By Lindsay Plante, BFA Communications Intern
This week, Lincoln, Neb., was among the 24 new Bicycle Friendly Communities, winning the bronze designation. The city now joins more than 200 other Bicycle Friendly Communities nationwide. A Q&A with Lincoln city staff, including Terry Genrich, manager of the city’s Parks and Recreation Department, reveals a growing cycling culture and a community dedicated to improving their city.
Why did Lincoln decide to apply for BFC status?
Lincoln has been working on several bicycle initiatives since we last applied in 2003 and felt we should be recognized for the accomplishments that have been made. It shows the community is embracing bicycling in Lincoln. Much still needs to happen and this award will hopefully encourage and inspire even further accomplishment.
What is Lincoln’s eventual goal?
We’d like to increase bicycle commuting in Lincoln to 5%. We are currently at 1.6% according to the 2010 ACS figures. We believe that with additional investment in on-street facilities and increased education we can achieve this goal over time.
How has cycling culture developed in Lincoln? How have community members responded?
The bicycle culture in Lincoln has increased dramatically over the past 5-10 years, with the community requesting more bicycle facilities to improve their commute, as well as to increase recreational opportunities. The community initially organized in the mid 1970’s, but advocacy really took off when a strategic planning process called Star Venture began and recognized the need for trail linkage in Downtown Lincoln.
It was at this time the Great Plains Trails Network was formed. This private bike advocacy organization is the financial backbone for many of Lincoln’s trails projects. Lincoln also has a strong Pedestrian/Bicycle Advisory Committee which is involved in all bicycle projects.
Members of the community have supported and encouraged new projects. More recent community-supported projects include the first bike lanes and first sharrows in Lincoln, as well as current planning to implement protected bikeways in Downtown Lincoln.
Have any challenges arisen in becoming more bike friendly? How can communities overcome such challenges?
Developing new policies and procedures is never easy, but the community has expressed desire for new facilities and developed advocacy groups to support change. Much of Lincoln’s older neighborhoods were not built to accommodate bicycle facilities, but one advantage is a backbone of trails built on abandoned railroads that once went through the city. From this, we have worked to make connections to schools, parks, commercial areas, and to integrate bicycle facilities with public transit.
Lincoln is fortunate to have a trail within one mile of 94% of dwelling units. This is one reason why, if more alternative routes with on street facilities for bicycle commuters are installed, bike activity will increase. Still, one of the biggest challenges is being ready to address change and encourage support from elected officials and opposition groups in the community.
Why do you believe cycling is important in your community? Why should other communities work to become more bike-friendly?
Bicycling is important in Lincoln as it is in the rest of the country for several reasons including providing an alternate mode of transportation other than a gas-powered vehicle, reducing traffic congestion, improving air quality, creating a more balanced system, and promoting a healthy lifestyle.
What’s next on the horizon for bike-friendly Lincoln? for cycling advocacy?
Next on the horizon is the further development of the on-street bicycle network, including better signing for on-street bike routes, adding new bike routes to the system, installing more sharrow facilities, and building the first protected bikeway in Downtown Lincoln.