My twins will bike to school today. They’ll connect along the way with neighborhood friends and pedal together to middle school. They ride because they like the adventure and freedom and camaraderie. I let them ride because my mommy radar says it’s safe enough. Their route runs on quiet neighborhood streets and multi-use pathways with safe crossings of the two busy streets.
Creating connected bike networks so kids can ride to school (and adults can ride all day and everywhere) is a top priority for PeopleForBikes, the national organization where I work as VP of Local Innovation. Our new Big Jump Project will bring together 10 communities that are doing the best work in the nation on biking and help them accomplish a doubling or tripling of biking in the next three years. We will help these cities assemble complete grids of pathways, quiet side streets and protected bike lanes on busy streets that will produce a big jump in biking. We will publicize their efforts as models to build momentum nationally.
St. Louis, Missouri. Photo Credit: PeopleForBikes.
Bits and pieces of good riding exist in many communities, including multi-use pathways and more recently, protected bike lanes. Some offer twisty road rides and sweet mountain bike trails close to town. More and more cities are tucking little pump tracks into corners of park land. These places are magical.
Building Continuous Bike Paths
But too often the best riding destinations are islands that aren’t connected to the surrounding community. A great trail along a waterway is fenced off from the nearby neighborhood, a bike lane ends at a busy intersection just before it reaches a school, a long-distance spine path through a city stops a daunting mile of turning trucks and driveways short of work.
Building pop-up protected bike lane in Rogers, Arkansas. Photo Credit: PeopleForBikes.
The next frontier for biking in the U.S. is to move from single projects into building complete networks that connect people to places they want go. PeopleForBikes’ Big Jump Project will show that incremental efforts can produce huge breakthroughs with the right mix of local leadership, vision and determination. And our new PlacesForBikes program will help any interested community accelerate progress in their own backyard.
Will You Go Out With Us?
We are lucky. Our hometown on the Front Range of Colorado is a place where kids can bike to school, adults can ride to work and we can all easily connect to places to play outdoors. On Black Friday, we’ll join REI and #OptOutside by inviting our family and friends to join us at Boulder’s Valmont Bike Park. This 40-acre dirt playground offers something for every rider from a cushioned track for tiny tots scooting along to easy trails for grown-ups who haven’t ridden in years to jumps big enough to scare almost anyone.
Valmont Bike Park. Photo Credit: Dave Wright.
When you #OptOutside on Black Friday, we hope you’ll make it a bike day. If you can’t find a safe and convenient place to ride, we hope you’ll dream about the possibilities and support each and every proposal to build them in your community. And we invite you to join the broader movement to build better places for bikes at PeopleForBikes.org.