Bicycle and pedestrian program managers are common in U.S. cities and, along with other transportation planners and bicycling advocates, are a critical part of creating a bicycle-friendly community. Staff help communities plan for and respond to the needs of cyclists and pedestrians.
Why Communities and States Need Bicycle and Pedestrian Staff, an Advocacy Advance Report released today, analyses 40 of the largest U.S. cities and shows that cities with bicycle and pedestrian staff have higher levels of bicycling than the cities without staff. Cities with larger staff – both in count and per capita – have higher levels of bicycling than cities with smaller staffs.
The Alliance for Bicycling & Walking surveyed the 50 largest U.S. cities to find how many bicycle and pedestrian staff they employed. Of the forty cities that responded, only two do not have any staff dedicated to bicycle and pedestrian issues. More than half of the responding cities have one or two staff spending at least part of their time on them. A quarter of the cities have more than four staff working on bike and pedestrian issues.
What impact do bicycle and pedestrian staff have on bicycling levels? The U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey measures the percentage of workers who use the bicycle as their primary mode of transportation to work. Comparing staffing levels to the commuter data shows that larger bicycle and pedestrian staffs are correlated with higher bike commuter levels. The cities without bike staff had the lowest average bike commuter share.
As the size of a city’s staff increases the average bike commuter share also increases. Cities with more than four staff averaged a ten times greater share of bicycle commuters than cities without staff – 2.1 percent compared to 0.2 percent. The cities with more than four staff had more than three times the average bike commuter share of cities with four or fewer – and double that of cities with three to four staff. This shows that cities that make a serious commitment to bicycle planning see a greater return on investment than cities with fewer staff. The same trend exists when using the number of staff per million residents. The ten cities with six or more staff per million people had an average bike commuter share of 2.4 percent, more than four times the average for cities with one or fewer staff members.
The League of American Bicyclists’ Bicycle Friendly Community (BFC) Program recognizes communities that have made dedicated efforts to improve bicycling conditions. Applicants describe their investments in five categories of bicycle-friendliness: engineering, education, encouragement, enforcement, and evaluation and planning. Staffing levels are only a few questions in the comprehensive BFC application, but there is strong correlation with BFC recognition. Cities with large bicycle staffs are more likely to have accomplished more for bicycling in their communities than other cities. The most bicycle-friendly city in the sample, Portland, OR, has a larger staff than all but Minneapolis and the highest bike commuter share with 6 percent.
Eighty-eight communities in the U.S. have achieved bronze Bicycle Friendly status. Only 36 have received silver, gold, or platinum recognition. The elevated status of the top three categories is reflected in staff sizes. Non-BFCs average one and a half staff, bronze BFCs average three staff, and the top three categories combined average 11 staff. Larger staffs get communities to the next level.
Without planning for bicycling, a city’s transportation network is incomplete. Employing bicycle and pedestrian staff shows that a community is committed to a comprehensive transportation system; they are critical to integrating bicycling into the municipality’s plans and projects. Their impact is measurable.
Bike commuting levels and Bicycle Friendly Community recognition patterns show that larger staff investments lead to better bicycling outcomes. Having at least one staff-member focusing on bicycle and pedestrian issues is an important first step toward bicycle-friendliness. The route to higher levels of bike-friendliness, though, is best planned through the combined efforts of the city, bicycle advisory committees, advocacy organizations and advocates. Advocates should work with their cities and towns to hire bicycle and pedestrian managers.
See all of the Advocacy Advance Reports here.
League Policy Director
Flusche joined the League in April 2009 and has a B.A. in history from Syracuse University and a Masters of Public Administration with a concentration in public policy analysis from New York University.