How to Talk to a Conservative About Cycling

Lest the actions of a handful of Republican governors sour transportation reformers on the party forever, today we bring bike advocates some conversation tips to introduce yourself, and your cause, to conservatives. As we all know, cycling is all about efficiency and self-reliance. Conservatives should love it!

Network blog Commute by Bike is showing the way to bring in supporters from the right side of the aisle, with a column by Tom Bowden, an avowed conservative who is also a cycling activist and a board member for BikeWalk Virginia. Bowden’s advice is to focus on the economic and health benefits of cycling as an individual choice, while avoiding potentially controversial topics like climate change and ending American auto culture. Sounds tough, but here goes:

Tea Party Candidate Jim Schneller, a bike commuter, ran for Pennsylvania's 7th Congressional District this fall. Photo: ##http://www.cyclelicio.us/2010/tea-party-bicycle-rider/## Cyclicio.us##

If you must meet a conservative face-to-face, wear a suit! It won’t kill you. Think of it as camouflage – you may find them nodding their heads in agreement even before you open your mouth. Note: Some business suits actually contain trace amounts of Lycra and Spandex.

Remind them that cycling is cheaper than building more roads. The more cyclists, the MORE room for cars on existing roads. The more cyclists, the less concrete we need to pour. The less concrete, the more money for deficit reduction, tax cuts—or for bike projects in their home districts.

Bottom line (and that is what conservatives like to think they are all about): Cycling saves money, saves lives and makes us stronger as individuals and as a nation. Spending money to support cycling is like putting money in the bank–it pays big dividends at low risk. It’s as all American as Mom’s apple pie. How much more conservative can you get?

Thanks to Bowden for reminding us during these polarized times that bicycling and safer streets aren’t tethered to any particular political ideology. A case in point: Tea Party congressional candidate Jim Schneller of Pennsylvania, who ran his campaign this fall for Pennsylvania’s 7th Congressional District “50 percent by bike and 50 percent by public transportation.”

Elsewhere on the Network today: Spacing Toronto reports that the local transit authority ran an impressive $60 million surplus this year, but local advocates aren’t optimistic that the new administration will use the money to reinvest in the system. And UrbanSTL asks why we don’t advise first-time parents to keep their babies safe by driving less.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

Does the Gender Disparity in Engineering Harm Cycling in the U.S.?

|
A study published in this month’s American Journal of Public Health finds that highly influential transportation engineers relied on shoddy research to defend policies that discourage the development of protected bike lanes in the U.S. In their paper, the researchers point out that male-dominated engineering panels have repeatedly torpedoed street designs that have greater appeal […]

Study: Sharrows Don’t Make Streets Safer for Cycling

|
Sharrows are the dregs of bike infrastructure — the scraps cities hand out when they can’t muster the will to implement exclusive space for bicycling. They may help with wayfinding, but do sharrows improve the safety of cycling at all? New research presented at the Transportation Review Board Annual Meeting suggests they don’t. A study by University […]

Is There Such a Thing as Too Much Emphasis on Safety?

|
There’s a lot of focus this month on getting more people out and about on their bikes. We posted last week about the effort to normalize bike commuting, a topic that as usual sparked a lot of discussion about sweat, appropriate clothing, secure bike parking and, of course, safety. How they promote cycling in Holland. […]