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Speaking up at public meetings
I live in the suburbs. I'm in my 20s. I'm excited about bikes. Though I'm not apologetic about each of these things individually, I feel like an unlikely person to be a player in grown-up decision making whenever I show up at a village hall meeting.
This weekend I went to a townhall meeting on infrastructure improvements. Sewer and roads commanded a lot of attention. Bicycle and pedestrian facilities were not even included in the proposed outlays. When I went up to speak my share, I identified myself as a fan of a comprehensive plan but pointed out that I was troubled by what was not included in this plan. To my surprise, the next woman to speak stood up and agreed with me and even made a joke about me running for office.
While running for office is not what I had in mind, the woman was right about my intention to build a constituency. In discussion about what should be on the menu, I am unashamedly for bicycles. I suspect that you are too. If you are anything like me though, going to public meetings is scary. I go because I feel that I might be effective, and sometimes, like this week, I get some support. Other times, the results are not immediate.
Recently, I heard a rebroadcast of an interview of Martin Luther King, Jr., by Studs Terkel. In the conversation, King pointed out that everyone is a fanatic for something in his life–the question is not are you a fanatic but are you a fanatic for something positive? King identified Jesus as a fanatic for love, Ghandi as a fanatic for justice, etc. In the context of municipal infrastructure discussions, bicycle facilities are small potatoes compared to sewers. At the same time, I draw strength from my conviction that speaking up for bicycling improvements is in its own small way being a fanatic for something positive. I hope that other Active Trans members will find themselves surprised by the unlikely support they get when they speak up.
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