In this month’s Biofriendly DIY, we’re going to discuss what it takes to make your community bicycle friendly. Why? Well, because National Bike Month has just ended and we’ve got bike-riding on the brain. Plus, we’d love to see you get out and ride.
Think about it, if more people were able to bike around their communities, we could limit the use of vehicles. In turn, this would mean we would have safer places for our families, friends and neighbors to live.
So, in this article, we are going to cover what it takes to make a community bicycle friendly. We’ll also talk about whether or not your community may be recognized as being bicycle friendly and what it is going to take to get more cities focused on being pedestrian and bike friendly.
WHat it takes to make a community bicycle friendly
When Luko publishes their Global Bicycle City Index they look at a wide variety of factors to determine whether a city, or community, is bike friendly. In fact, all of these aspects (and more) are considered:
- Bicycle usage
- Bicycle theft
- # of bicycle shops
- Accidents and fatalities involving bicyclists
- # of bike sharing or rental stations
- Specialized roads
So, it isn’t just whether your community has a lot of people riding bikes around. It’s also whether your community has invested in bike lanes, put safety measures for bicyclists in place, made resources which encourage people to ride bicycles readily available and more.
Cities and communities either have to be built with the intention of being bicycle friendly or steps need to be take to adjust the mindset of the whole community so as to make a bicycle friendly community possible. People are so used to driving vehicles to get where they need to go, they don’t always consider riding a bike as a feasible option. That is…until the city and its residents step up and make it so.
Is Your Community Bicycle Friendly?
According to the League of American Bicyclists, the U.S. currently has 506 bicycle friendly communities, almost 1600 bicycle friendly businesses and over 200 bicycle friendly universities. In all honesty, while it’s nice to see more communities becoming bicycle friendly, this is just a drop in the bucket of where we should and could be here in the United States. An article from the World Economic Forum stated the U.S. didn’t even make it into the list of the top 10 most bike friendly cities in the world. Our highest placing city was San Francisco at number 39. Portland, OR was 41st and Seattle, WA came in at 50.
People for Bikes released this list in January 2023 of the best new U.S. bike lanes. One of the best features about these bike lanes are the protection they offer bicyclists.
Those who are looking to travel can visit one of the 10 cities listed as the best in the world to see while riding a bicycle. I mean, how cool would it be to not only go to a wonderful, new locale, but to do so at your own pace while riding a bike. In these cities you could get some exercise, go sightseeing to places you wouldn’t be able to go if you just took a guided bus tour and visit the local favorites, all on a bicycle.
Getting more communities focused on being pedestrian and bicycle friendly
In many places around the world, bicycling has been ingrained into the culture as a primary source of transportation. It is simply how people get around…because their community is built around it. They see bicycling to and from work, as well as other places around the city, as simply a way a life. Longer distances can be travelled by bus or train.
The reduction of harmful vehicle emissions is a key factor, and benefit, of making cities more bicycle friendly. If you’ve ever been to a city where there aren’t a lot of cars driving around, you’ve probably noticed the cleaner, fresher air. Compare a pedestrian and bike friendly city to one where vehicle congestion is the norm and I’m sure you’ll see (and feel) the difference.
In most cases, getting a community on board with creating a more pedestrian and bicycle friendly city is simply a matter of appealing to the good nature of its residents. If people had a safe road on which to ride their bicycles, where they didn’t have to worry about being run off the road by vehicles, they’d be more likely to get out and ride. You’d probably see more people out walking, riding bikes, skateboarding, using scooters, etc. Add in some trees along those streets and it’d almost be like riding in the park.
What some cities Are doing
Los Angeles gives its residents a glimpse at what it would be like to have more bicycle friendly communities each time it hosts CicLAvia events throughout the city. Since their first event in 2010, more than 1.8 million people have been able to explore over 270 miles of open streets in Los Angeles county.
Seattle is taking steps to not only put a new bike lane in place but, also, figure out additional parking to make up for the on-street parking lost due to the bike lane addition. In New York, the city just debuted a “double-lane” protected bike lane to offer riders more room and improved safety on their rides. Paris is planning to completely ban cars from the historic sections around its capital, making it a pedestrian, scooter and bicycle friendly area.
London introduced a transportation transformation plan a few decades ago, in an effort to reduce vehicle-traffic in the city center. The city has seen a 10% reduction in vehicle traffic and a 66% increase in bicycle traffic over the last decade. Apparently one of the key components of the plan has been the implementation of a “congestion charge” to drive in the city center during peak traffic hours. Certain areas of the city have also been designed as Ultra Low Emission Zones (ULEZs) to further discourage car usage.
People for Bikes believes parking reform is key to building bike friendly cities. Cities have to be designed (or redesigned) and built to be bicycle-centric, instead of being focused on vehicles. If you want your city to be more bikeable, the need for so many parking spots will simply disappear. Making a community bicycle-friendly can truly transform the area and people’s views on how their community should be.
Start small and go from there
Going car-free, or at the very least bicycle friendly, is all in a state of mind. Start by talking with your community leaders. Find out what projects are in the works and, if none are, introduce your own. Cities all around the world have been reimagining changes to their transportation infrastructure they never thought possible, but it is working and does make for a more eco-friendly community.
You may not be able to image how to live without a car but, if it were to become a necessity, then you really wouldn’t have any other option. Walk where you can. Ride your bike for longer errands or trips. Get an e-bike to help on uphill rides. Take public transportation when necessary. Do it yourself and encourage others to do the same.
When you think about your city being more pedestrian and bicycle friendly, consider it an investment in the future. With less vehicles on the road, you’ll have less pollution. Fewer vehicles also means less of a need for parking spots. You could have roads used mainly by bicyclists and pedestrians. Nice thought, isn’t it? What’s even better is it truly can become a reality.