Earlier this week, WABA kicked off its “Resolve to Ride Responsibly” campaign, asking cyclists to pledge to ride more responsibly in 2011. Somewhat predictably, this kicked off a bit of controversy within our membership. While many WABA members have been supportive and signed, others have responded with strong counter-arguments focused on the idea that if the laws regulating our roadways fail to adequately account for or protect cyclists, we should not resolve to follow them.
And that’s absolutely fine.
Nothing in being a WABA member ties anyone to a particular strategy for improving the laws regulating cyclists. But as an organization, we do have a choice to make. We hear time and time again the perception that WABA should be doing more to ensure that cyclists follow laws and ride safely. And currently, that perception of cyclists as scofflaws presents a barrier to the sort of political action that could successfully improve the safety of cyclists in the area.
Fundamentally, our goal is to change those improper laws and achieve those safety improvements, and to take the necessary steps to do so. I do believe that cyclists should ride responsibly, and I disagree with anyone who says that resolving to do so implies an apology for cycling or a backing away from that core goal.
It is true that by asking riders to pledge to improve, there is an implicit acknowledgment of imperfection and a commitment to do better. And it seems that this acknowledgment of imperfection has been the source of a fair bit of the negative feedback. Perhaps this was a mistake in tone for the pledge, but given the number of signatures already reached, we are not going to change the language and start over now. So I’ll ask cyclists to take this as an admission among the drafters that we individually have room for improvement. And if you (like us) have room for improvement, this should not prevent you from signing.
- If you disagree with riding responsibly or, the more controversial point, following the applicable laws: Don’t sign the pledge.
- If you have no need for improvement: Don’t sign the pledge.
We can accept that some dedicated cyclists who support our mission of advocating for better, safer cycling in the region may not support this specific tactic for combating the scofflaw cyclist perception and generating movement toward legal change. We appreciate the feedback. And fortunately, we pursue multiple strategies simultaneously, so we hope that others better suit you and that we’ll be back on the same strategic page soon. But simply ignoring the scofflaw cyclist perception (or debunking it endlessly on websites and blogs that only we cyclists read) is not effective.
Bottom line: The scofflaw perception is getting in the way of needed changes, and we need some mechanism to combat it. This pledge is meant to do that in order to set the stage for the next round of advocacy. With a new year, new leadership in several local jurisdictions, and a growing number of cyclists in the area, this pledge is meant to help us address the scofflaw issue and move past it to real advocacy on behalf of our members and the community of cyclists.
If you don’t like it, don’t sign it.
It’s your choice.
We think it will help make our advocacy efforts more effective, but we’ll be making the efforts to the best of our ability regardless.
Here’s to a strong 2011.
Keep riding (whether you sign a pledge or not),