A Proven Model for Accelerating Bike Networks
By: Jack Foersterling, PeopleForBikes’ copywriter and editor
PeopleForBikes, in collaboration with Wend Collective, helped five U.S. cities successfully increase bicycle mobility through the construction of new bike infrastructure.
In 2018, PeopleForBikes set out to accelerate the construction of mobility networks in five U.S. cities — Austin, Texas; New Orleans, Louisiana; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Denver, Colorado and Providence, Rhode Island. The project, dubbed the Final Mile, in partnership with Wend Collective, was successful in achieving that goal. It also created a playbook for any city looking to quickly build quality, connected bike infrastructure.
The Final Mile utilized a dynamic, accelerated approach to combine existing political will and untapped community support for bicycling by providing the necessary resources for cities to rapidly accelerate the pace of bike network implementation.
- Austin completed 115 miles of new bike lanes to achieve a 50% build-out of its All Ages and Abilities Mobility Network in only 24 months.
- Denver constructed 100 miles of new bikeways, tripling the pace at which its planned network of interconnected, low-stress bikeways was being built.
- New Orleans managed to construct 27 miles of new bikeways and offered the highest concentration of new protected bike lanes in the program.
- Providence constructed 43 miles of new bikeways, with an additional 22 miles planned for construction in 2022.
- Pittsburgh completed 50 new network miles and is dedicated to completing another 15 miles in 2022.
What We Learned
The Final Mile program offers a unique model of investment designed to shape local policy through political action. In the five funded cities, the program helped inform growing interest and support for bicycling, aided local leaders in shaping their goals and contributed to national momentum in favor of improved bicycling infrastructure.
Below are our top lessons learned from the Final Mile.
Cities are capable of achieving tremendous goals when they have the means and will to do so. The Final Mile program asked these cities to find the will (through community-driven advocacy) so local leaders supported by PeopleForBikes could provide the means (funding and expertise).
With a bold vision and sufficient resources, cities are able to establish more ambitious goals and achieve them.
Balance must be struck between elected officials, city staff, advocacy groups, community leaders and residents to achieve success.
Every stakeholder group has a role to play in creating the initiatives. The Final Mile framework helped streamline processes to move the campaigns forward quickly.
Focus on Individual Cities
Every project faces unique hurdles, including city administration structure, the way resources are allocated and how communities are engaged in the decision making process.
The Final Mile funded parallel strategies in all five cities, but approaches will vary to meet the needs of each individual city looking to achieve success.
Developing inclusive opportunities to comment is the most efficient way to deliver real feedback to officials from the people most affected by their decisions.
Amplifying supportive voices helps highlight what is most important to the community.
While all cities are unique in their challenges and resources, much of the Final Mile programming can be scaled and applied to cities of all sizes across the U.S. to make connected bike networks achievable anywhere.
Don’t Lead With the Bike
Connected bike networks still benefit people who will never use them. Effectively communicating the universal benefits of quality bike infrastructure is crucial in building communitywide consensus.
Bike networks add value to communities by increasing opportunity, relieving congestion, providing recreation opportunities and more — the benefits stretch far beyond those who chose to move by bike.
Learn more about the Final Mile by visiting finalmile.peopleforbikes.org.