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Pedaling Change: Adventure Cycling Association

Welcome to Pedaling Change! There’s a lot of good work being done in the world of bikes, from alternative transportation advocacy to international development. To highlight some of the great action that’s going on out there, once a month we’ll be profiling a non-profit in the bike world to look at just how they’re working to make positive change.

There’s nothing quite like bicycle travel. With your panniers packed full, a map stuffed into your back pocket and plenty of spare tubes, you’ve got the whole world in front of you. But inspiring people to travel by bike takes work, and that’s where the Adventure Cycling Association (ACA) comes in.

Started in 1973 as Bikecentennial, over the last several decades, ACA has been working hard to ensure that more people travel by bike, and has made a name for itself as the premier bicycle travel organization in North America. In fact the organization has over 44,700 members nationwide.

Thanks to the organization’s Adventure Cycling Route Network, over 40,699 miles are routed and mapped to help cycling enthusiasts explore the world via two wheels. If you’re looking to do some cyclo-inspired adventuring, ACA is the place to start. Publishing a magazine, organizing rides, running a yellow pages for cyclists and raising money to fund more bike routes, it’s no surprise that ACA is a resource and a leader in the industry.

We caught up with Winona Bateman, Adventure Cycling Association’s Media Director to learn more about the organization and some of their current campaigns.

What are your top three reasons for getting people out on bikes?

Adventure Cycling’s mission is to inspire people of all ages to travel by bike for fitness, fun, and self-discovery.

There is obviously a strong travel component integrated into ACA. Why is travel by bike so special?

Traveling by bicycle is powerful and inspiring. You get to experience a place up close and at a human pace. You can also eat a lot of ice cream, if that’s something you enjoy! Last summer more than 1,000 cyclists visited our headquarters in Missoula — we’re always so amazed at the diversity of people who drop in: students, retirees, groups, solo riders, with every age and level of experience represented. Bike travel attracts all sorts of cyclists and when you’re out on the road you will surely meet a wide range of other bike tourists. Pretty fun!

Tell us about the Build It. Bike It. Be Part of It. Campaign.

The Build It. Bike It. Be a Part of It. campaign is an annual social media fundraiser for the U.S. Bicycle Route System (USBRS) that takes place during National Bike Month. We’re hoping to raise $30,000 this year. These funds will support Adventure Cycling Association’s ongoing organizing role in helping states create U.S. Bike Routes. We’re asking cyclists across America to donate $10 to support this visionary project, they can learn more and donate here.

On a global scale, how would you say the United States is doing in terms of bike paths and routes? What countries can we learn from?

On a global scale, the U.S. lacks the concerted government investment enjoyed by other countries, such as Denmark, the UK, Switzerland, and Germany, to name a few examples. While not presently supported as a program by the government, the U.S. Bicycle Route System will use existing infrastructure to connect many of the routes and trails across states into a cohesive, official, national network. This network will be recognized by state departments of transportation, which is a huge leap forward for the U.S. in how it thinks about cycling infrastructure. A big difference right now between the USBRS and these other national systems is the question of signing the routes. Signing U.S. Bike Routes is optional for states at this point due to cost. However AASHTO (American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials) and Adventure Cycling are encouraging states to find a way to sign their U.S. Bike Routes.

In terms of domestically, which states do a good job with bike paths and routes?

Many, many states are working very hard to develop their cycling infrastructure. Some stellar examples: Wisconsin, which has invested in a lot of trails that link right into their cities. This is exciting. Minnesota has an assortment of long trails, and Oregon promotes bicycling in a number of ways (scenic bikeway program and state designated bike routes).

How can people get involved to better advocate for bikes?

Join your local or state bike organization. You can have incredible impact locally, and also at the state level. The statewide groups have been really helpful with the U.S. Bicycle Route System. They see the benefit of linking their local efforts with this national network.

Do you think bikes can change the world?

Bike are already changing the world by transforming communities and countries in how they think about, and embody, transportation.

Want to get involved with ACA? Check out their website for more information. We also have a handful of one-year ACA memberships up for grabs in our Where’s Your Adventure photo contest. For more information on entering, click here.

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