Bikes Belong to support urban cycling initiative

By by Kirsten Robbins | Wednesday, December 23, 2009 4.00pm

The Colorado-based Bikes Belong Coalition has thrown its weight behind a project set up to encourage and improve urban cycling in the US.

Cities for Cycling was launched by the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) earlier this year.

It aims to promote best practice when it comes to urban cycling facilities such as bike boxes, bike signals, contra-flow bike lanes, cycle tracks and shared roadway markings.

“Cities for Cycling is focused on the need for new bicycle facilities that make cycling safer, more convenient and more appealing, particularly for new and casual cyclists who aren't comfortable riding in traffic with faster-moving cars and trucks,” said Tim Blumenthal, executive director of the Bikes Belong Coalition.

“Many European and now North American cities are building these facilities, which include cycle tracks, bicycle boulevards and green bike boxes for bikes at traffic lights. Cities for Cycling will give these type of facilities new credibility and encourage their widespread development.”

City officials have already jumped on board from Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, New York, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Portland, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington DC.

Bikes Belong will co-support the initiative with the SRAM Cycling Fund, by providing sponsorship money and staff support. It heads a similar project of its own called Bicycling Design Best Practices.

“Cities for Cycling is brand new, so it doesn't have much of a track record, yet,” said Blumenthal. “Its potential strength is the individual and collective power of the founding cities: these are the biggest, most influential cities in the United States.

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"Support for this project comes from the mayors themselves as well as the senior directors of transportation. This is high-level support that bicycling has never enjoyed before. Congressman Earl Blumenauer of Oregon and the musician David Byrne were involved in the launch of Cities for Cycling; that's additional clout.”

Only one percent of Americans commute by bike. Blumenthal would like to see a four percent increase in the near future, which seems possible when you consider that nearly half of all trips made by US citizens are at of 5km of less.

“I'm less concerned about the growth and evolution of Cities for Cycling as an organisation than I am about the increase in bike riding for short trips in big US cities,” Blumenthal said. “When five percent of all trips that Americans make are taken by bike, that's success.”

When it comes to people using bikes as a mode of transportation, Minneapolis is leading the way. “The Mid-Town Greenway is one of the best in-city bike paths in the entire United States,” Blumenthal said. “Minneapolis has built great bike bridges that span highways. The Mayor, RT Rybak, rides all the time and is super-supportive. He knows that bicycling will reduce his city's road congestion, air pollution, health care costs and need to provide motor vehicle parking.”

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