How to Start a Bicycle Community

From a presentation given at the Missouri Trails Summit, Nov 2007.

Why start/encourage/nurture user groups?

The virtuous cycles

Better accommodations (trails, routes, bike lanes, etc.) encourage more users

More users build political/community support for more/better accommodations

These better accommodations encourage yet more users, building more community support, etc.

More people bicycling & walking greatly increases safety of bicyclists & pedestrians--the single greatest factor increasing bike/ped safety (a 100% increase in bicycling & walking leads to only 25% increase in injuries/fatalities)

Greater safety/social acceptance leads to more users

In Missouri we have been following the 'vicious' version of this cycle for about the past 50 years. Examples: Percentage of children walking/biking to school has dropped from 66% to 10% in about 30 years. The amount of walking and bicycling in Missouri is less than half the national average. Yet MO's bicycle/pedestrian injury/fatality rate (expressed as a percentage of all traffic injuries) is at or above the national average.

Encouraging user groups is a relatively easy, inexpensive way to jump-start the virtuous cycle.

Clubs & Group Rides educate bicyclists

Safety skills are learned from other group members

Clubs/rides can include organized traffic skills education and practice

Education is the 2nd most effective way to improve bicycle safety

Why do people participate in group rides?

Bicyclists like to ride--it's fun!

Social aspect--people like to ride in groups with their friends, more fun than riding alone

Bicycling consists of many skills--these are learned from other members of the group

Training/racing--riding in a group encourages regular participation, challenges riders to build fitness to stay with faster riders

Don't forget food/beer/sociality etc. afterwards--an important aspect of many long-standing rides

Accommodate all levels of users

Rides are usually rated (slow, medium, fast; A B C; "welcome ride" etc.)

New/developing riders are often underserved; transition from "ordinary person" to "skilled group rider"

Examples of good welcome rides: Longview Lake; Turtles; Bicycle Fun Club

Starting a regular ride

Look for "hole in the market"--an underserved:

type (road, trail, mountain biking)


speed (slow, medium, fast, welcome)

Seasonal or all year?

Increase mileage as year progresses?

Set time or changeable (7-8-9AM depending on season)

Goal or reason (ride to breakfast?)

Set route or show-n-go?

If you don't bicycle regularly you don't know how to choose a good route. Talk to avid cyclists, bike shops, other ride leaders. Different levels of users will prefer different routes.

Need about two "anchors"--people who will commit to be there all or most weeks and serve as ride leaders

Please regularly emphasize traffic safety instruction and safe group ride techniques

Attracting riders

Regular calendar listings in local newspapers, TV, newsletters

Flyers in local bike shops, restaurants, grocery stores, coffee shops. 1/4 page or business card good.

Riders will want to know time/day, distance, typical average speed, other characteristics

Ride email list invaluable--announcement 1-2 days before each ride; ride wrapup after (

Have consistent time/place--and patience!

Starting an organization?

Instead of a starting a new organization, how about starting a new ride/event

Then the organization can grow out of the event (rides attract people; meetings don't)

If regular rides already exist, but no club, how about helping the rides organize into a club

If a club already exists, how about starting a new ride or event associated with that club rather than starting a whole new organization ("unite and conquer; divide and be conquered")

Local bike shops are usually focal points for area rides and/or clubs

One advantage of club--ride/event insurance (from

If incorporating, sample bylaws & 501c3 apps at

User groups and advocacy

User groups (clubs) exist for rides, races, and sociality

It is rare for a bike club to have a sustained interest in advocacy

Suggest a separate advocacy organization which then enlists area clubs as allies OR a separate advocacy committee (semi-independent; own budget) within bike club

How to find existing clubs, bike shops, rides, events

//moclubs-organizations (151 bicycling, walking, running, trails organizations)

/mo-bike-shops (133 bicycle shops/businesses in "greater Missouri")

http://go.away (please list new events here!)

Dr. Brent D. Hugh

Executive Director

Missouri Bicycle Federation, Inc.

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