Measurements are taken often at how well our communities fare on a number of topics. There are statistics regarding places with the least crime, or most sunshine, and even number of fast-food joints per capita. There are also measurements regarding bicycle-friendly standards, along with benchmarks on achieving these goals.
For many years, the League of American Bicyclists have been measuring how well our nation is developing in safely accommodating bicycle traffic. One of its most popular lists includes the top 50 bicycle-friendly cities of 95,000 or more in population. In 2012, seven out of the top 10 were large northern climate cities such as Portland, Ore. (1), Minneapolis (2) and even Chicago (5).
Surprised? Think only those warm-weather southern cities would be clearly out front? Many would, but it goes to show climate is far from the deciding factor in helping your community be bicycle-friendly. In fact, there are a number of factors that aid in creating this culture, which have been identified by the league as a “bicycle-friendly community.”
A community recognized by the league as bicycle friendly is one that welcomes cyclists with trails, bike lanes, share the road campaigns, organized rides, Bike to Work Day events and other related activities. An application evaluates how a particular community encourages people to bike for transportation and recreation through the five Es: engineering, education, encouragement, enforcement and evaluation.
As of 2012, more than 500 communities have applied, and 215 have been awarded Bronze, Silver, Gold or Platinum designation. Once a community becomes a bicycle-friendly community, the league will present an award and two highway-quality road signs at a local ceremony or celebration.
The process toward certification starts at the league’s website – bikeleague.org – where either a municipal official, concerned group or citizen can fill out an application. There is a quick assessment tool that you can use to see how you measure up to the standards. The league will also provide you with custom feedback based on your responses to help your community achieve bicycle-friendly status.
Of prime focus are strategies and policies related to the five E’s mentioned above. A sample of these include complete streets policies, a community bike map, a comprehensive bicycle plan and adequate bicycle parking. Although your community may lack many of these standards, taking the assessment will provide your hometown with a blueprint on becoming a recognized location for bicycle-access, and the numerous benefits associated.
For more information about the program, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or (219) 763-6060. For a free trails map of our region, visit www.nirpc.org/greenways-blueways. Happy Bike Month!