Bike Back Better – Ecology Action’s Vision for 2021

Welcome to 2021! As the virtual confetti settles into the corners, we find we’re still a little weary, a little wary, and a whole lot more woke about a lot of things. 2021 may not be a panacea for all of that, but there’s much that can lift our eyes and hearts as our bike lights illuminate the possibilities ahead.

We have all evolved in the way we work, shop, and play due to COVID-19. The good news is there is more welcome change on the way as we begin to knit ourselves back into the community in new ways. How will we go back to working, praying, and playing together while still keeping ourselves safe from COVID-19?

Ecology Action is excited about the potential that all of this societal disruption has created. The society-wide transition we are seeing is an unparalleled opportunity for us to re-imagine our communities and create the better, more equitable, healthy, and thriving future we all dream of. New slow-streets initiatives, pop-up parklets, and a historic bike boom? Almost overnight, we saw massive changes in our use of public space and thousands of people taking up biking. What happened?

The experts agree: “The best time to influence people to change is when ‘their habits are in flux, and when they are open to trying new things and revising their own self-image. That might be right after moving homes, getting a new job, or a major life transition (like kids moving out of the home).’ [Jessica Roberts at Alta Planning + Design] Or, as it turns out—although no one outside of epidemiologists saw this coming—during a global pandemic,” says Bikes Make Life Better, who are focusing their 2021 campaigns on responding to this opportunity. Bikes Make Life Better have come up with innovative solutions and awesome programs to accelerate bike adoption at some of the biggest companies in the Bay Area. They’re a big inspiration for our own work here in Santa Cruz County. Furthermore, thought leader and author Arundhati Roy says “Historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next.”

I find myself entering this year with a deep passion for and commitment to a future that is abundant, collective, and resilient. However you got woke last year, you too probably have renewed commitments and an increased appetite for stretching yourself to make the needed changes, within and without. If you’re reading this email, you’re already clear on the benefits of cycling as a path to that better future, and like us you may already be thinking about how to leverage this unprecedented opportunity to “build and bike back better” as we recreate our community life from the ground up. And like us, you can feel the momentum of the record increase in bike ridership that COVID-19 shelter-in-place rules have generated. Let’s keep that going and use biking for our day-to-day commute as well as for play.

We think that by fall, many of us will be returning to our workplaces, places of worship, and schools. So we’re looking at what we need to do today and in the spring and summer to make sure that when that time comes, our bike-riding, walking, and community engagement are all bumped up from their pre-COVID-19 levels. What needs to happen so that the first day the office opens is also the first of many bike-to-work days—so that the bike racks are full and stay that way? How do we invite the community not to go back to business as usual, but to create a better normal that includes a lot more biking—for health, happiness, reduced traffic, and a better climate?

Our Ecology Action team has been thinking about this for months now, and we’re excited to share our thoughts with you today. This is more than an individual campaign. It’s a guiding framework for all the content, support, and calls to action you will see in our programming throughout the year. Our roadmap for new riders and commuters looks something like this:

Winter 2021: Dust off your bike, or get a bike.

Spring 2021: Try a ride.

Summer 2021: Make it a habit.

Fall 2021: Bike to work when the office reopens.

Throughout the year, we will be providing content, workshops, challenges, and events to help move people along this journey, wherever they find themselves today. Maybe you haven’t ridden in five years, or maybe you ride only for recreation, and you haven’t made the jump to riding to work or to the grocery store. Experienced riders can help friends, families, and co-workers with these things and support a culture of biking as a way of life. Everyone also has the opportunity to join the popular online community Love to Ride Santa Cruz, where you can set goals, encourage your neighbors, and make a profile for your workplace. We’ll be hosting our Santa Cruz County bike challenges this year, one in spring and one in the fall, so get ready!

We’d love to hear from you about other things we should be thinking of, and about what you see as the critical paths to a bike-back-better fall 2021. We encourage you to look ahead and see what your workplace, church, or school needs to do to support a bike-and-return-on-bike culture. Is it more bike racks? Enrolling your friends and family in our Love to Ride platform so you can meet them where they are? Gathering a micro-community of support to lead fun engagement activities for your school? Can you lead practice bike-commute trips during our spring and fall bike challenges to get new people riding? Can you commute to work for the first time yourself, or take a practice run while still working from home? Can you forward how-to emails from our team, or set up a bike-to-work bagel and coffee event the day your office reopens, and every month thereafter? The solutions already exist. We just need to scale them up and support bike champions to empower their communities.

The resilient, thriving, abundant future we are all dreaming of is possible, but only if we pursue it together. We can’t do it without you, and we’re here to inspire, activate, and gear you and our community up to realize our shared dream. Thank you for being a hero alongside so many others this year, as we step into the cleared decks that COVID-19 has left and manifest “our greater yet to be” together.

As Arundhati Roy says, ” Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.”