What I learned from riding 440 miles in 4 days for advocacy
At the beginning of the month, a few dozen riders set out from Asheville, North Carolina, to ride 440 miles over four days in the name of bicycle advocacy.
With a goal to raise funds and awareness, this advocacy effort, called Ride on Atlanta, is led by former professional cyclist and PeopleforBikes advocate Tim Johnson, who choose a route that purposely visited uncomfortable road and communities where bike infrastructure and road safety is needed the most.
Among the participants where Trek’s Women’s Marketing Manager, Emily Bremer, and Specialized’s Advocacy Manager, Lucy August-Perna, who decided to put their brand competition aside and join forces to raise awareness and funds for bike infrastructure. Ella CyclingTips talked to Bremer and August-Perna beforehand to learn more about the advocacy effort and the challenges they were facing. You can read the article here. Now that they’ve survived and recovered from their 440-mile ride, we checked in with the two women to see what they learned. Here is what they had to say:
- There is still plenty of opportunity to make streets safer for cyclists in the US (and all over the world), and PeopleForBikes does a great job working to improve this.
- The southeast is beautiful, particularly Georgia. The rolling hills make for a lot of climbing. If there were more shoulders, protected lanes, etc., it would’ve increased the enjoyment substantially.
- Riding ridiculous miles in a short period of time, is more attainable if you’re working towards something bigger than yourself.
- Camaraderie is absolutely necessary. Each personality on the team brought something different, and it all added up to be exactly what everyone needed to keep pedaling.
- There are plenty of good people in this world! From the team, to the staff, to the people supporting us along the way. It was eye-opening to see how much people outside of the industry care about cycling, and keeping cyclists safe.
- Biking 440 miles can feel as slow and painful as the process of building good bike infrastructure. I was so excited to learn that in my hometown of Santa Cruz, CA efforts were underway to build a 32-mile coastal bike trail. And then I learned that these efforts date back to 1996 and projected completion of the trail is still 10 years away. Needless to say, it’s easy to feel discouraged. Similarly, at mile 0 of a 440- mile ride, the end is an abstract, distance thought. But with each mile, the end starts to look and feel a little more tangible. And each day ends up being its own reason to celebrate. It’s a good perspective for tackling the obstacles—political will, funding—that stand in the way of a better future for biking.
- You could do it alone, but why would you want to? On Day 4, with 360 miles on our legs, we faced relentless winds and 5,000 feet of rollers that threatened to take me down. Without the encouragement, support and strength from my fellow riders, I’d still be somewhere in Georgia. We cover 450 miles by working together and working smart. And if there was ever a metaphor for bike advocacy, this is it. Progress comes through collaboration and shared value. As a bike advocate, don’t stand up alone and talk about why bike lanes are good for cyclists. Talk about why bike lanes are good for everyone, from traffic safety, to better air quality, to quality of life, to boosting local economies. It’s easier to say no to a cycling advocate than a cycling advocate, health advocate, business advocate, and public safety advocate working together.
- The moment will pass. So you have to get through the bad ones or risk being left behind. And on the flip side, you have to let the good moments propel you forward. A week later and the ride is lingering as these snapshots in my mind—the cherry blossoms, the armadillo, the confederate flag—the rest flew by so fast, literally, I can barely make sense of it all. For most of the ride, you have to be so focused on the wheel in front of you and the riders around you, that it’s easy to forget where you are. But when you finally do pop your head up, you begin to take in the distance you’ve covered, the people who worked as one to get you there, the stillness and the beauty of the countryside around you. It feels surreal and perfectly mundane at the same time, the discomfort in your legs and shoulders a constant reminder of how far you have left to go. It’s the best exercise in focus, patience, and perseverance, and it’s all in the name of better biking for all.