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Andy Clarke Looks Back on Bike Month and Likes What He Sees

To celebrate May as National Bike Month, we asked League staff members why they ride and how they made the most of Bike Month. Now that the calendar page has turned to June, we can look back on another successful Bike Month.

It is finally time to profile our fearless leader, League President Andy Clarke.

Andy bike month profile pic

Hi, Andy. Another Bike Month is in the books. How did this year compare to Bike Months past?

I’m actually pretty excited by this year’s level of activity. Bike Month has been around for decades; it’s part of the calendar for a lot of clubs and advocacy groups and there’s always activity…yet we’ve never really capitalized on that with major national sponsors and participants. We’re still waiting for a national sponsor, but this year everyone from AAA to WalMart was doing something special for Bike Month. And here in DC the local Bike to Work Day soared to 11,000 participants, up from a record 9,000 the year before.

What’s your all-time favorite Bike Month memory?

Wow, that’s really a tough one – sad to say I’ve been through more than a few Bike Months in the USA now and even had a hand in three National Bike Week’s in the UK many moons ago. I’ll certainly never forget the sight of three [bipartisan] MPs and one Lord being bunny-hopped by a BMX rider at the kick-off event of one of those Bike Week’s! About five years ago, I remember the DC Bike to Work Day was marked by the most torrential rainstorm – I mean two inches of rain fell between 6am and 9am, it was ridiculous. I loved doing Bike New York one year…nope, it’s too hard to choose.

You traveled a lot this Bike Month. What did you see across the country? What impressed you most?

Lots of very encouraging work going on in communities and businesses to become more bike friendly – but I’d have to say the energy and enthusiasm generated by students at the University of Oregon and Arizona (in Eugene and Tucson respectively) was fantastic to see; and I think that’s why their Bicycle Friendly University awards were picked up by the University President himself in both cases. Tucson’s fledgling Living Streets Alliance is breathing new life into that region’s quest for “platinum” BFC status, and it looks as if Eugene is going get back to being a leading US bicycling community as it was in the 1980s.  That’s exciting to see.

Now that May is over, what can people do to continue the spirit of Bike Month all year long?

Simply keep riding; that’s the best advocacy of all.

As League President, what are you most proud of that the League has accomplished in the last several years?

This is more difficult than any of the interviews I’ve done for Bike Month. I’m really proud that the League is playing its part in the broader bicycling movement – the ever-expanding National Bike Summit, the blueprint provided by the Bicycle Friendly America programs, our education program are all contributing a lot and doing really well. Overall, the effectiveness and impact of the bike industry and advocacy groups has increased ten-fold in recent years, which is good because we have a lot still to do.

What are the biggest challenges facing bicycling advocates right now? What do we have going for us?

Well, we still struggle for relevance and are too easily overlooked, dismissed or short-changed in critical policy, funding and planning decisions in communities across the country – I’d have to say that’s especially true at the state level. What makes this so frustrating is the incredible value-for-money and cost-effectiveness that cycling offers in helping to solve so many of today’s challenges at the individual, local, state, regional and national level. But I remain optimistic we can effectively make the case for bicycling and that we’ll look back on 2011 as the year the bicycling light bulb went off in enough heads to really make a difference.

When and why do you ride your bike?

Mostly to and from work – it’s about 12 or 13 miles each way, so that hopefully keeps me in good enough shape that I don’t embarrass myself riding with our clubs or touring Bicycle Friendly Communities. I rode around 25 miles in Tucson a couple of weeks ago looking at their urban trail loop and was able to keep up! Beyond that, I like everything from riding with my daughter to school to tackling stages of the Tour de France (thanks, Trek Travel).

What’s the longest ride you’ve ever done?

Longest ride is probably cross country…although that was when I was living in England, so Lands End to John O Groats isn’t quite the same as Oregon to Virginia. I’ve done similar rides of about 1,000 miles – Tuscany back to the UK; Washington DC to Chattanooga with tent and the whole works.

What tips do you have for new bike commuters?

One word. Panniers. Forget the backpack and stylish messenger bag for anything other than a really short commute. Invest in a decent rack and bag to carry your stuff.

What do you typically wear to ride?

My daily commute is just a little too long for street clothes, so I’ll typically wear a t-shirt and bike shorts. For longer rides, the magical properties of lycra and chamois work for me, and I have no problem riding around town or to the stores in street clothes. Not something that’s a big deal or issue for me.

Anything else to add?

Enjoy the ride!

Thanks, Andy!

Read all of the staff profiles here.

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