An interesting comment on the role of advocacy groups

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An interesting comment on the role of advocacy groups

Postby Aushiker » Fri Feb 08, 2013 9:29 pm

I thought this post at cycle-space was thought provoking worth discussing ... should the bicycle advocacy groups be involved in what the person at the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain referred to as shenanigans.

I had cause to correspond with the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain recently. I was asking if they would support Bike Hour. From memory, they gave it a shout out. What I remember most distinctly though, was their rather terse advice that they were solely concerned with advocating for safe bicycle infrastructure, and would not be distracted by any shenanigans. I like their style, baby. It leads me to question the core objectives of other bike advocacy groups, who presume to speak on behalf of us all when asked for an opinion by government or planners.
[my bold]

The full post can be found at Cycle-space.

In the post the blogger refers to the Bicycle Network Tasmanian "branch." This same organisation is also known as Bicycle Victoria and is the umbrella organisation for Bicycle Western Australia.

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by BNA » Fri Feb 08, 2013 10:00 pm

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Re: An interesting comment on the role of advocacy groups

Postby il padrone » Fri Feb 08, 2013 10:00 pm

The guy's post is twaddle. He shows a clear lack of understanding of the origins and key objectives of BNV.

The mass cycling rides are not the core operations of BNV but rather their source of funding to enable their advocacy operations to continue. Sadly, while a NE Tasmania Raltrail that he advocates may be really nice for the local community and will push along the tourist industry to some extent, it is not a core aspect of encouraging more bicycle transport to replace motor vehicle use. BTW, BNV is Bicycle Network Victoria.

This comment:
This is problematic given how many of their grass roots supporters would prefer lower speed limits to barrier protected cycle tracks. Not that I don’t love those lane holding, sandal wearing, bar-end shifter nerds (I’m one myself!) — it’s just they should never have been allowed to think their opinions on bike infrastructure counted more than the opinions of people who don’t ride, but would do if they could do it protected from from cars.


....illustrates a lack of awareness of BNV's operations. Segregated bike lanes have been pretty high in their focus, BNV has no aversion to campaigning for these, so much so that many regular riders are dubious of the heart in their campaigning for on-road facilities and legal changes to give advantage to cyclists.

And I speak this as a non-BNV member and critic of much of their focus.
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Re: An interesting comment on the role of advocacy groups

Postby human909 » Sat Feb 09, 2013 7:54 am

Some bicycle groups seem to be road cycling focussed. BNV seems to mostly a family (mums & dads) focus. To that end they support on and off road cycle infrastructure. They support helmets.

My focus is on promoting cycling to EVERYONE. As far as I'm concerned the Dutch model is the best way to go about this. Overall I would like to see less helmets, less Lycra and more everyday people on bikes. As far as I go, I will road bike, MTB, utility cycle, commute cycle as I see fit. I like cycling of all types! :D :D This autumn though I am thinking of getting much more into mountain biking.
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Re: An interesting comment on the role of advocacy groups

Postby Aushiker » Sat Feb 09, 2013 3:45 pm

Those of us with some experience of what has happened outside of Victoria may have a different take on Steven's thoughts I suspect. For example in WA some may have some appreciation of what is happening with the lobbying voice and how it is being diminished by a group with the "membership numbers" whose primary role has been events management (which it has done a fantastic job without a doubt) and now gone into "lobbying" and whose lobbying is often a been of avery gentle approach, often minimal without any dept and generally just going with the flow rather than making the tough comments sometimes need as the want to grow their self-importance. One example of that approach by that Bicycle Network affiliate was the promoting not that long ago of the safety values of painted white lines. Personally I don't have a big issue with painted white lines as a confident cyclist and they maybe fine for more experienced riders, the type of rider likely to be member of said organisation, BUT for many other cyclists who are not as confident, want to ride with their kids and so on they are not as the research and data shows (low participation rates says it all).

Furthermore in WA we have a government funded peak body in WA whose role is in part to draw the various cycling groups together to move cycling forward: the Bicycle Network affiliate has stayed out of the peak body and some would argue they will not come on board unless they can at least control the "road side of it." So instead of working together we have all the other players in one group working together and the Bicycle Network affiliate standing outside.

Finally and more of an illustration of how events does result in real change RolandP has a nice example (but not one of a Bicycle Network run event) of how a once a year event, held on the Freeway here in Perth contrasts to the daily riding experience of the commuter who rides alongside the same freeway. Now this event is a great one in that in that it promotes cycling and raises funds for charity both of which are very good goals BUT it does not translate into the real incentive to encourage cycling, better infrastructure and I suspect does not result in significant sustained take-up of cycling (research project there for sure :))



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Re: An interesting comment on the role of advocacy groups

Postby g-boaf » Sat Feb 09, 2013 4:09 pm

I'm very wary of advocacy groups for some of the reasons Andrew outlined above.

I feel that the issue of cycling infrastructure like large scale cycle ways for commuter riding at higher speeds is something that should be tackled by government perhaps without the involvement of the cycling networks. Bring in expertise from overseas - from those countries that already have successful commuter cycling infrastructure. It has to be done right first go.

I admit I'm not a member of any bike advocacy groups or cycling clubs, so I'm not biased towards any of them.
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Re: An interesting comment on the role of advocacy groups

Postby il padrone » Sat Feb 09, 2013 4:11 pm

By "Bicycle Network affiliate" do you refer to one individual, one organisation or BNV itself? I really don't see how BNV should have any role in WA. Don't you have your own state bicycle advocate group (or two of them IIRC)?


Aushiker wrote:Now this event is a great one in that in that it promotes cycling and raises funds for charity both of which are very good goals BUT it does not translate into the real incentive to encourage cycling, better infrastructure and I suspect does not result in significant sustained take-up of cycling (research project there for sure :))

If it is done well such an event certainly can do so. I believe that Ride To Work Day has lead to an ongoing result of something like 20 or 30% of riders continuing to ride to work on at least a weekly basis. Not a bad score in my opinion.
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Re: An interesting comment on the role of advocacy groups

Postby il padrone » Sat Feb 09, 2013 4:21 pm

g-boaf wrote:I feel that the issue of cycling infrastructure like large scale cycle ways for commuter riding at higher speeds is something that should be tackled by government perhaps without the involvement of the cycling networks.

A huge level of naivety. Without the push from advocacy groups governments delight in doing nothing !! :evil:
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Re: An interesting comment on the role of advocacy groups

Postby wizdofaus » Sat Feb 09, 2013 5:56 pm

human909 wrote:Some bicycle groups seem to be road cycling focussed. BNV seems to mostly a family (mums & dads) focus. To that end they support on and off road cycle infrastructure. They support helmets.

My focus is on promoting cycling to EVERYONE. As far as I'm concerned the Dutch model is the best way to go about this. Overall I would like to see less helmets, less Lycra and more everyday people on bikes. As far as I go, I will road bike, MTB, utility cycle, commute cycle as I see fit. I like cycling of all types! :D :D This autumn though I am thinking of getting much more into mountain biking.


I'm curious why you think 'less lycra' is a good thing? Realistically I see that most of any continued increase in the number of cyclists will come from casual utility riders that aren't going to be fussed with lycra, so sure, the percentage of us that get around on expensive roadies kitted out in garish jerseys and knicks will decrease, but the reality is that we are often the most visible proof that there the roads are there for cyclists as well as cars, and certainly the site of us zooming past the traffic must be some sort of encouragement to those that haven't completely set their mind against ever being seen on a bicycle. Interestingly though, I've never met a serious cyclist that genuinely thinks less of casual/utility cyclists, where I myself just a few years ago was one of many of the latter group that thought they'd never be seen dead in such gear.
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Re: An interesting comment on the role of advocacy groups

Postby il padrone » Sat Feb 09, 2013 6:08 pm

wizdofaus wrote: Interestingly though, I've never met a serious cyclist that genuinely thinks less of casual/utility cyclists.

Hmm.....

Not sure what city you ride in but it sure ain't Melbourne. Roadies routinely look down their noses at touring cyclists and commuters on city bikes. References on this very forum to "POBSOs" are a clear indication of the bias that some/many cycling race/training enthusiasts have.
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Re: An interesting comment on the role of advocacy groups

Postby Aushiker » Sat Feb 09, 2013 6:16 pm

il padrone wrote:By "Bicycle Network affiliate" do you refer to one individual, one organisation or BNV itself? I really don't see how BNV should have any role in WA. Don't you have your own state bicycle advocate group (or two of them IIRC)?


Ah Bicycle Network is the brand Bicycle Victoria use outside of Victoria as I understand it and from my reading the very group Steven is referring to in respect to Tasmania and they "operate here" in the West as well via their coalition member.

As to Ride to Work day that is not the sort of "event" that I suspect that Steven is referring to given what he actually wrote and is not what I would consider an event either in the context of this discussion.

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Last edited by Aushiker on Sat Feb 09, 2013 6:25 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: An interesting comment on the role of advocacy groups

Postby g-boaf » Sat Feb 09, 2013 6:20 pm

Let them push - but also let them do it in a way that benefits everyone - not just those in the local area of the bike group which might already be well catered for. All the ships must sail in the same direction. Otherwise the advocacy won't be as effective.

I'll dig out some quotes later to illustrate the point.

Wizdofaus - I don't know why less Lycra is a good thing either. It's just a practical type of gear that some bike riders wear. I do - and I don't think any less of others who ride other types if bikes in casual clothing. I see more bike riders as being a good thing. I have a feeling that the Lycra thing is just a sort of diversionary tactic.

We are all cyclists - as much as some here hate to acknowledge that (and prefer to call themselves bike-riders), so it's strange how the different portions of the community can be so divided and divisive.

I see someone else on a bike - maybe he or she has just started out and is trying to get fit, or whatever and I think - good on you for giving it a go and more power to you. If they are doing that, then they will probably encourage someone else to give it a go too, and then it's better for us all. With more numbers, we have a collectively stronger voice - provided we act as a united group with a cohesive voice.

Il padrone: in Sydney they are pretty decent. I'll point out LACC as a pretty good lot from the occasional encounters I've had with some of their people.
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Re: An interesting comment on the role of advocacy groups

Postby il padrone » Sat Feb 09, 2013 6:32 pm

g-boaf wrote:Let them push - but also let them do it in a way that benefits everyone - not just those in the local area of the bike group which might already be well catered for. All the ships must sail in the same direction. Otherwise the advocacy won't be as effective.

I'm really not sure what you mean by all of this ?? Certainly at a state level BNV operates through their own lobbying and the actions of BUGs - Bicycle User Groups. These groups are very much focused on their local campaigns. Why on earth should they not do so? BNV lobbies for many state-wide and local issues. Both aspects are important.

At a national scale, advocacy is, and long has been, rather a bit of a mish-mash. :roll: There is the Australian Bicycle Coalition (I think ?), AGF, and then there are all the racing umbrella groups. I know little about these.
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Re: An interesting comment on the role of advocacy groups

Postby wizdofaus » Sun Feb 10, 2013 4:36 am

il padrone wrote:
wizdofaus wrote: Interestingly though, I've never met a serious cyclist that genuinely thinks less of casual/utility cyclists.

Hmm.....

Not sure what city you ride in but it sure ain't Melbourne. Roadies routinely look down their noses at touring cyclists and commuters on city bikes. References on this very forum to "POBSOs" are a clear indication of the bias that some/many cycling race/training enthusiasts have.


Well there's always some. But personally I got nothing but respect from such cyclists before I made the full conversion myself for my ability to keep up with them :-)

The only cyclists I think disapprovingly of now are the ones that are obviously giving the rest of us a bad name by their general behaviour on the road/paths (especially around pedestrians).
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Re: An interesting comment on the role of advocacy groups

Postby Xplora » Sun Feb 10, 2013 10:51 am

I think the blogger is stating that he likes advocacy groups to have a focus?

There is no way that organising public events can have any meaningful impact on cycling, unless it creates awareness of paths and current popular routes or is such that it is virtually 100% charity fundraising. The Gong ride and that 2 day Cancer ride come to mind. This creates a total interest in making money or creating awareness. It should cost nothing, or cost a lot, depending on the goal.

Now, let's get real - BNSW isn't achieving either of those things with the Spring Cycle, are they? Starting the ride in the freaking city, and meandering around the inner west isn't going to help most of Sydney adopt riding. There is infrastructure already, getting people aware of them and confident in them will help.

Ultimately, if you only have 3-5 people working fulltime in your advocacy group, running a fullscale tour once a year is going to cost 6 months wages for one person. Wouldn't that 6 months be better off writing letters and visiting BUGs and races and holding meetings at club AGMs etc? If you can't hold enough attention of the community to fund this stuff without running a business on the side, perhaps you need to merge with a like minded organisation?

I think the big take home is that if your focus is infrastructure, you should ensure that remains your goal, and don't rain on the parade of others who share your end goal of better/safer cycling. I recall some of the comments from AGF recently which have been pretty appalling. I don't think 2nd Womble would so blithely offer such a limp wristed sound bite when given the opportunity.
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Re: An interesting comment on the role of advocacy groups

Postby il padrone » Sun Feb 10, 2013 11:13 am

Xplora wrote:I think the blogger is stating that he likes advocacy groups to have a focus?

There is no way that organising public events can have any meaningful impact on cycling

"More people cycling, more often" is the over-riding stated goal of BNV. I fail to see how public event rides do not help achieve this :?

BNV employs a good few more than 3 staff, and the rides they run are the major source of their funds to enable their advocacy work. So I'd say they certainly do have a meaningful impact - in several ways:

- funding
- cycling participation
- publicity (the rides always get the press)
- numbers on the road (big factor in lobbying to give validity as a representative)
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Re: An interesting comment on the role of advocacy groups

Postby high_tea » Sun Feb 10, 2013 12:39 pm

wizdofaus wrote:
human909 wrote:Some bicycle groups seem to be road cycling focussed. BNV seems to mostly a family (mums & dads) focus. To that end they support on and off road cycle infrastructure. They support helmets.

My focus is on promoting cycling to EVERYONE. As far as I'm concerned the Dutch model is the best way to go about this. Overall I would like to see less helmets, less Lycra and more everyday people on bikes. As far as I go, I will road bike, MTB, utility cycle, commute cycle as I see fit. I like cycling of all types! :D :D This autumn though I am thinking of getting much more into mountain biking.


I'm curious why you think 'less lycra' is a good thing? Realistically I see that most of any continued increase in the number of cyclists will come from casual utility riders that aren't going to be fussed with lycra, so sure, the percentage of us that get around on expensive roadies kitted out in garish jerseys and knicks will decrease, but the reality is that we are often the most visible proof that there the roads are there for cyclists as well as cars, and certainly the site of us zooming past the traffic must be some sort of encouragement to those that haven't completely set their mind against ever being seen on a bicycle. Interestingly though, I've never met a serious cyclist that genuinely thinks less of casual/utility cyclists, where I myself just a few years ago was one of many of the latter group that thought they'd never be seen dead in such gear.


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Re: An interesting comment on the role of advocacy groups

Postby Xplora » Sun Feb 10, 2013 1:30 pm

il padrone wrote:"More people cycling, more often" is the over-riding stated goal of BNV. I fail to see how public event rides do not help achieve this :?

I feel the event rides present more of a public soothing, rather than a meaningful, lasting impact. It's like "International Year of People with a Disability". What does this mean? We change our 50c coin for a year? What did that actually achieve? Unless you're out there actually working with disabled people or helping your disabled relatives, then you're making no difference to the disabled. Symbolism is pointless. Your tax dollars and donations - they are doing something to solve the problem.

In the same way, once a year cyclists getting exposed to the elements might seem like a flash idea, but to my mind they are simply getting exposed to unfamiliar routes with unfamiliar "rules" and unfamiliar culture. The cult of the Road is a big difference to the Freds and others that human909 waves the banner for. We had a few lads do the Gong ride this year from this forum that said they needed more kms to make it an event for them. 90kms wasn't enough. That's a big difference to the people struggling to finish the 90!

It would be more useful to have a once a month/quarter ride along a particular route to help people ease into cycling more seriously (commuting, racing, weekend bunches) and give them time to learn how to cope with the traffic on the bike. That would make it easier for more people to cycle more often. Once a year? Pfft.

I guess I have different ideas to others, and that's OK. I just don't think you actually get a commitment to abandon a car for any reason by making a song and dance of it.
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Re: An interesting comment on the role of advocacy groups

Postby il padrone » Sun Feb 10, 2013 1:58 pm

Xplora wrote:
il padrone wrote:"More people cycling, more often" is the over-riding stated goal of BNV. I fail to see how public event rides do not help achieve this :?

I feel the event rides present more of a public soothing, rather than a meaningful, lasting impact. It's like "International Year of People with a Disability". What does this mean? We change our 50c coin for a year? What did that actually achieve? Unless you're out there actually working with disabled people or helping your disabled relatives, then you're making no difference to the disabled. Symbolism is pointless. Your tax dollars and donations - they are doing something to solve the problem.

I'm sorry but I disagree with you on this, so much I don't know where to begin. :roll:

Xplora wrote:In the same way, once a year cyclists getting exposed to the elements might seem like a flash idea, but to my mind they are simply getting exposed to unfamiliar routes with unfamiliar "rules" and unfamiliar culture.

And the problem with this is ??

Each year something like 1200 riders are groups of school students, for whom the idea of riding a bike 600kms is a huge challenge, not at all doing the 'same old' on a different route. New riders discovering the potential of bicycle transport.

Xplora wrote:It would be more useful to have a once a month/quarter ride along a particular route to help people ease into cycling more seriously (commuting, racing, weekend bunches) and give them time to learn how to cope with the traffic on the bike.

This is what a good cycle-touring club, BUG, or maybe even a racing club might do - not the role of an advocacy group like BNV. You are seriously mixing up the roles and tasks now. My club does this sort of thing - runs about 2-3 rides per week. Good idea, try joining one. But no-one these days seems to see a need to actually join groups :roll:


BTW, BNV actually does run much more than just one annual ride. 3 Peaks is coming up in a month, then there is the Tasmanian Escapade, Ride to Work Day, and every so often they run a Great NZ Ride.
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Re: An interesting comment on the role of advocacy groups

Postby high_tea » Sun Feb 10, 2013 3:01 pm

Yeah
il padrone wrote:
BTW, BNV actually does run much more than just one annual ride. 3 Peaks is coming up in a month, then there is the Tasmanian Escapade, Ride to Work Day, and every so often they run a Great NZ Ride.


Yeah, I think this is an important point. Up here, BQ runs a number of rides. There's the obvious stuff catering to the sporting cyclists. There's pushing cycle tourism (like the Tasmania thing mentioned in the OP). Then there's child-focussed rides and a variety of other things in between. A lot of it isn't my cup of tea, with one thing and another and that's just fine. As long as it gets some new cyclists in and/or puts out a positive message about cycling, mission accomplished! I have some unkind remarks about BQ and their advocacy, but the way that they organise rides seems fairly well adapted to the end of increasing cycling participation and making its demographic and economic significance clear.
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Re: An interesting comment on the role of advocacy groups

Postby Xplora » Mon Feb 11, 2013 11:13 am

Perhaps getting the logo onto the rides as a minor sponsor for the gran fondos and sportivo already in place would be equally as effective? I just don't think that spending tons of money and effort on these fundraising gigs actually achieves their goal. My commuting is not the result of BNSW, it was the result of grass roots help. I've done the Spring Cycle and while riding across the Harbour Bridge is fun, it will cost me 120 bucks to take my wife or a friend with me, and I remember it being really busy along the road. Not my idea of educational or fun.

It does take different skills to organise a ride and organise advocacy. It also creates a difficult proposition where I disagree with BNSW so I don't think I'd want to support them even if the Spring Cycle was free. This actually detracts from their key goal of participation! :lol:
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Re: An interesting comment on the role of advocacy groups

Postby il padrone » Mon Feb 11, 2013 11:46 am

Xplora wrote:Perhaps getting the logo onto the rides as a minor sponsor for the gran fondos and sportivo already in place would be equally as effective? I just don't think that spending tons of money and effort on these fundraising gigs actually achieves their goal.

'Fundraising' is not the operating mode of the BNV rides, at least in the normal sense ie. raising sponsorships for riders' efforts. They are commercial, profit-making rides. The profits are used by BNV (or BNSW) to fund their other functions. My cycle-touring club does the same thing with our MAD Ride, which incidentally was pretty much the seeding concept for the first Great Victorian Bike Ride, the first of these mass-event rides. Members of MBTC, notably Ron Shepherd and Anna Urban, were the people behind the idea of a sesquicentennial celebration tour for 1984.

BTW, the BNV/BNSW rides were the events "already in place", long before such things as gran fondos and sportivos (whatever they may be) came along :wink:

Xplora wrote:It also creates a difficult proposition where I disagree with BNSW so I don't think I'd want to support them even if the Spring Cycle was free. This actually detracts from their key goal of participation! :lol:

You make such a decision because you are already an active, politically-aware cycling enthusiast. Your participation in cycling is pretty much a given...... not the major target of BNV's "More people cycling..." The rides have the practical goal of getting non-cyclists riding, and occasional riders riding more regularly, apart from simply having a lot of fun!
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Re: An interesting comment on the role of advocacy groups

Postby barefoot » Tue Feb 12, 2013 1:27 pm

il padrone wrote:Sadly, while a NE Tasmania Raltrail that he advocates may be really nice for the local community and will push along the tourist industry to some extent, it is not a core aspect of encouraging more bicycle transport to replace motor vehicle use.


You have to take any comment Steven makes about reclaimed railways in the context of his grand utopian vision, of reclaiming disused "brownfield" industrial sites into car-free bike-dependent residential developments, inter-linked by bike paths along the abandoned railway and waterway easements that already link the sites, with minimal interaction with the mainstream car-dependent urban fabric that already covers the landscape.

Whether it's viewed as a genuine proposal or a quirky academic hypothetical, he talks about a complete parallel, independent transport and living infrastructure, and how we might go about establishing it. He's not campaigning for an isolated recreational rail-trail in Tasmania; he's contemplating BN(V)s role in helping develop and implement his cycle-space urban model. That model might include inter-urban transport corridors parallel to the existing roads... but such a corridor certainly isn't the main goal.

He has some interesting, and some amusing ideas. But I wouldn't take his opinion on BNVs advocacy role, in isolation, as being a reasoned critique relative to any conventional understanding of the role of bicycles in society.

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Re: An interesting comment on the role of advocacy groups

Postby il padrone » Tue Feb 12, 2013 1:53 pm

Ahhh, a utopian visionary :wink:

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Re: An interesting comment on the role of advocacy groups

Postby barefoot » Tue Feb 12, 2013 2:18 pm

il padrone wrote:Ahhh, a utopian visionary :wink:


:lol:

Yep. Rainbows, unicorns and BODs.

I prefer to read his writings as a thought experiment. But sometimes he strays a bit too close to... you know... reality... and seems to be taking his own fantasies a bit too seriously.

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Re: An interesting comment on the role of advocacy groups

Postby Howzat » Tue Feb 12, 2013 3:01 pm

I believe that's a vision of his self-regard if his patent pet project "Bike Hour" ever takes off.
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