Building Better Communities through Biking: A Road Map for Organizing
In 2017, the Shenandoah Valley Bicycle Coalition (SVBC) elected to hold a visioning retreat. Formed in 2008 through the merger of the Shenandoah Valley Bicycle Club (a road cycling club started in 1982) and the Shenandoah Mountain Bike Club (formed in 1996), SVBC had a legendary volunteer community but lacked a clear and concise mission and vision to share with the world.
I joined as their facilitator for a weekend retreat (complete with mid-day bike ride) to discuss how the diversity and breadth of activities might distill down to a clear mission and strategy. The result was their Road Map for Building Better Communities in the Valley.
Since published and disseminated among the coalitions membership, the Road Map included organizations values such as a love of the Shenandoah Valley, respect for local communities, and a commitment to collective organizing that includes all skill sets and backgrounds. From the beginning of the retreat, it was clear that the bicycle is an amazing and enjoyable machine, but it is also a tool for creating more beautiful and welcoming communities.
By the end of the day, the Coalition had chosen to focus on four main organizing strategies, included in their words below:
(1) Engage: Through advocacy and outreach we build connections between prospective riders, current bicyclists, and civic leaders to create more vibrant and welcoming communities.
(2) Empower: We develop tools, skills, and resources for everyone to be able to choose whether, where, and how to ride. We elevate the voices of local residents so that everyone can shape the community in which they live, work, ride, and play.
(3) Build: We build exceptional riding opportunities – new mountain biking trails, greenways, safe routes to school, welcoming road riding routes, and a supportive bicycling community.
(4) Ride: We ride with joy, with play, and with purpose. We ride to spread smiles, the surest sign of the better communities we envision.
For those who would like to learn more, a full copy of their Building Better Communities in the Valley report, produced by Pine Knot Projects as a deliverable from the retreat, is available online.