How do we improve the ability to bicycle in the United States? I thought I'd share some information from a success story, Davis, California, the first (and one of only three) U.S. cities to have earned a Platinum Level award from the League of American Bicyclists. The other two are Boulder and Portland.
Davis has some advantages for biking. First, it's flat, and second, the weather is usually good for cyclists. Davis gets around 19-20 inches of rain a year and no snow, virtually all between November and May, and the temperature is rarely below freezing (although not infrequently over 100 in the summer).
Davis has a history of an emphasis on being bicycle friendly that dates back to the 1960s. Most streets that are large enough to have painted lanes have painted bike lanes. There are bike paths through many greenbelts around town that allow people to bike for commuting purposes or recreation. There are no school buses and children are encouraged to bike to school. All schools have large rack areas for bike parking.
Overall, about 14 percent of commuters in Davis ride bikes to work, which is about 35 times the national average.
This success didn't all happen by accident. Davis has a comprehensive bike plan that covers education, encouragement, enforcement (ensure bicycle safety), engineering (bikes being planned for in all development, creating a complete network for bicycles), equity (bikes being treated equally with automobiles) and evaluation with constant monitoring of the program to make sure it's working. Also, there are promotional community groups such as Davis Bicycles! which organize promotional events such as bike tours, bike rodeos at elementary schools, and last weekend, a tour of local chicken coops called the Tour de Cluck. Davis's bike-friendliness resulted in its hosting a stage in the Amgen Tour of California, featuring prominent cyclists such as Lance Armstrong and Levi Leipheimer.