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Why Public Agencies Make Great Bicycle Friendly Businesses: Southern New Hampshire Planning Commission

Communities and organizations often use the League’s Bicycle Friendly America program as a way to set local benchmarks and receive actionable feedback around bicycling improvements they could make for everyone’s benefit. 

The Bicycle Friendly Business (BFB) program is no different, serving as a tool to help businesses invest in best practices to make bicycling better for employees, customers, and the larger community. When the Southern New Hampshire Planning Commission (SNHPC) first applied to the BFB program last year, they were motivated by a desire to set an example in the region and inspire local action around better bicycling. 

“In the past few years, a lot of communities have worked on their rail trails, sidewalks, and other Complete Streets efforts,” says SNHPC’s Executive Director, Sylvia von Aulock. “The general trend in the area is headed towards reviewing streets to make improvements for all users.”  Silvia hopes that SNHPC’s Silver-level Bicycle Friendly Business award will open the door for more projects specifically around improving cycling.

Tammy Zamoyski, Regional Planner at SNHPC, says, “In New Hampshire, there are eight other regional planning commissions with whom we work hand in hand. We’d love to see them match what we’ve done as a Bicycle Friendly Business or even do better if they can!”

Members of SNHPC show off their alternate commuting modes.
Members of SNHPC show off their alternate commuting modes. Tammy Zamoyski is pictured third from left with her bicycle.

Benefits from BFB Application & Report Card

Tammy was already familiar with the Bicycle Friendly America program because of her past work in Montrose, Colorado which received a Bronze-level Bicycle Friendly Community award in 2020. She says the extensive documentation is probably the most challenging part of the application, but worth the effort. 

Her advice for first-time applicants is, “Don’t be afraid of failure! It’s great to receive an award, but the application process itself is such a learning tool. There are so many ideas and inspiration you can take out of the application. Indoor parking, access to showers, events – all sorts of things that encourage visitors and staff to bike to your business that you wouldn’t think about until you get the application and your report card.”

Maintaining Community Dialogue & Awareness

By showing up as a part of the Bicycle Friendly America program, organizations like SNHPC are demonstrating leadership and can inspire other peer organizations to consider being more welcoming to people who bike.  At the individual level, Tammy reports that “people are using our bike facilities and keeping conversations going about biking, riding, and rolling.” 

Bike Month 2023 Collage from SNHPC

This momentum even has inspired increased awareness at the state level. From creating posters and branding toolkits to submitting a proclamation to the governor, Tammy along with the SNHPC team, worked to ensure last year’s Bike Month was a huge success across the state.

Another promising update comes from New Hampshire’s Department of Transportation, which has been gradually working on updating its bicycle and pedestrian plan for quite a few years. In 2023, that plan was finally finalized. SNHPC staff sees this as a victory attributable to slow and consistent progress toward elevating bicycling as a priority.

Building a Bicycle Friendly America for Everyone: Championing Inclusion 

This progress can’t happen alone, but it certainly helps to have people in your organization to champion bicycling, just like Tammy Zamoyski. For anyone inspired to follow Tammy’s lead, she says that the most important part is just encouraging people to show up and ride. “It’s also important – especially for us as planners – to understand the barriers non-drivers face, particularly in transit-related projects as we understand what it’s like to use that mode of transportation.” 

Finally, we asked Sylvia for any final advice or inspiration. She says, “I’ve been biking for 58 years and have found that as we change, our abilities change. You might start to slow down or find yourself dealing with balance issues. But no matter how your abilities may change, it’s so important to make sure you find moments to feel alive. Embrace the different types of bikes, whether on two, three, or more wheels. Just get out there and be alive!”

Overall, this conversation left us feeling impressed and excited to see what happens next in New Hampshire’s bicycling scene. With this level of investment at the local and regional government level, great things are on the horizon for the Granite State. 

Looking for more information on the transformative power of public agencies embracing cycling initiatives? Check out our upcoming webinar, Pedal Power for Public Servants: Creating Government Workplaces for Better Bicycling! 

Interested in applying for recognition and feedback from the Bicycle Friendly Business program for your workplace? The next BFB submission deadline is June 5th, 2024, and you can learn more about the BFB application process here