Lessons Learned with Bike Walk Twin Cities
By Steve Clark, Bicycling & Walking Program Manager
During the next three years with the League of American Bicyclists I will be traveling to 225 cities to help them become more bicycle friendly. Here are my personal takeaways that I will be sharing with city officials and community leaders based on my role over the past eight years with the Nonmotorized Transportation Pilot Program.
Collaborate, build capacity, and empower
We understood early on that the Twin Cities region was already bicycle-friendly in terms of off-street facilities, but had great opportunity to expand the network of bicycle-friendly streets or pedestrian-friendly intersections. To create a stronger shared base of local knowledge and capacity we brought to the Twin Cities national experts who had designed and/or inspired some of the best facilities in the nation. Even more effective was to get traffic engineers and planners (along with elected officials and citizen advocates) out on real streets, on bicycles or on foot, to problem-solve together. This kind of collaboration not only resulted in better solutions, but in solid relationships that carried over from one project to the next.
Establish goals and build support
The goals of the pilot program were established by the U.S. government as part of the transportation bill known as SAFETEA-LU: Increase walking and bicycling for transportation purposes in order to achieve 1) decreased energy usage, 2) improved public health, 3) better air quality, and 4) reduced traffic congestion. These wonderful overarching goals guided my work with BWTC. I think it also could have been helpful very early on to set and build support for specific targets (e.g., double the number of short trips made by walking and bicycling). With solid community-level resolutions in place stating support for increased walking and bicycling, we might have accelerated our successes for livable streets and active transportation.
Document what works
Success breeds success, but only when you can document your successes! I think one of the best things we did was establish a local count program. Bicyclists and pedestrians were counted at many different locations each year since this pilot began and our protocol became a model for other count programs.
Embrace the opportunity to innovate
Some of the most successful projects championed by BWTC were very innovative. Using federal transportation dollars to fund the Community Partners Bike Library or to help launch the new Spokes Bike Walk Connect center happened because of community vision and collaboration with FHWA and MnDOT. Bike sharing (Nice Ride Minnesota) was untested in the U.S. but fit within the strategic vision established by TLC for BWTC. I can look back and be proud to be part of all the many things that were implemented that were firsts in the Midwest, and a few firsts in this nation (see below) as well!
Don't be afraid of opposition
I regard opposition as the best barometer that something might make a difference! And often times it is only through opposition that you are able to gain the community support you need to make even bigger things happen as the movement grows.
Thank you everyone!
I would like to formally and publicly thank each and every one of you for contributing to the progress we've made over the last few years toward a more sustainable and healthy transportation system in the Twin Cities. What a fantastic experience it has been to be able to work with so many of you who care so deeply about making your communities more vibrant and livable.
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