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League Hosts Workshops To Help Build Bicycle Friendly Communities

What would happen if every community could deepen and strengthen its leaders’ understanding of and commitment to Bicycle Friendly Community (BFC) standards — from getting city officials to envision what a thriving community looks like by including low-stress, connected bicycle infrastructure in planning and budgeting decisions and adopting inclusive complete street policy, to expanding bike safety education by forming partnerships and connections among League Cycling Instructors (LCIs), local biking organizations, and local businesses and universities?

This year, the League of American Bicyclists hosted hands-on workshops to provide individualized, in-person expertise for five select communities to see just how much farther we could move the needle in helping places build Bicycle Friendly Communities thanks to the generous support of General Motors (GM). After an application process, the League selected five communities where we could go above and beyond the foundational feedback and technical assistance we offer when a community applies for the BFC program. The support of GM enabled the League to lead BFC workshops in Reno, Nevada; Rochester, New York; Grand Rapids, Michigan; Kansas City, Kansas; and Flint, Michigan.

“We realize that each community is at a different stage of becoming more welcoming and safe for people bicycling and hope that these workshops will be a catalyst for creating safer and more welcoming places to bike, from the ground up,” said Anna Tang, our Bicycle Friendly America program specialist who led the workshops. “It is clear there is a growing desire to build thriving communities that give residents safe, connected options for getting to destinations other than relying on a car. While there are many other issues aside from transportation communities are grappling with, a fundamental element that weaves a community together is looking at how people get around and offer them dignified, accessible ways to do so. In our workshops, we take a critical look at how to do this for each community, for their streets and for the people there who cycle or may want to do so in the future.”

During the two-day workshop, Anna visited the selected communities and offered a comprehensive needs assessment of bicycle infrastructure, bicycle education, encouragement activities and opportunities to ride, evaluation and planning activities, and the ways equity and accessibility are used to measure and inform all actions. These essential elements of building a Bicycle Friendly America are also known as the League’s 5 Es

The BFC Workshop is also designed to bring together local stakeholders to learn about the benefits and actions required to become a League-certified Bicycle Friendly Community or build upon their current BFC designation. The selected communities also conducted a ride audit to review common commuter pathways, existing and new bicycle infrastructure, and dangerous areas in the community that have opportunities for improvements. The workshop also dived into local census and demographics data to compare it to the results of a pre-workshop survey completed by community residents. The workshop culminated with participants collaborating to produce a 12-month Action Plan to grow the community’s capacity to become a more Bicycle Friendly CommunityⓇ.

It’s no easy task for do-ers in communities to find the time to work together on common goals, but teamwork makes the dream work! Through group discussion at the workshop, participants were encouraged to think big, challenge conventional wisdom, understand what the wider community envisions and build a better, bikeable community. The workshop covered how to approach all of these opportunities through a lens of equity and accessibility. This reflects our recent BFC application update, where we added questions that emphasize the critical need for communities to engage with the people and groups who can help make a community more welcoming, supportive, and inclusive to all current and potential cyclists. 

The BFC Workshop cities are encouraged to use the two-day program as a time and place to hold themselves accountable for thinking about how to do more intentional equitable work involving the community including engaging local BIPOC-led and BIPOC-serving organizations, marginalized communities and the ADA community. 

The workshops brought together local leaders with the privilege and power to influence bicycle plans and develop cycling programming in the community. By setting a goal to “level up” to a higher BFC status, the groups had to think about overcoming the existing barriers to building better places to bike and help their community achieve goals that also reach beyond bicycling.

Below, you will see that the five cities selected for the 2022 Bicycle Friendly Community Workshops each aim to address inequities in their community through their work to be better Bicycle Friendly Communities.

Reno, Nevada 

BFC Status: Bronze since 2011

Workshop Hosts: University of Nevada, Reno and Truckee Meadows Bicycle Alliance

From their application: 

“The Reno-Sparks region is among the fastest growing metro areas in the country with varied topography, a four-season climate with approximately 300 sunny days/year, a relatively young population, multiple institutions for higher education, and an increasingly outdoor-facing tourism industry. In short, the region has an extremely high potential for embracing the benefits of bicycling for transportation, sport, and recreation. However, this immense potential is nowhere near realized. As a community, fewer than 1% of commuting trips are made by bicycle because of a lack of access to safe and high-quality bicycling facilities. Furthermore, lower-income neighborhoods and those with higher proportions of BIPOC residents generally have the least bicycle friendly streets and routes. Recently, leaders have initiated ambitious steps to add bicycling facilities to busy thoroughfares, but not always with an eye toward connectivity and community buy-in. A BFC workshop could provide a necessary spark in helping to build a coalition of multiple jurisdictions and community groups to affect significant change.”

Kansas City, Kansas

BFC Status: Never applied

Workshop Host: Unified Government of Wyandotte County Public Health Department

From their application: 

“Kansas City is way behind when it comes to bicycle friendly plans and infrastructure. Advocates in the community have often felt like prophets in the wilderness. Efforts to implement complete streets programs and to make bike friendly investments part of the ongoing city commitments have been met with complacency and opposition in the past. However, over the last few years, the community has begun to mobilize and staffers at the government level have come on board to work on citywide mobility plans that include bike friendly efforts. The time seems to be right for our community to come together with the expertise of Bike Friendly America to take a significant step forward but we need tools to help us make sure we are including everyone in the discussion and planning processes as Kansas City has a vast diversity of language and culture.”

Grand Rapids, Michigan 

BFC Status: Bronze since 2009

Workshop Host: Greater Grand Rapids Bicycle Coalition

From their application: 

“According to PolicyLink’s Equity Profile of Grand Rapids, 26% of Black households do not have access to a personal vehicle. The report states, “Many of the neighborhoods that have high shares of people of color (76% or more) also have relatively low rates of car access.” This disparity in transportation leads to more people of color using public transit and other forms of travel apart from personal vehicles. The BFA Community Workshop will help local advocates, officials, and community partners learn how to better support bicycling infrastructure and programming in such a way that people in our community that lack transportation resources are able to reach more everyday destinations by bike.”

Rochester, NY 

BFC Status: Bronze since 2012

Workshop Host: Reconnect Rochester

From their application: 

“While 1/4 of Rochester households don’t have access to a personal vehicle and rely on the bus or other means to get around, the average resident has a 4.1-mile commute to work. We’re in a great position to encourage bike commuting and capture short trips by bike. Though the City has many miles of striped/painted bike lanes, the current bike network is sparse, not protected, and poorly connected and recent survey data indicated that current and potential cyclists do not perceive the current network as safe or convenient. Furthermore, higher quality facilities are more likely located in wealthier areas. Housing costs are increasing more rapidly than the national average and commute times are increasing due to people being priced out of more central locations and some major employers located on the periphery. Increasing the safety, connectivity, and attractiveness of a bike network and promoting biking could help counteract the “hidden tax” of single-occupant car commutes.”

Flint, Michigan

BFC Status: Bronze since 2014

Workshop Host: The Crim Fitness Foundation

From their application: 

Check out local news coverage of Flint’s BFC Workshop!

“Our oversized roads, massive parking lots, and prioritization of cars and car storage over many other things have led to a community that is spread out, segregated, and difficult to traverse. Additionally, Flint is a majority minority community and has some of the most alarming rates of preventable disease and socially determined health problems in the state of Michigan. We are a community with higher than average disability rates, especially within our community school system, and tragically, we know that the Flint Water Crisis has had, and will continue to have, a profound effect on the lives, bodies, and brains of Flint’s residents, especially children. The many health disparities Flint residents face have been exacerbated by county and regional policies that prioritize and subsidize systems that make cycling dangerous and socially disparaged. We can address this by making Flint as bicycle friendly as possible.”

We hope to bring Bicycle Friendly Community Workshops to more cities in 2023 and further facilitate the bike movement’s work to ensure all communities see equity and accessibility as essential lenses through which all efforts to make their city a Bicycle Friendly Community must be viewed. 

If you’d like to learn more about how you can improve bicycling in your community or receive feedback and technical assistance on how to improve bicycling for everyone, apply to the BFC program. Applications for the Spring 2023 Bicycle Friendly Community submission round will open by October 15, 2022, and close on February 15, 2023.