An advocate speaks or writes in support or defense of a person or cause.

There are many types of advocates, including:

  • Average citizens of all ages and backgrounds or groups
  • Community organization leaders
  • Elected officials
  • Third-party government workers, such as might be found within a department of neighborhoods or public health agency
  • Appointed officials on funding or policy advisory boards or commissions

Advocates promote bicycling and walking in a wide variety of ways, including:

  • Influencing policy
  • Reviewing plans — This takes some expertise. If no one in your organization is qualified, seek the help of a professional.
  • Holding events — Events bring attention to bicycling and walking. In many case the event also raises funds. Advocates can partner with national organizations (see links below) or create your own event.
  • Educating others — See the section on Education and the section on Role of the Media to learn more about educating others about pedestrian concerns.

Event links

School Walk for Diabetes (SWFD): This is a K-12 educational fund-raising program that teaches students the benefits of healthy living, community service and school spirit while raising money for the American Diabetes Association.

Team Diabetes: This is the marathon training program of the American Diabetes Association. Participants run or walk in honor or memory of someone they love with diabetes!

American Heart Association (AHA): This walking and fund-raising event that takes place in over 1,000 cities every year. This non-competitive event typically occurs on the last weekend of September or first weekend of October.

Arthritis Foundation's Joints in Motion Event: Walk or run a marathon (26.2 miles).

March of Dimes WalkAmerica: Walkers pledge to raise funds by walking approximately 12 miles. The event is usually in April.

MS Walk: The MS Walk is offered in cities across the nation. Distances vary from 3 to 12 miles and include accessible routes. 800-FIGHT-MS (800-344-4867) or at

Becoming an organization

Organizations can do more than an individual. Organizations have diverse perspectives, skills and resources. They often have more credibility than individuals. Advocacy organization vary from small groups of two or three volunteers to large groups with paid staff. Groups of any size can be very effective if well organized. Tips for starting an advocacy organization:

  • Talk to people about your concerns. They may be willing to form a small group.
  • You may want to formalize your group by incorporating or becoming a chapter of a larger organization, but you can begin as an informal citizen group.
  • Start small. Identify a problem and who can help.
  • Learn as much as you can about potential solutions. Talk with professionals, staff, and other organizations. Stay open to different ideas. For example, your first choice to improve a crossing may be a traffic signal. What if that idea is opposed? There are other effective improvements, such as a pedestrian island. It is wise to have several options.
  • Develop a plan. Many problems, such as drivers failing to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks, may require solutions that incorporate education, enforcement, and engineering. In some cases, you may be able to work for a phased approach to solving the problem. For example, you may request increased enforcement at the crosswalk as a short term solution. Enforcement is more effective in conjunction with an education campaign, so perhaps you also work with media for news coverage or public service announcements. Engineering solutions take longer to implement. You can pursue those while the early action tasks are underway.

Joining an existing organization

Many communities have an array of community-based organizations. One of these organizations may be interested in the bicycle and pedestrian issues that concern you. Here are some tips for identifying organizations in your community and finding out if you should join them rather than start your own group:

  • Check the web sites of national organizations to see if there is a local chapter or member.
  • Watch newsletter postings of meetings.
  • Contact local agencies and ask if they are aware of a group.
  • If you find a group, attend a meeting or meet with the leader.
  • Learn about their mission and the activities they pursue.
  • If their interests do not already address your concerns, be certain they are committed to your cause. When a group is formed for specific activity, such as holding bicycle rides or races, members may not be willing to commit to advocacy as a normal part of their efforts. They may be good partners, however.
  • Ask about their accomplishments over the past several years.
  • If they have a strategic plan, review it to see if it includes strategies that address your concerns.

If you find an existing group that does address your concerns, it may be wise to join them rather than start a separate entity.