Posts Tagged ‘Bicycle Friendly Communities’

Assistance for Bicycle Friendly Community and Business applicants

Sunday, June 27th, 2010

From the League of Michigan Bicyclists:

The League of Michigan Bicyclists and the Michigan Fitness Foundation announced today that they will host a statewide conference call to assist businesses and communities to learn about the League of American Bicyclists Bicycle Friendly Communities and Bicycle Friendly Business Program. The call is free to any interested individual or organization and will be held on Tuesday, June 29th from 12:30PM to 1:30PM. To RSVP and receive call-in information, please email

The Bicycle Friendly Business (BFB) program recognizes employers’ efforts to encourage a more bicycle-friendly atmosphere for employees and customers. The program honors innovative bike-friendly efforts and provides technical assistance and information to help companies and organizations become even better for bicyclists. This new initiative complements the League’s Bicycle Friendly Community (BFC) program, which has been recognizing cities and towns for their bicycle friendliness since 2003.

The conference call will feature a presentation from Alison Dewey, a Washington, DC-based Program Specialist with the League of American Bicyclists’ Bicycle Friendly America program. Alison will outline the programs and offer guidance on completing the application process. Joining Alison will be three Michigan-based advocates with previous experience working on BFB and BFC applications: John Lindenmayer, Associate Director of the League of Michigan Bicyclists; Rory Neuner, LMB Board Member; and Sarah Panken, the Active Communities Coordinator at the Michigan Fitness Foundation.

As of Spring 2010, six Michigan communities have received designation as a Bicycle Friendly Community at the Silver or Bronze level, and three Michigan communities have received an Honorable Mention. Three Michigan businesses, including the League of Michigan Bicyclists, have been designated as Bicycle Friendly Businesses.

Three more Bicycle Friendly Communities in Michigan

Saturday, May 1st, 2010

The League of American Bicyclists just announced 16 new Bicycle Friendly Community awards, three of which are in Michigan:

  • Lansing
  • Marquette
  • Portage

All three earned the entry-level Bronze status for Engineering, while Lansing also got a Bronze in Education.

There are now six recognized Bicycle Friendly Communities in Michigan. Sadly enough, none are in Macomb, Oakland, or Wayne Counties.

However, it’s expected the city of Detroit will apply within the year given the recent Bikes Belong/REI Bicycle Friendly Community grant. The city of Ferndale had applied years ago but did not receive an award or honorable mention.

MTGA gets grant to make Detroit Bike Friendly

Thursday, March 11th, 2010

Yesterday the Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance (MTGA) was awarded a $15,000 grant from REI and Bikes Belong. The grant is to help MTGA and the city of Detroit earn Bicycle Friendly Community recognition from the League of  American Bicyclists. As part of the award, the League is also providing technical support.

MTGA was one of only five groups to receive this award, which was announced at the National Bike Summit yesterday in Washington DC.

As we’ve noted earlier, the Bicycle Friendly Community evaluation isn’t well suited for shrinking cities like Detroit, which also rely heavily on public-private partnerships. This should be an excellent opportunity to work with the League on making the application better fit Detroit.

Bike friendliness: Comparing Detroit and Washington DC

Saturday, December 12th, 2009

Bike lane in Washington DCHaving recently returned from Washington DC, I can’t help but draw comparisons between the two cities in terms of bike friendliness.

What did I see? Detroit has far more bike friendly streets owing largely to the lower vehicular volumes. Washington DC has far more cyclists, bike lanes, and a bike rental system.

I’m not sure how valuable the rental system was as I walked a dozen miles around town and only saw one station. I saw far more Metro stations.

And speaking of their subway system, it does allow bikes outside of rush hour. DC’s buses also have bus bike racks though I didn’t see any in use. It seems more common to see SMART buses carrying bikes in Detroit.

That said, my unscientific survey did find one commonality between the two cities: most cyclists in both cities are white.

Washington DC has been recognized as a bronze Bike Friendly Community in the League of American Bicyclists program.

While in DC, I did speak with the League staff about recognizing Detroit’s bike friendliness. Their latest application doesn’t reward Detroit’s often excellent bicycle level of service achieved through mininal traffic volumes. Their paradigm is bicycle level of service is a reflection of bicycle infrastructure investments. We did talk about bringing some of their staff to Detroit next summer to gain a first-hand perspective on what we have.

But back to the comparison, DC clearly leads in urban livability, bicycle commuting levels, bicycle infrastructure investment, and more. Even still, I’d rather bike in Detroit.

City of Detroit: America’s best urban biking?

Sunday, July 5th, 2009
John R with four one-way vehicle lanes and negligible traffic -- an urban cyclist dream street.

John R with four one-way vehicle lanes and negligible traffic -- an urban cyclist dream street.

We think so.

Apparently former New Yorker Toby Barlow may as well according to this Metromode article:

Toby Barlow finds it ironic that Detroit is known as the “Motor City”, since its flat and relatively calm streets make it the country’s most perfect bicycle city as well.

Yesterday the New York Times ran an opinion piece from Barlow about biking in Detroit:

While bike enthusiasts in most urban areas continue to have to fight for their place on the streets, Detroit has the potential to become a new bicycle utopia. It’s a town just waiting to be taken. With well less than half its peak population, and free of anything resembling a hill, the city and its miles and miles of streets lie open and empty, beckoning. And lately, whether it’s because of the economy or the price of gas or just because it’s a nice thing to do, there are a lot more bikers out riding.

Our abandoned landscape suggests an opportunity that alternative-transportation proponents should consider: instead of raging against their cities’ internal combustion machines, they might consider a tactical retreat to the city that cars have pretty much abandoned.

A Seattle blogger responded with the suggestion of moving to Detroit: “Not now, of course, because it’s warm and sunny in Seattle, and we’re not broke yet.” It’s warm and sunny in Detroit, too.

National Recognition?

Just because Detroit is a bicycle-friendly city, don’t expect to receive a bicycle-friendly designation from the League of American Bicyclists.

The scoring for that award is based on assumptions such as:

  • government has the lead role in developing and managing bicycle facilities
  • the city does not have significant vacant land
  • that urban streets have traffic levels that necessitate bike lanes

None of these assumptions are correct in Detroit and so we do not score well.

Erroneous Benchmarking

And similarly, the Alliance for Biking and Walking is currently benchmarking U.S. cities. Most of the benchmarking questions asked were not relevant to Detroit’s reality, so we can expect to be erroneously scored. (This should not be unexpected as the Alliance’s 2007 benchmarking estimated that the city of Detroit had 34 bike shops and that Detroiter’s spent $92/person annually at these shops!)

In my role as MTGA’s Detroit Greenways Coordinator, I’ve discussed this with the Alliance, but they don’t seem to grasp that not all cities fit their expected mold for bicycle friendliness.

Of course it doesn’t help that they’ve never biked in Detroit either.

It’s apparent that the surveys and assumptions are made so that the cities they expect to score well do so. In other words, recognition is reserved for cities following in Portland’s footsteps.

Detroit’s not. We’re making our own trail.

We may not get recognized by the big nationwide bicycle advocacy groups, but we’re sure to keep getting recognized from cyclists like Barlow and others.