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The Pursuit of Diamond Status: Boulder and Davis Say "I Do"
Earlier this month League President, Andy Clark, and I traveled to Boulder, Colo., and Davis, Calif. -- but I was transported back to my college years in Germany.
Bicycling along the network of paths and bike lanes in these two Platinum-level Bicycle Friendly Communities, I was able to comfortably ride for miles and miles without the need to bike on a high-speed road to meet up with city staff at the town hall, grab some food with local bike advocates at a downtown restaurant or attend an evening function at a museum.
In Davis, I got nearly run over by a large group of junior high school students on bikes, trying to pedal to class in time. In Boulder, we witnessed a frolicking group of young men riding around town in the evening with a boom box on the rack and lights in their wheels. These two Platinum BFCs really seem to have it all -- the infrastructure, the bike culture and a compact and mixed land use that allow destinations to be quickly reached by bike.
Can it get any better than this? Well, though a good number of people bike in Davis and Boulder, more than half of the residents in cities like Copenhagen in Denmark or Utrecht in the Netherlands have adopted the bicycle as their main form of transportation. To challenge our own top cycling cities to move beyond Platinum and compete with world-class cycling cities, the League developed a new Diamond-designation. Andy and I traveled to Boulder and Davis to kick off their Diamond challenge. (Next month, we'll pedal that challenge in the third Platinum city: Portland, Ore.
Boulder received us with overcast skies but heart-felt enthusiasm. We checked out two bright red B-cycle bikes for the duration of our stay and got quite a few miles out of them. We met with local government officials and staff, community and advocacy representatives and were treated to a three-hour tour of the city. The Diamond challenge will require the local government and the community to work together to address any remaining obstacles to cycling to encourage an additional 5 percent of commuters to bike to work or school -- for Diamond designation, a 15 percent bicycle mode share among the minimum requirements.
Go Boulder Manager Kathleen Bracke is confident the city is ready to step up: “The City of Boulder/GO Boulder is excited to continue our partnership with the League and the Boulder community to advance bicycling as a way of life and look forward to working together to achieve the new Diamond level Bike Friendly Community designation."
Mayor Matt Appelbaum agreed: “Recognition by the League energizes us to aim even higher. Boulder is looking forward to celebrating as the first Diamond-level Bicycle Friendly community in the future.”
One of the highlights of our visit in Boulder was a tour of the newly constructed 42-acre Valmont Bike Park, which is a one-of-a-kind natural-surface facility that allows residents and visitors of all ages and abilities to practice their mountain biking, BMX and cyclocross-skills. Our B-cycle bikes were unfortunately not made for this type of facility (though some have tried!), otherwise I would have taken a spin on the inviting singletrack course.
Davis greeted us with a bike light in our hotel room from Davis Bicycles! and two shiny, black city-owned bicycles. Since I arrived a day early, I got the chance to witness the installation of a new bike corral downtown, which featured a prominently displayed QR code that, when scanned with a smart phone app, takes you to the city’s bicycle website. During our stay we got to meet with Mayor Joe Krovoza, council member Brett Lee and city staff. We also caught up with local bicycle advocates, and representatives from the business community, the University of California at Davis and the Capital Corridor Joint Powers Authority. And got a great tour of the city's bike infrastructure from Davis Bicycles! members and active transportation coordinator David Kemp.
Fortunately our rather packed schedule allowed us to stop by a city council meeting to present the City of Davis with a Silver Bicycle Friendly Business award on our way from the Bicycle Advisory Commission meeting to the holiday festivities of the Davis Bike Club. But hands down the highlight of our visit in Davis was to see the Active 4 Me program in action at a local elementary school that tracks children that walk or bike to school through bar code technology. The system also automatically informs parents that their child has arrived safely at school, addressing a real or perceived parental safety concern.
“The League’s trip to Davis truly complemented a new renaissance of pro-bicycle energy in Davis,” Kemp said. “After meeting with our elected officials, the business community, city staff, UC Davis, and bicycle advocacy groups, Andy and Nicole provided our community the positive charge and constructive feedback we needed to advance our city to the next level: Diamond! Pair this with the new, Beyond Platinum – Bicycle Action Plan and we’ll strategically propel our community, over the next five years, to work together to make Davis a world-class Bicycle Friendly Community.”
The next step for Boulder and Davis toward Diamond status will be a public survey to allow the community to chime in on the comfort and convenience of the bicycle network, perceived safety and other issues that influence people’s daily transportation and recreation choices.
“Given the City of Boulder’s ethic of ‘continuous improvement,’ we appreciate the League’s challenge for communities like Boulder to reach beyond Platinum Level to the new Diamond designation,” said Director of Public Works for Transportation Tracy Winfree. “Diamonds aren’t a girl’s best friend; Diamond Designation is.”
Click here to learn more about the Beyond Platinum program.