How to Build (a Bike) Community

posted in: Consulting | 1

There’s a now-famous “How to Build Community” poster created by the Syracuse Cultural Workers in 1998. The comprehensive how to build a community“how-to” begins with “Turn off your TV” and ends with working to make heard the voices of the silent. The poster is at once simple, cute, and inspiring, and has resonated with those who rally for our places.

I’ve been thinking about the poster recently and hope that the folks at Syracuse will take kindly to my personal adaptation that works bikes and cycling into the mix. (Note: I am not using this in any form other than sharing in this post.) See below for my bike-y adaptations, and also, check out their own 2002 update on How to Build a Global Community.

With my updates:

Turn off your TV and go into your cellar to work on your bike.

Leave your house, preferably by bike. (Check out this post that suggests that biking is a lazy person’s commute.)

Look up when you are walking (or biking);

Know your neighbors, Greet people with a friendly ring of your bell;

Sit on your stoop; Plant flowers;

Use your library (park your bike right out front);

Play together (group ride, anyone?);

Buy from local merchants (support local bike shops and bike-friendly eateries);

Share what you have (let a friend borrow your bike, panniers, or bike trailers);

Help a lost dog (maybe use your car for this);

Take children to the park and to local trails;

Garden together; haul your bounty in your baskets, milk crates, etc.;

Support neighborhood schools, and bike your children to school for a fun start to the day;

Fix it even if you didn’t break it (Free Ride in Pittsburgh is among many D-I-Y bike repair shops);

Have potlucks (get creative in thinking about what can be carried by bike);

Honor elders and help them get to local trails;

Pick up litter; Read stories aloud;

Dance in the street (bike rodeo?);

Talk to the mail carrier;

Listen to the birds; Put up a swing;

Help carry something heavy (a sturdy bike trailer comes in handy here);

Barter for your goods (“I’ll trade you my bike horn for your padded seat…”);

Start a tradition (Bike to Feed Families used to pedal donations to the food bank by bike, a “bicycle food drive”);

Ask a question (Bike Pittsburgh connects experienced bike commuters with those who are new to it);

Hire young people for odd jobs (like Second Life Bikes, where neighborhood kids pitch in as bike mechanics to earn a bike);

Organize a block party complete with a bike valet;

Bake extra aBread_Bike2nd share (The August First Bakery Bread Bike tours Burlington, VT selling fresh bread.);

Ask for help when you need it (“Hey, can you help me with this flat?”);

Open your shades;

Sing together;

Share your skills (and availability) – Brooklyn Bike Patrol volunteers escort people home from subway stations late at night;

Take back the night (the most daring among us can try the Pittsburgh Underwear Ride);

Turn up the music; Turn down the music;

Listen before you react to anger;

Mediate a conflict; Seek to understand;

Learn from new and uncomfortable angles (the unicycle club Butler Wobble teaches newbies on Saturday afternoons in the fall);

Know that no one is silent although many are not heard. Work to change this.


If I were to add to the poster beyond the adjustments already made, I’d borrow from Second Life Bikes, which aims to build community around bikes and cycling. Their motto: “More people on bikes, more often.”  This says it all in a sound bite, doesn’t it?

Please check out this inspiring video on Second Life Bikes, by the way. This post is about cycling as a vital part of healthy communities, and if what they’re doing at Second Life isn’t building community, I’m not sure what is.


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