Bronze medals are the medals you pull out when mom comes over to see what you have been up to. They are the medals you look at and think: man, I wish I had gotten the silver. Or the gold. They are the bait cast to catch something better, the next time. We brought home the Bronze from the League of American Bicyclists. They give out yearly rankings to cities and businesses around the country. The rankings are as follows: pat on the head, you are doing something right but you got a failing grade, doing ok, and Portland. We’re one step above pat on the head, and one step below doing ok. Basically what the League has said is: your heart is in the right place, but your bike infrastructure is not. Or in our case, almost entirely lacking.
Here is what is working: close ties with the government. We are lucky. Frederick is fantastic in that you can actively and influentially participate in the government. You can hang out with mayor, the aldermen, the transportation planner. They are all legit, friendly people. Who happen to be bureaucrats. This means that they have to work with in the letter of the law, and as with any law, there is due process and that means time. Change is slow, even when everything looks good, and everyone is on the same page. There are multiple eggs to juggle, and to keep them all from breaking, that juggle is a slow, careful one. Large scale projects like bike lanes must be balanced against the other needs of the city. Everyone that should want to do them is on board, but they are also on board with say, the expansion of the airport and all of the logistics that concerns.
So we play the proactive waiting game, and continue to work toward that silver or gold we can proudly put on the mantel for anyone to see, even your crazy aunt from Portland. We have our projects: the pump track, the ongoing struggle against codes and committees to put bike racks downtown in convenient places, the expansion of the bike lanes, the revised planning for the east street corridor, but our projects must fit in with an existing governmental frame work, and nothing will happen over night.
Here is what we still need to do: raise awareness. This doesn’t mean preaching about bike advocacy to people who already know about it, but rather it means riding our bikes more, demonstrating how easy and practical it is to use a bike to get around. It means helping the neighbor fix their old huffy up so they can head downtown for a bite to eat, or it means fixing the flat on some kids bikes so they can go to the library. It means talking about bikes as a necessary means of alternative transport, used by tons of service workers in Frederick, to name just a small segment of those who often ride bikes. We have to approach advocacy and our hopes for the silver and gold metals with an eye towards inclusion, a sense of community, and hope for a sustainable future.
Let’s go for silver here in the next few years, and gold within 10. We can do it. All we have to do is pedal.