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By Carolyn Szczepanski

Living car-free in Washington DC, I savor my early morning commute on nearly empty streets and love whipping home from the bar in the quiet hum of the streetlights. But even in those moments of solitude, I’m part of a movement of millions.

Everyone knows that local bicycle advocacy leaders play a critical role in making cycling better, whether you ride to get away from it all or to be part of a social circle. Even if you’re not involved, you’re reaping the benefits of improved infrastructure, more bike-friendly laws and heightened awareness of your rights to the roads.

To shine the spotlight on just a sliver of local advocacy groups’ work, the Alliance for Biking & Walking recognizes the most prominent leaders and impressive accomplishments with our annual Advocacy Awards. During the National Bike Summit, we threw a party and raised a glass to organizations and leaders that made a particular impact in 2010. Below are three of the award winners.

Winning Campaign of the Year
Michigan Complete Streets Coalition

Michigan has spent the past century focused on all things automotive. The advocates at the League of Michigan Bicyclists (LMB) threw that trend in reverse in by gearing up the movement for complete streets. Complete streets is common sense for cyclists but a revolutionary idea for many engineers—roads should be designed for cars, bicyclists, pedestrians and transit users alike. At the start of 2010, Michigan had just one local complete streets ordinance; by the end of the year there were more than 20 thanks in large part to the Michigan Complete Streets Coalition. The LMB grew the coalition to 105 organizations, building partnerships in the health, transit, environmental, engineering, and disability sectors to name a few. Even politicians couldn’t ignore the voice for safer, more accessible streets as the legislature passed a statewide complete streets bill in just four months.

Best Practices
Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition

Those of us in the advocacy world talk about building a more inclusive movement, but often it’s just that—talk. The Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition is taking action. In 2010, their City of Lights campaign raised the profile of “invisible cyclists” and sparked national media coverage and conversation. At first, the initiative was literal, providing lights to riders who didn’t have them. But the title grew to mean much more as the effort engaged men and women who ride but whose voices aren’t heard because of language, economic barriers or immigration status. Through true collaboration, the LACBC partnered with day laborers and neighborhood residents to elevate the needs of those who rely on bikes for daily transportation. Now, with the help and determination of the LACBC, those invisible cyclists have a public profile at city hearings and urban planning sessions.

Advocacy Organization of the Year
Bike Pittsburgh

The streets of Pittsburgh are steep and twisting, and the winters are long and brutal. So why is bicycle mode share up? Why was the city designated a Bronze level Bicycle Friendly Community last year? Bike Pittsburgh. The advocates at BikePGH have worked with government officials to get new infrastructure on the ground and partnered with the local companies to get the business community on board, but BikePGH excels at more than basic organizing. The members of their small staff are ambassadors for the movement—friendly, energetic and welcoming. By extension, they’re building a community that exemplifies those same characteristics. Just one example? This past winter, two feet of snow pummeled the city, blanketing a popular bicycle/pedestrian bridge. When the city didn’t step up, the cyclists stepped in, organizing a work party that cleared the bridge in a matter of hours.

Visit for more information and to read about the entire class of 2010 award winners.