The Value of Membership
by guest blogger Jodi Hohlstein, FBA Board President
A few weeks ago a potential member asked what the advantage of being a member of the Florida Bicycle Association was. That really made me start to think about an answer that could really help someone want to become a member of FBA.
I also belong to a bicycle club, the North Florida Bicycle Club, and they truly are a social organization with organized rides, monthly meetings, and very tangible reasons a member would want to join. There are many other clubs like this throughout Florida to help satisfy that “social” need for many cyclists.
On the other hand, the Florida Bicycle Association is not a social club. By definition, we are a non-profit organization, which by charter, must primarily be an educational organization, and can have an advocacy side as well. So what tangible “benefit” do we offer our members? Where’s the “what’s in it for me?”
I mean, if we aren’t a social club, and there aren’t any organized rides or monthly meetings, what is the reason people should join and/or support FBA? There is no quick and easy answer to that question – it’s hard to plan an “elevator speech” around what FBA is all about. The quickest explanation could be is that FBA is “your voice in Tallahassee,” which we are. But wait – what does that have to do with education? Well, sometimes you have to help educate the lawmakers and the general public, so that they are better informed when they are passing laws and making decisions that affect the lives of those of us who take to the roads, trails, and pathways in vehicles that are not motorized. This year FBA was able to help get the “Aaron Cohen Life Protection Act” passed by the Florida Legislature, and, as of this writing, it is now up to Governor Scott to sign it into law. Additionally, we worked with many groups this year, and testified in front of the Florida Legislature on behalf of the “Coast to Coast to Coast Connector,” which will ultimately be a 274 mile separated bike path that will run from the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic Ocean. This bill also passed both houses, and again, as of this writing, is waiting on final approval from Governor Scott. Now it is time for FBA to start working on our legislative agenda for the 2015 session.
But, in addition to being the cyclists’ voice in Tallahassee, we also play a strong role in the traditional educational delivery systems. We helped CyclingSavvy, developed by Keri Caffrey and Mighk Wilson, come into existence. And, we have partnered with the League of American Bicyclist to deliver their Traffic Skills 101 classes throughout the state. These two cycling education programs help educate cyclists, lawmakers, and the general public learn about cyclists’ rights and responsibilities. By partnering with these two educational groups, we also have a better understanding of how FBA needs to keep up with changes in the cycling world.
FBA is considered a premier resource center within the cycling community. Through FBA, cyclists, the general public, and the law enforcement community have access to tools such as the “Florida Bicycle and Pedestrian Law Enforcement Guide (FBPLEG), “Florida Bicycling Street Smarts,” and via our web site, “Ask Geo,” an interactive Q & A resource with cycling law expert George Martin, who will reply to questions regarding interpretation of Florida law as it pertains to cycling. Additionally, due to FBA’s partnership with entities such as the Florida Greenways and Trails Foundation,” Bike Florida, the National Complete Streets Coalition, and the Alliance for Bicycling and Walking, we are able to keep our members informed on the latest and greatest in the world of what is going on in cycling. We really are a wealth of information at your fingertips.
Florida Bicycle Association is also a partner with many in an attempt to make the cycling world a safer place. We partner with the Florida Pedestrian & Bicycling Safety Resource Center, the Safety Office of Florida Department of Transportation, and the North Florida Bicycle Club’s “One Road” safety campaign. All of these organizations support safety efforts and developing infrastructure for cyclists, and we are proud to be a part of their efforts.
FBA’s board is quite diverse and represents the major metropolitan areas of the state. Our board members are working to develop relationships with local bike clubs and bike shops to help spread the education, safety and educational needs of the cycling community. By reaching out to these organizations and businesses we can continue to grow our numbers and increase the strength of our voice in Tallahassee. Our Executive Director, Tim Bustos is working hard to visit with local officials to make sure our needs are kept in front of the powers that be when it comes to making the correct decisions on the behalf of the cycling and pedestrian community. He has recently travelled to D.C. to make our voices heard in our nation’s capital. In another trip to the Southern States Bike Conference in Texas, Tim spent time with other states’ Executive Directors so they could share notes and experiences unique to the deep south, in order to explore growth opportunities with similar organizations.
With a small staff and a large charter of tasks, FBA has its hands full in its attempt to fulfill the needs of the cycling community in Florida. Florida is now the third largest state in America. That said, we are also one of the worst states for cycling/pedestrian safety. Working with outside organizations to help remedy that situation is a huge challenge for any organization, let alone one the size of FBA. With a dedicated Executive Director, two part time staffers and a diverse board of directors we do our best to provide services to our members and non-members alike. It is not unusual to have a request to be in three places in one day ~ something that can only be accomplished with the cooperation of all. The challenge of most not for profit organizations is to offer our services for free to members and non-members alike, which we do through our website. However, we can’t emphasize enough that membership is important to us – it strengthens our numbers – and our ability to have a stronger voice for the cyclist. We would hope those who visit our website will realize the value we offer the cycling community, and join our ranks so we can be more affective in making the roads, trails, and pathways safer for all of us.
If you are already a member of FBA, we appreciate you and your support! If you are not a member, I would encourage you to contact us so we can answer any questions you might have in order help you make a decision to join us, and our efforts to make Florida a safer place for all of us to enjoy the fresh air and sunshine that Florida is so famous for.