Submitted by Bike BloNo
You may have noticed that more and more people are using bicycles for transportation, for exercise, or maybe just for fun. What many drivers still do not realize is that by law, bicycles on the roadway are vehicles with the same rights and responsibilities as motorized vehicles. While the Constitution Trail covers more than 40 miles and is one of the most popular features in our community, people cannot get to work, or to many other destinations using the trail alone. Furthermore, the trail is heavily used by pedestrians, so cyclists generally can’t go very fast. Recognizing the importance of supporting the increased use of bicycles, both Bloomington and Normal have a master plan to create bike-friendly streets and have begun implementing the plan.
Bike BloNo, Bloomington-Normal’s bicycle advocacy group, is launching a safety awareness campaign, which has been one of their long-standing goals. Safety is a Bike BloNo core issue, and the campaign will encourage safer choices on the part of bicyclists and drivers to help reduce deaths and injuries. Anyone who bikes regularly has had incidents with inattentive motorists or drivers deliberately targeting bikers by passing too closely or yelling at the bicyclist. Bike BloNo board members have also seen the vitriolic comments regarding bicyclists on social media and media message boards. This is one reason why the campaign is working toward humanizing people on bikes.
“Often, we feel a person in a car views a bicyclist as an impediment, even though the person on the bike has every right to use the road,” said Bike BloNo President Stefanie Michaelis. “We want to make sure people behind the wheel remember that the person on a bike is simply trying to get somewhere, just like a person in a car.” The campaign uses Bloomington-Normal residents who regularly commute by bike and who work in the community providing services as a dentist, a high school counselor, a grocery store manager, and more. “The campaign puts a face on the faceless bicyclist sharing the road with cars and makes clear that the person on a bike, after their commute, will be filling a cavity, providing advice and help to a high school student, or stocking shelves at a grocery store,” said Bike BloNo Vice President Mike McCurdy.
The campaign kicked off in May and utilizes billboards, bus advertising, yard signs, and other media. It is being funded by five years of fundraising through events like Bike BloNo’s signature annual Tour de Taco event, individual membership fees from Bike BloNo members, and a grant from The Friends of the Trail and the Town of Normal. The campaign was designed by Artezen Design with Bike BloNo input and coordinated by former Bike BloNo board member Jacob DeGeal.
Bike BloNo’s primary mission is to promote the bicycle for everyday transportation in Bloomington-Normal. Every day, thousands of miles are logged by single-driver car trips of five miles or less. Using bikes saves money, benefits health, and is better for the environment. For some residents, a bicycle is their only mode of transportation. Recent studies also show that fewer young adults are getting their driver’s licenses than 20 years ago and want to live in a community with well-established public transportation and bicycle infrastructure.
Bike BloNo is most focused on reaching the residents in Bloomington, Normal and the surrounding communities who wish to replace their day-to-day short-range commutes with a bicycle, or those that are not even aware of the possible benefits to biking over driving for utilitarian, intra-urban commutes. A secondary audience is the car-driving community that may be unaware, or uneducated as to the rights of bike riders on the road.
Bike BloNo’s main community contributions come in the form of three methods: advocacy, awareness, and education. Advocacy is comprised of working with town, city, and county governments to establish concrete policies towards safe biking and assist in creating and implementing bike infrastructure. Awareness represents Bike BloNo’s efforts to create and take part in engaging and empowering bicycle events that create understanding towards the effects of biking on economic, environmental, and personal health, and grow a strong bike-friendly community for current and future residents. Finally, education is a pivotal step in communicating to car drivers, bike riders, and pedestrians the rules of the road and responsible road commuting.
For more information go to BikeBloNo.org or facebook.com/bikeblono.