Bike Cleveland Continues to Grow After Founding Summit
By Mike Samuelson on February 19, 2013
A little over a year ago, 125 people spent a weekend with one goal: create the best possible organization to advocate on behalf of Cleveland’s cycling community.
Over those two days, participants at the Bike Cleveland Summit discussed what they wanted cycling to look like in Cleveland, and how an advocacy organization could help make their vision a reality. The summit, facilitated by the Alliance for Biking & Walking, sought to create an organization that all of Cleveland’s diverse cycling community could support.
Participants at the Bike Cleveland Summit in September of 2011. Photo: Bike Cleveland
Summit participants channeled their enthusiasm and strategies into Bike Cleveland, a new advocacy group that represents the region’s unique culture and cyclists. The group celebrated its first birthday in September and has grown tremendously since its founding. Leaders of the organization (and their web site’s history page) are quick to point out that they couldn’t have made so much progress so quickly without their founding summit.
“Prior to the Bike Cleveland Summit, Bike Cleveland did not exist,” said Jacob VanSickle, Executive Director of Bike Cleveland. “Because of the summit we were able to gain the respect of the local foundation community and receive a start-up grant to fund Bike Cleveland’s first staff person.”
While there had previously been several groups in Cleveland working to create safer streets for cycling, Bike Cleveland provided the region a unified voice.
“Not only did the summit bring together the foundation community, but because it was promoted as the unification of Cleveland cyclists, it also energized the local cycling community,” explained Jacob. “125 people spent two days framing the future work of a new bike advocacy organization. This engagement led to a sizable membership and volunteer base right from day 1 of Bike Cleveland’s work.”
As a larger and united organization, Bike Cleveland has been working to include previously disenfranchised groups in their work. “One key focus that came out of the founding summit was the need to engage necessity cyclists in our advocacy work,” said Jacob.
“To begin to tackle this task we developed, with the leadership of a couple of our members, an outreach program where we engage with local neighborhood stakeholders and hold fix-a-thons and light giveaways with our volunteers and members. After the events we re-engage participants by organizing neighborhood based rides, wtih the ultimate goal of engaging those residents by identifying projects in their neighborhood they would like to see (or engage them in existing infrastructure campaigns we are involved in).”
Bike Fix-A-Thon in Glenwood, Cleveland. Photo: Bike Cleveland
All of these new and dedicated members has led to lots of changes on the ground that are making cycling safer in Cleveland. Bike Cleveland’s most notable accomplishments in first year included:
Newly installed sharrows in Cleveland’s Rocky River Reservation. Photo: Bike Cleveland
While 2012 was a great opening act for Bike Cleveland, the group is just getting started and has plenty of ideas for how to make cycling better in 2013 and beyond. Jacob says the organization is planning a citywide awareness campaign, installing new on-street bike parking, creating a commuter cycling guide and much, much more.
And the Bike Cleveland Summit was key to the organization’s current success.
“Thinking back to the planning of the summit, I think one of the most important things the process did was engage people in every step,” recalled Jacob. “I’d say 95% of the people who were engaged with the process at some level are some of Bike Cleveland’s biggest promoters.”
Cleveland Bike to Work Day 2012. Photo: Bike Cleveland
Cyclists showed off their red, white, and blue during Bike Cleveland’s 2012 Independence Day ride. Photo: Bike Cleveland
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