If it weren’t for bicyclists, America’s first cars wouldn’t have had paved roads to drive on. If it weren’t for bicyclists, many old railroad beds would have gone to waste instead of becoming popular multi-use rail-trails. These projects, and many, many more, have been successfully promoted by bicycle advocacy organizations.
This article will introduce you to just a few of the many bicycling organizations in America. There are even more world-wide, from local community groups to international associations. Most are non-profit, member-based organizations that rely on membership dues for their continued existence. You’re sure to find at least one that matches your interests and is worthy of your support.
League of American Bicyclists
The first organized group of cyclists in America was the League of American Wheelmen (later called the League of American Bicyclists). Since its founding in 1880, the League has existed to defend the rights of cyclists; it was even responsible for promoting paved roads before there were automobiles. Currently, the League of American Bicyclists is actively involved in many education and advocacy programs, including the Safe Routes to School program, BikeEd program, the National Bike Summit every March, and the Share the Road campaign. The League also publishes the bi-monthly magazine American Bicyclist . Information on these programs and other work being done by the League is available on the League’s website, www.bikeleague.org.
A national organization striving to inspire people of all ages to travel by bicycle for fitness, fun, and self-discovery is Adventure Cycling. This wonderful source for all things related to bicycle touring was founded in 1974 as Bikecentennial, a group dedicated to developing a tour across America timed to celebrate our nation’s bicentennial. Over four thousand people pedaled in those first tours and the organizing group found it had cause to continue. Eventually becoming Adventure Cycling, the organization now has over 44,000 members nationwide and had become a powerful force advocating for bicycling in every state. Adventure Cycling’s website, www.adventurecycling.org, is a storehouse of information on cycling routes in most areas of the United States, touring information, and much more. Their monthly magazine, Adventure Cyclist, provides well-written travel tales accompanied by colorful photos, technical tips, information on new gear, and more. A subscription to the magazine is well worth the price of membership.
The Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC), based in Washington, D.C., is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to “create a nationwide network of trails from former rail lines and connecting corridors to build healthier places for healthier people.” It works to take the unused industrial infrastructure remaining when railroads leave and turn them into usable trails. With assistance from over 150,000 members and supporters, it has been instrumental in establishing over 19,000 miles of rail-trails since its inception in 1986, with more than 9,000 miles of potential rail-trails waiting to be built. In addition to a colorful print magazine (Rails to Trails), RTC also hosts a user-friendly website (www.railstotrails.org ) that contains information about the history of the organization, how you can become involved in building a rail-trail, becoming a member of RTC, and much more. Perhaps one of RTC’s greatest on-line features is TrailLink.com, a Google maps-based website that allows you to search for trails (rail-trails and others) by trail name, city, and/or state. The site provides free information on over 30,000 miles of trails, including photos, interactive maps and access directions.
International Mountain Biking Association
If your passion is mountain biking, consider supporting the International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA), a non-profit organization whose mission is to create, enhance and preserve great trail experiences for mountain bikers worldwide. Founded in 1988 and now over 35,000 members strong, IMBA pursues its mission by building public awareness of mountain bike issues, influencing policy development, advancing trail building practices and fostering chapter and club development. Its U.S. website, www.imba.com, provides information on events across America, as well as links to affiliate organizations around the world.
These groups are just a few of the many out there working hard to promote bicycling and the rights of cyclists. A quick internet search with the terms “bicycling advocacy group” yielded over 260,000 results. Many of these were for local organizations whose efforts focus on individual states or local communities. Find one that suits your cycling interests and join. Your membership could benefit us all for many years.