Bicycling is racing into the mainstream in many American communities and it’s time for the United States to shine on the international stage. To guide and support the rapid progress in top bike-friendly cities, the League has added a new challenge and opportunity for Bicycle Friendly Communities: Diamond status.
Over the past 10 years, the League’s Bicycle Friendly Communities program has transformed biking across North America. From small mountain towns to our nation’s biggest cities, elected officials, local advocates and bicycle planners have used the comprehensive approach of the BFC program to make bicycling safer and more comfortable for millions of Americans.
From 2000 to 2010, bicycle commuting rose 40 percent in the U.S. But, in the 38 largest BFCs, the rise in bike commuters was almost double the national rate, growing a staggering 77 percent over the same time period.
For the first decade, the BFC program ranked communities at the Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum levels. But we’ve seen such tremendous progress, innovation and enthusiasm from communities nationwide that it’s time to set the bar higher. It’s time to move beyond Platinum. Welcome to the dawn of the Diamond BFC.
Cities like Portland, Ore.; Boulder, Colo; Davis, Calif., and other leading BFCs are almost ready to join the ranks of world-class bike communities — and the League has been working with BFC representatives to envision a higher standard that challenges and charts new heights for bicycle-friendliness in the United States.
“If it sounds like we are moving the goalposts, it’s because we are,” says Andy Clarke, League President. “Communities are doing so much more, and the state of the practice in innovative infrastructure and programs has developed so rapidly in recent years, that it really is time to challenge communities to do even more to make biking better.”
Attaining Diamond designation will involve an individualized challenge tailored to each community. The League will conduct a detailed audit for each city and work with community leaders to create clear 5-, 10- and 15-year goals for important factors like bicycle mode share, land use, crashes, network connectivity and bike culture.
The primary measure to Diamond designation: The number of people riding and citizen satisfaction. Cities will delve into a more detail evaluation of ridership and level of service, using standard methods of measure like the American Community Survey and National Bicycle and Pedestrian Documentation Project, but also more challenging and broader tools such as Copenhagen’s Bicycle Account.
The end goal: American communities that rival top international cycling cities like Copenhagen and Amsterdam with world-class facilities, like protected bike lanes - and so much more.
“In Portland, bikes mean business,” says Tom Miller, Director of the Portland (Ore.) Bureau of Transportation. “Our commitment to bike-friendly streets has helped to attract a wealth of bicycle-related business, generating more than $90 million in economic activity each year. The League’s announcement of this new bicycle-friendly benchmark — ‘Diamond’ status — is something Portland will actively pursue and ultimately achieve.”
Learn more about the Beyond Platinum program at www.bikeleague.org/bfa.
Carolyn SzczepanskiCarolyn joined the League in March 2012, after two years at the Alliance for Biking & Walking. In addition to managing the League's blog, magazine and other communications, Carolyn organized the first National Women's Bicycling Summit and launched the League's newest program: Women Bike. Before she crossed over to advocacy, she was a professional journalist for nearly 10 years.