Guest post: 2012 Triathlon America panel discusses the importance bike advocacy

Editor’s note: this post was written by Everett Hauser, a local transportation planner, racer, bike commuter and advocate who recently had an opportunity to speak at the 2012 Triathlon America Conference panel titled “One Less Car”. In light of the recent bike advocacy merger, I am pleased to see the bike industry taking serious steps on how to best advocate for all cyclists.


Triathlon America, the industry organization promoting the sport and business of triathlon, held their annual conference in San Diego last week. The conference hosted a lot of workshops about growing the triathlon business. One of the workshops was an advocacy panel entitled “One Less Car”. The panel featured Bruno Maier from Bikes Belong, Paul White from Transportation Alternatives, mayoral candidate Nathan Fletcher, and myself.

The panel was an opportunity to discuss the importance of promoting cycling from an advocacy perspective. To grow the triathlon business requires people to both have an ability to ride and be comfortable while training. Even though triathletes only spend a third of their time on the bike, that time is typically spent on open roads and not on closed courses like it is on race day. As we all know, if the roads you ride are not pleasant to ride on you will be less likely to ride. This is not exactly good for the sport or for the business. Therefore we discussed the measures we need to take to engage with both the industry and political advocacy groups to promote cycling, not only for sport, but for transportation and daily utility cycling.

Attendees at the "One Less Car" Panel. Photo from Triathlon America's Facebook Page
One of the more interesting facts I gathered from an earlier presentation was a breakdown of male/female participants (in triathlons) at the “newcomer” and “practitioner” levels. The percentages at these levels were 55% female and 47% female, respectively. Those are tremendous numbers for participation! It is higher than I see in competitive speed cycle racing and of course greater than commuting/utility cycling. Many studies have noted the “indicator species” status of women in cycling and, with good reason. If bicycle facilities and utility of cycling is safe, accessible and repeatable it will be used by more women than facilities without additional treatment and accommodation (i.e. the status quo).
The take away message from the panel was that the triathlon business has grown women’s participation at a rate greater than we see in other areas of cycling. They have much to teach us, just as we have a reciprocal relationship to make cycling more attractive so we can both grow in numbers and the “business” of two-wheeled participation.
My special thanks also to Ms. Karen Sing for organizing the panel and raising the level of awareness of this important subject at the industry level.
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