ADVOCACY 101: How to get involved in your city: How one advocate made a difference

MoBikeFed asked one of our members, Bruce Adib-Yazdi, to share his experiences as an advocate in his home town of Springfield, MO. His story is a great example of how one person can make a difference in a community--and exactly what you can do to get started:

At the very beginning of my cycling, I never knew there were supposed to be bike lanes and bike routes.  I just rode my bike where I wanted. 

One day it dawned on me that expansion of some neighborhoods to the south would start putting a crimp in some of my routes. 

I started investigating which roads were planned for expansion.

I found three things: 

· There was a Master Plan for the community in place which included some specifics about bike routes, green spaces and transportation planning.

· The city budgeted for Capital Improvement Projects on an annual basis, for a rolling five years

· Plans in the CIP were not consistent with Master Plan.  Roads that were shown as future bike routes were not being  budgeted with that use in mind. 

Our bike group formed an advocacy group and spoke up at the city council meeting where the budget was up for public hearing.

One of the city council members asked if I would serve on the Traffic Advisory Board, which I did.

We developed a more specific set of guidelines for a Master Bicycle Facility plan. That plan is still in place.

I was also active with Ozark Greenways and began to see the importance of using city streets to connect the series of Greenways that had been constructed.

A new committee of Ozark Greenways has been formed called the STAR Team – Sustainable Transportation Advocacy Resource Team. 

This group includes members of the city, county, bike club, the MPO, MoDOT, MoBikeFed, City Utilities (bus service), health organizations, and anyone else interested in advocating for alternative transportation.

Recently public works released a series of 70+ projects on a city website and asked for public feedback.  So many of the respondents were bike/ped advocates that the comments were littered with 'bike or ped improvements'.

The initial actions of one person can lead to change in the community.  But not without the hard work, cooperation and resilience of a much larger group of like-minded people.