Safe Routes Scoop

NJ Bicycle and Pedestrian Advocacy

The roots of American bicycle and pedestrian advocacy herald back to the 1960s-70s, when some began to view the expanding highway system as a spoiler of the environment and destroyer of neighborhoods. It was during this time that community and environmental advocates began to challenge our singular emphasis on the automobile, seeking to make room for transit, bicycling and walking. Contemporary bicycle and pedestrian advocacy was born out of this movement and has continued to grow and evolve as interest in bicycling and walking surges in the United States.


What is Advocacy?

The American Heritage Dictionary defines advocacy as the act of pleading or arguing in favor of something, such as a cause, idea, or policy. Bicycle and pedestrian advocacy is far more complex however than this simple definition implies and can be expressed in a variety of forms.


Activities such as encouraging recreational bicycling to championing changes in state or local policy can be considered advocacy. In general, bicycle and pedestrian advocacy consists of activities that defend the rights of cyclists and pedestrians to use public rights-of-way for travel, seek to improve the conditions for cycling and walking, and strive to make cycling and walking more popular.

Pedestrian and bicycle advocacygroups vary in both their focus and organizational structure. For example, some advocates work from within or collaboratively with government entities, while others represent independent private organizations. Some of these smaller, independent groups are typically staffed with volunteers, while other larger groups have a paid staff, with well-developed outreach and advocacy programs in place. The importance and value of these independent advocacy groups cannot be denied, as many major policy shifts, including recent federal transportation policy, have been influenced by independent advocacy groups that forced action on issues otherwise ignored within the existing political structure.


As advocacy activity increases, the advocacy community struggles to balance the different needs of bicyclists and pedestrians. Though the two modes often are lumped within the same program, each has its own specific needs and concerns. Pedestrian-focused groups have faced a more difficult organizational challenge than bicycle advocacy groups, primarily because most people do not view being a pedestrian as a specific identity, since almost everyone is a pedestrians at some point in their daily lives. Recently though, pedestrian advocates have begun to collaborate and create partnerships with public

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