Mark Martin is an anomaly. In a culture dominated by automobiles, he has chosen a car-free lifestyle. In a community with meager bike infrastructure, he has commuted by bicycle for nearly 15 years. In a world where few people are willing to take the lead and push for change, he has become a leading force for bicycle rights in Louisiana.
In 2000, Mark transplanted himself in Baton Rouge and this move signaled the start of Mark’s transportation transformation. It didn’t take long to see that the city’s bike facilities were all but nonexistent. “Realizing that nothing would come of complaining unless someone did something about it, it dawned on me that that someone would have to be me,” said Mark. And so began his rise as an outspoken advocate for biking in Baton Rouge and beyond.
In 2006, Mark chaired the first board of the Baton Rouge Advocates for Safe Streets (BRASS) which was the city’s first bicycling and walking advocacy organization. He was instrumental in convincing city officials to adopt Complete Streets policies. In 2009 he worked to have the 3-feet passing and anti-harassment laws passed in Louisiana and continues to work on transportation-related legislative issues. Mark has, without a doubt, helped increase the number of people riding their bicycles in the region by promoting the 5 Es (education, engineering, encouragement, enforcement, and evaluation) of creating bicycle friendly places.
Aside from wanting to help others get out and ride, Mark simply likes the way he feels when he rides. The bicycle fills him with a spirit of freedom and joy and as he puts it, “I like being in the world, wind in my face, with no obstruction between me and what’s around me.” Mark adores the beauty of his adopted city and he takes every chance to share it with others by bicycle, of course.
Having once been a bicycle commuting newbie, Mark’s advice for new peddlers is to “take a deep breath and relax while riding.” He also suggests that new commuters take a practice ride or two when time isn’t an issue so that they can determine a good safe route. In addition, Mark encourages folks to “develop a sense of exploration — it helps when you’re looking for less trafficked routes.”
Mark’s enthusiasm for biking is contagious and his dedication to improving cycling in his community is inspiring. In parting, this mutton-chopped sage wants us all to remember to cycle with an open mind and “don’t let concern for all the benefits of riding get in the way of the joy. The benefits will be there so revel in the joy!” Hopefully we can all put Mark’s nugget of wisdom into practice as we pedal down the roads this spring and beyond.
If you have 12 minutes to spare, please check out his TED Talk. It’s motivating.