Over one million Americans ride a bicycle at least once a year. A new study by Portland State University planning scholars Jennifer Dill and Nathan McNeil places these bicyclists into four categories based on their self-perceived comfort level. The categories are “Strong and Fearless”, “Enthused and Confident”, “Interested but Concerned”, and “No Way, No How”.


Without having any actual data to back me up, I posit that the Strong and Fearless would most likely consider themselves Bicycle Advocates. Like myself, they have most likely taken some form of bicycle education like a Smart Cycling or Cycling Savvy course. Or they could have learned from the “School of Learning By Doing” which teaches such courses as “Trial by Fire” and “Well I’ll Never Do THAT, Again”. As Bicycle Advocates they are also most likely to belong to a bicycling club and be in tune to the State of Bicycling in their community or city; attending public meetings about proposed infrastructure and taking surveys from their Bike/Ped Coordinator, with whom they may be on a first name basis (Hey Kyle!). They will tell you that they are Bicycle Advocates, how many bikes they have, what components are on those bikes, how many miles they rode last year, the best way to get from Point A to Point B and the bike shops in between. But unfortunately (or fortunately, when considering some of our quirks) these Strong and Fearless are the minority of bicycle riders.



The majority of bicycle riders self-identify with the “Enthused and Confident” and “Interested but Concerned” categories. Fortunately for all of us dyed-in-the-wool bicyclists, these groups are the “Unwitting Advocates” that give weight to our proselytizing. Every picture of them riding a bicycle that they post to Facebook or Instagram, every tweet they make about how beautiful the day was and how great they felt getting out on a bicycle, and every time they ride and some friend or stranger sees them: they are advocating for bicycles. Put simply: Every time you ride a bicycle, you are a Bicycle Advocate. You are making your streets safer, you are reducing congestion, you are improving air quality, you are making your city a better place. Feels good, doesn’t it?

Guess what? The same is true for walking. Whether you are walking on a trail, walking your dog, or even walking from your car to your office or the store (look at you being multi-modal!) your mere presence is saying to those around, “I am a human and my area shall be respected.” You are an advocate for walking.

Do you mow your yard, landscape, or do other things to make your house look clean and appealing? Congratulations, you are a Safe Neighborhoods Advocate! Camp or recycle? You’re an Environmental Advocate! I feel like Oprah; “You’re an Advocate and you’re an Advocate and you’re an Advocate!”



Keep this in mind the next time you ride your bike: You are leading by example. You are going to slow down around kids and people walking on the greenline. The next time you are out walking you are going to cross the street at intersections. The next time you are driving in your car you are going to stop before the crosswalk, you are going to stop for a pedestrian at a mid-street crosswalk, and you are going to give a cyclist three feet of space. And you’re going to feel good about yourself because that’s the side effect when you respect other people.

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