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BFC Spotlight: Las Vegas

Last week, we announced our latest round of Bicycle Friendly Communities, bringing the program to 303 BFCs in 48 states. Las Vegas, NV, is one of 18 new BFCs, receiving the Bronze-level award. We were struck by Las Vegas’s growth and blooming bike culture. Kristina Swallow, a program manager for the city’s Department of Public Works, wrote this story about Las Vegas’s rise as a Bicycle Friendly Community.

Last week, the City of Las Vegas was honored to be included with the 18 other communities being recognized for the first time as Bicycle Friendly.  Don’t laugh, we know that bicycle friendly isn’t often a term that is linked with our community.  Recently, however, as the city has started to address the changing interests and needs of our residents and visitors, the media has started to highlight cycling opportunities in and around the City.  They recognize the incredible weather and scenery we have year round, the developing bicycle facility network and our commitment to mobility and accessibility. Likewise, we attribute the recent recognition to the investments we have made in increasing bicycle infrastructure and support of the diverse and growing cycling community.

So what have we done? In 2006 we had only 30 lane miles of bicycle lanes.  In February, when we submitted our application, just 8 years later, we had over 444 lane miles of bicycle lanes, including an extensive downtown network of green bike lanes.  That increase is a direct result of a focused effort to address bicyclists concerns and add lanes whenever possible, on new roads and on roads that are being rehabilitated or reconstructed.  In total, there are bicycle lanes on nearly 50% of our arterials.  We also have 102 miles of paved off-street facilities. 

We’ve also been focusing on enhancing accessibility through a partnership with the Downtown Project, an organization committed to improving and investing in downtown.  They identified a need for additional bike parking and with their assistance; we identified locations throughout downtown that required bike parking immediately and installed racks at those locations.  Moving forward, the city will install, maintain and own bike racks that are donated by located businesses.  

As we have increased our bicycle facilities, our local bicycling community has also increased.  Today, our cycling community includes the traditional road cyclists and mountain bikers, who are now taking a larger leadership role in pushing for additional facilities.  In addition to annual signature events like Viva Las Vegas and Tour De Summerlin and many smaller events in the valley, the community is now promoting more opportunities for local amateur and professional racing.  They recognize that there are many talented riders in the Valley that either race elsewhere or need to be developed and lack opportunities to build their skills locally.  Developing a local race scene is good for both the riders and Las Vegas.

Perhaps one of the best indicators of our growing cycling culture is that our cycling community also includes non-traditional groups like our bike polo club, Blinking Man and the Hammer and Cycle bicycle club.  Blinking Man leads periodic rides throughout our downtown that are billed as Burning Man on bikes.  These rides feature costumed riders, bikes (many with fur), and lots of lights.  The Hammer and Cycle club leads rides of cyclists on custom bikes most nights of the week throughout our community.

Photo of a Blinking Man ride in Las Vegas

Las Vegas is a one of a kind city.  Increasing the commitment to cycling will require creativity and continued partnerships with the community.  We look forward to receiving feedback from the League on how we can continue to improve, not for recognition but because it matters, to our residents and our visitors and it makes life better for both.

Learn more about the Bicycle Friendly Community program here.