A lot of cyclists' blogs I've read talk about how the real key to gaining the acceptance of bicyclists into mainstream traffic and the planning which it requires is education.
I see education as affecting and being needed by two sets of people: general cyclists and non-cyclists.
First, why cyclists need education. How many times have you been riding along, following the rules of the road and doing things as a commuting cyclist should: staying visible, taking the lane when necessary, etc., when you see some one on a bike whose actions make you cringe. They're riding on the sidewalk. They're riding the wrong way. They're weaving in and out of parked cars on the side of the road. They're blowing through red lights and stopsigns without even looking. Or they're dressed totally in black and it's dark out anyway.
How do we reach these types of cyclists? They may not be regular commuters, and they may not even consider themselves part of the "cycling community." They're just taking a bike ride or using their bike to get to class, or whatever. They don't have any clue about things like the League of American Bicyclists, they've never considered taking a bike safety class, and they probably don't even know that such things exist. They're just folks who decide to grab their bike one day and go out.
They're not going to read a bicycling blog or forum. That's not their interest. But they are lumped into this amorphous group of "cyclists" who are seen by motorists as one homogeneous group. Many of us work very hard to make things better for cyclists but also realize that cyclists need to do their part. How do we, as the conscientious cyclists, reach people like this?
Second, the motorists. Even less than the cyclists who don't view themselves as such, they're NOT going to pay any attention to blogs, advocacy groups, forums, etc. They have no vested interest in promoting cycling. They don't know that bicycles have the same rights to the road that they do and harass us to "get on the sidewalk." How do we reach these people with educational efforts?
I'd love to open this to some discussion: How have you done this successfully in your communities?
Update: I accidentally rejected a couple of comments... if you commented on this and you don't see your comment here, please resubmit it! I apologize for having fast fingers yesterday. I found my email notifications of your comments and posted them below...
Mike: Maybe people should have to have a cycling license?
Maybe the laws should be enforced for cyclists... running red lights, wrong side of the street, on the sidewalk.
Maybe that's a solution. Thoughts?