for commuting directions (yes, the C&O trail does take you to the Chain Bridge) on my morning commute.

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  • becky April 18, 2008 at 4:55 am

    this is wonderful news! i\’ll be talking it up at my local bike shop here in west palm beach florida.

    bikeportland is going to keep us updated on the progress in planning, right?

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  • Metal Cowboy April 18, 2008 at 7:29 am

    I\’m confident that Jonathan will keep updates going as we have news to report.

    As to the impossible factor #28 – It does feel like there\’s a real shift and something like this is achievable – with lots of help from the becky\’s and tulsa\’s and anakcu\’s of the nation. Send me contacts and groups, church leaders, club presidents etc. who will organize rallies, get their membership to participate etc. Offical registration May 1st.

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  • BikeBillboards dot blogspot com April 18, 2008 at 8:44 am

    I move that Ground Zero for Million Bikes be located in Tulsa. Why preach to the choir in PDX? Preach to LEPERS in Tulsa.

    If you yell GOD BLESS AMERICA in a room full of vets, who cares? But, yell GOD BLESS AMERICA in a room full of Taliban, dat\’s NEWS.

    Ride a bike in PDX, who cares? Roll a MILLION bikes in Tulsa, we\’re talkin\’ CNN. Besides, it\’s in the middle of country and convenient for BOTH coasts.

    And, Tulsa has the world\’s only biker bar.

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  • Metal Cowboy April 18, 2008 at 9:19 am

    Tulsa – We\’re holding rallies in every city possible – so while you guys coordinate a rally for the fine sooners of OK all the bikeys up here are rolling to our rally on the same day – You get me a million folks in Tulsa on august 9th 2009 and i\’ll build you an eco friendly rammedd earth monumnet – but we\’ll settle for as many rioders recruiting new and returning riders as you can out there in OK. And spread the word to friends all over the country – aug 9, 2009. Rally in your community! (I\’ll see about sending CNN crew to Tulsa first.)

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  • Biking Vikings April 18, 2008 at 10:01 am

    Count us in Joe! Sounds like a helleva party. We will have to peddle in from Hermiston but that is half the fun. I will contact our LBS to spread the word and participate. See you then!

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  • Neil April 18, 2008 at 11:30 am

    Well Joe, I hope this project of yours gathers some enthusiasm. 🙂

    Sounds very cool. Combined with Bridge Petal, this will probably shut down downtown Portland. That\’s not necessarily a bad thing, but there will be a lot of frustrated drivers.

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  • BikeBillboards dot blogspot com April 18, 2008 at 11:49 am

    Hey, guys, here\’s another Tulsa Daddy Warbucks spouting off for MILLIONS and ZILLIONS of bikes. And, it\’s NOT Biker Fox.

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  • Metal Cowboy April 18, 2008 at 7:38 pm

    Neil – I know – it\’s getting such a tepid response. Especially the emails we\’re getting from CANADA, wanting to know if they can hold a onemillionbicycles rally even though they aren\’t part of the good old US of A. About bridgepedal and traffic – we think it will have an opposite effect on frustrated drivers b/c it will be on a day when drivers will already be hyperaware of bikes, aware that roads will be closed – and it allows us to team up with a great event that many of us will be doing already – everyone on bikes not doing the brdigepedal will ride to the finiishline party in separate rides – Our goal is to convert so many friends, neighbors and co workers to biking that day that there won\’t be many cars on the road ! 😉 Hey, a guy can dream – and if you are gonna dream go big – say like rallies in 50 states and a million bike giveaway…

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  • www.MuscleCarGuru.com April 18, 2008 at 8:35 pm

    Its time to change bicycle laws to reflect the changes that are needed so as to give special rights to bicycle riders in the streets. Have we as a society become so enraged by being enraged that we cannot slow down a little bit and let the kid go by on her bicycle. I say yes lets kick some ass and do this boys & girls together as one. A bicycle should have the same rights as a motorcycle or car. Pollution, gas 118.00 a barrel, angry aggressive drivers. The automobile should be required to move entirely into the left lane when passing a bicycle on a 4 lane roadway. Tulsa has slowed down for BF its truly a remarkable feat. If there are just two lanes the car should be forced to slow down to 5-15 m.p.h. as to not impede in anyway shape or form the man or woman on a 15 pound bike or trike. Striking this person with a deadly weapon will incure serious penalties. When passing on a two lane street the car must be no closer then 5 feet. For some reason the 4000 lbs. speeding bullet is not responsible for shooting a man off his bicycle. Seriousy a car is a deadly weapon. Take a deep breath realize thousands of bicycles in the streets or special avenues along side of roadways for cyclists to travel without having to worry about auto dangers in the streets should be the norm in the future.

    Bikerfox is a Alpha Leader.

    Lets change the world together as one.

    Love Biker Fox®

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  • BikeBillboards dot blogspot dot com April 19, 2008 at 7:29 am

    Biker Fox RULZ!

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  • Peter April 19, 2008 at 8:52 pm

    sounds like a great idea!

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  • local yokel April 19, 2008 at 10:15 pm

    excellent beginning. One thing that the cycyling community has to offer is… COMMUNITY. True story. Have you ever seen an SUV community? a bus commuters community? the CAWR community? gimme a break!. But here in Portland, as well as across the country, bike communities abound.Bikes are an excellent (pardon the pun) vehicle for building community. ever wonder what prompts folks to pay $2 for a cup of drip Starbucks? its that feeling of being part of a community, regardless of how dorky your haircut,or fat your ass is. The challenge of the bike community to make this happen is to be as all-inclusive as we can be. Racial/gender/ageist thinkers need not apply. start useing the bike to build a larger community and this goal ( One million riders) is possible.

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  • Metal Cowboy April 20, 2008 at 8:44 am

    Yokel,

    The mindset behind onemillionbicycles is common ground and community. It doesn\’t matter if you arrive on fixie or bent, zoobike or top of the line racing equipment. We all bring something to the party. And no matter other differences, we all enjoy the ride and want to make the roads, back t5rails , streets and neighborhoods safer and hopefully no one is against making the environmnet cleaner.

    Spread the word, on 080909 the revolution, the enclusive revolution will nott be motorized!

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  • […] Urbana-Champaign Bicycle Commute let us know about the 1,000,000 Bicyclists Campaign (website not live until May 1, 2008), via BikePortland.org. […]

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  • Metal Cowboy April 21, 2008 at 12:41 pm

    Hey Bike There,

    We\’ll give you a live link for your blog as soon as the website is up and runningand taking registrations – May 1st! Thanks for spreading the word in the meantime and using the official logo to do it. We want to keep the message and events consistent. If any clubs, blogs, folks need the onemillionbicycle.org logo to help spread the word we can email it to them as a jpeg, tiff etc. We will be sending it out May 1st as a linked button tot he website. You would be doing the cause a huge favor to send that link button/banner far and wide asking folks to register by following the link. We have a lot of work to do to get millions of folks involved. You can make the difference. Thanks! Metal Cowboy

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  • Jon April 22, 2008 at 9:27 am

    awesome idea…here\’s hoping Chattanooga signs up for this

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  • Metal Cowboy April 22, 2008 at 2:52 pm

    Jon,

    You can help make a Chattanooga rally a reality. Send us contact names and emails of the organizations, people, bike shops etc. in your area who you think would support this and might cosponsor a rally. While the official launch is still a week away, when the site goes live we would love it if you would ask every cyclist/person you know in your area to join the cause – registering at http://www.onemillionbicycles.org.

    This means $5 and a committment to bring a new or returning rider to the local rally and/or getting a new or used bicycle donated. Bikes stay in your community, rehabbed by local shops.

    You will have a rally in your community, but it will be easier if we get a bunch of people signed up in your zip code. That way our national rally coordinator can go to your local groups and show them how many people will turn up.

    We\’d love it if you spoke with your local bike shops about becoming a participanting shop and/or passed along contact info about local shops to us.

    We will send you another jpeg of the logo hyperlinked to the registration, once we go live.

    Tell groups in Chat that sponsoring/cosponsoring a rally in your community will be easy. We have a connect the dots blueprint/template for hosting a suuccessful rally that will make this as painless as possible. We\’d offer logistical and some financial support and you\’d get the glory. We\’d coordinate all the folks who register in your area through our data base, put you up on the big map that goes live with the website etc. At whatever level you can get yourself and Chat groups involved, I thank you.

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  • Metal Cowboy May 1, 2008 at 11:51 am

    As promised, the launch of the website for http://www.onemillionbicycles.org

    Brought to you with the help of too much caffeinated tea and late night efforts in Portland, Pittsburgh and Boulder.

    Ah Yi Yi! I need a proper lie down…

    It\’s live and ready for you to join the cause. The site is a shell of what it will become, but it lives.

    First 10,000 registrations will get a little something something extra… for leading the charge.

    If you want to register by mail just send name, address, phone and email, with number of participants ($5 per person) cash, or checks payable to \”umbrella\” to:
    onemillionbicycles
    2820 N Willamette
    Portland Oregon 97217

    Cheers,
    Joe
    Are You One Of A Million Yet?
    http://www.onemillionbicycles.org

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  • Mark Watson May 12, 2008 at 11:31 am

    Great! Which groups are organizing up here in Seattle?

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  • Metal Cowboy May 12, 2008 at 1:32 pm

    We\’re working with my pals at cascade bicycle club to do a big rally at the needle, but we\’d love to coalition with other seattle groups to cohost, help out – we are trying to team up with health organizations, peace and justice, livable communties groups – broaden the message out to folks that bicycles equal health advantages, economic relief, congestion reduction, oil independence and more. We want to make it folks riding bikes as opposed to \”bicyclists\” only.

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  • Keith Oberg/Bikes for the World May 12, 2008 at 4:38 pm

    Do the one million bikes have to be for the United States? While one million for here may be politically better, one million collected here for anywhere will have a similar carbon footprint impact, and add to yur numbers. Bikes for the World expects to net donations of as many as 10,000 bikes over the next year, with 98% heading to Africa and Latin America; half a dozen other organizations (Bikes Not Bombs, Working Bikes Cooperative, Bike Workds, Pedals for Progress, etc.) will be collecting another 30,000 or more. And Bikes for the World (project of the Washington Area Bicyclist Association) is in the Washington DC area and thinking of a big collection event next year…maybe we should talk.

    -Keith Oberg
    Bikes for the World

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  • Metal Cowboy May 12, 2008 at 6:39 pm

    Keith – Metal Cowboy here. Let\’s talk. email me at mtcowboy@teleport.com

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  • President BikeABQ May 28, 2008 at 8:08 pm

    BikeABQ board of directors voted unanimously with a \”Hell Yes\” to participate and support One Million Bicycles. You can now count Albuquerque New Mexico as an Event Location.

    Pedal On !!!!

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  • Metal Cowboy May 28, 2008 at 9:07 pm

    So happy we can count on the gang from
    Alb. NM! There\’s not a better bunch of sustainable living/bike loving folks than you guys. Looking forward to getting back down that way soon for fellowship, a show and bike fun. Thanks for stepping up on this, truly.
    This week, we\’ve added Washington DC, groups, Va groups, upstate new york rally and cleveland just to name what I remember off the top of my head, and now Alb.. Let\’s keep it going! Have you joined the revolution yet? 😉 onemillionbicycles.org

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  • robert March 1, 2009 at 6:46 pm

    just wondering since you are doing this to give away bicycles, where can I go to sign up to recieve a bicycle from your program? Or am I to late? Thanks…

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  • metal cowboy March 1, 2009 at 10:45 pm

    Not too late, Robert. BTW – we are relaunching the event with a new date – April 24th 2010 to refocus and take in changes in the political landscape and to organize with the Earthday networks around the country. Keep reading here. Jonathan will do an update about this in the future.

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