Sample Outline for Newspaper Op-Ed
Written by elected official or community leader
~450 words, 10 paragraphs~
Lead: We all win with more bicycling (paragraph 1)
When I ride a bike or you ride a bike, our whole city benefits.
Great things happen…
… for individual residents ($ saved when they bike instead of drive, better health, better mood, independence, freedom)
… for our city ($ saved on infrastructure and healthcare; less road congestion; better air quality; enhanced quality of life; calmer, quieter streets)
… for our nation (less money spent on foreign oil, lower healthcare costs, reducing the obesity epedemic) [It’s up to you to decide how far you want to take this]
Key point: When we create places that are safe and easy for bike riding, it’s not just for the bike riders themselves, but for all residents and visitors in our city.
Part 1: Bicycling is a cost-effective transportation mode (paragraphs 2–4)
- Given our budget crisis, we can only afford to invest in things that provide multiple benefits to our city at a low cost. Investments in bike infrastructure do this beautifully.
- Nationally, 1.5% of transportation dollars go to bicycling and walking, yet these modes comprise 12% of all trips (substitute local figures if you have them—the ratio is probably even higher). Bicycle infrastructure costs just a fraction of transit or roadways to move a comparable number of people.
- Government support of bicycling boosts our economy by keeping more hard-earned dollars local, reducing costly government spending on parking lots, roads and road maintenance, and directly addresses key societal challenges, such as obesity and rising healthcare costs.
- The Texas Transportation Institute ranks traffic congestion in our city as the XXth worst among the largest U.S. metro areas, costing our city millions in wasted fuel and lost time.
Key point: Bicycling provides taxpayers a lot of bang for the buck.
Part 2: Bicycling is a contemporary solution that is working in cities all over the world (paragraphs 4–6)
- Nearly every major U.S. city mayor recognizes the benefits and has become a strong supporter of bicycling investments.
- The most livable cities in the world are firmly committed to improving bicycling. In Dutch city centers as many as one half of all trips are made on bikes by people of all ages. But it’s not just Northern Europe. From Salt Lake to Chicago to Memphis, cities are making bold commitments to make bicycling a part of their transportation networks.
This trend is being successfully exported to U.S. cities, coast to coast:
- After committing to infrastructure improvements on major routes, commuter bicycling more than doubled in New York between 2006 and 2010, while crash rates decreased.
- The Los Angeles City Council unanimously adopted a bike plan that calls for 200 miles of new bikeway facilities per year—a total of nearly 1,700 miles by 2020—to connect homes, schools, and businesses.
- Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel campaigned on a pledge to create 25 miles of state-of-the-art bike lanes fully protected from cars on city streets each year, setting a new national standard for safe, comfortable urban bicycling.
- [or include examples closer to home]
- Even today, X number of trips are made by bike in our city every day.
Key point: We’re on the right track, and we’re not alone. We’re part of a powerful, beneficial trend that’s happening all over the country/world.
Part 3: Bicycling is a normal, everyday activity for anyone, not just people who are athletic and young (paragraphs 6–8)
[Personal stories about transportation bicycling should go here. For an elected official, something like “I’m not an athlete, but I sometimes use a bike to get to City Hall. The ride helps clear my head and gets me to meetings quickly and efficiently.”]
- Bicycling is not just for athletic people in spandex: I do it, parents do it, kids do it, and older people do it.
- Our city should be safe and comfortable enough for anybody who wants to use a bike for short trips to do so—not just the young and bold. Feeling safe is really important.
- Sometimes I ride my bike, sometimes I take transit, sometimes I drive a car—having a variety of transportation choices makes our city better. Cars and trucks will continue to be important to our network, but we need to develop and improve other modes.
Key point: Normal people like you and me ride bicycles, for some trips, some of the time.
Part 4: Your vision for bicycling in your city (paragraphs 8–10)
What does transportation in our city look like in 2020?
- XX% of trips made by bike—faster, easier, cheaper, and more convenient than driving or transit for short trips.
- Describe benefits: quality of life, great public spaces, healthy businesses, healthier people, air quality, cost savings.
- Recognize costs to achieve this vision: “To achieve this goal, we’ll need to invest X% of our transportation budget over the next XX years—a very reasonable price for a transportation mode with so much upside.”
Close: Repeat key messages (paragraphs 8–10)
- Regardless of whether you ride or not, your life will get better if more people ride bikes in our city.
- Bicycling is a modern, cost-effective way to get around, but investments are needed to make it safe and comfortable for anyone.