Suburbs Join the Rise of Bicycle Friendly Communities

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The national boom in biking has officially found a pedal-hold in a previously unlikely place: the suburbs.

The League of American Bicyclists today announced its latest round of Bicycle Friendly Communities (BFC) — and suburban towns, like Menlo Park, Calif.; Elmhurst, Ill.,; and Ferguson, Mo. are showing large urban centers aren’t the only areas making biking better for millions of Americans.

In the largest round of applications since the program’s inception in 2003, the League welcomes 32 new BFCs, growing the overall number to 291 BFCs in 48 states. The BFC program provides cities and towns with a roadmap and know-how to make effective investments and take meaningful steps to increase bicycling in their communities.

“One of the great challenges in envisioning a truly bicycle-friendly America is the need to transform suburban communities,” said Andy Clarke, President of the League of American Bicyclists. “Well, that transformation is evidently underway and is being lead by communities like Menlo Park, Calif.; Elmhurst, Ill.; Reston, Va. (pictured at right); and Richfield, Minn.”
 
See the full list of Bicycle Friendly Communities here.

Menlo Park, Calif., moved up to Silver status in this round by making significant improvements through its partnership with Facebook, a Gold-level Bicycle Friendly Business. Since its last application to the BFC program, Menlo Park has added miles of bike lanes and boosted its share of bike commuters to 8 percent — more than doubling its bike commuters in the last 10 years.

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“We’ve worked hard over the past few years to raise our BFC status through policy, infrastructure and education efforts to encourage more active transportation in Menlo Park and improve our community health, environment, and quality of life,” said Peter Ohtaki, Mayor of Menlo Park. “Our recent partnership with Facebook, headquartered in Menlo Park, is improving bicycling infrastructure and connections to their new campus. We look forward to continuing to enhance bike connections and amenities across the City to encourage a healthy, vibrant community.” 

Ferguson, Mo., a suburb of St. Louis, (pictured at right) has led the way with its education and encouragement policies, including an Earn-a-Bike program that’s free to local youth.

“Ferguson’s residents and businesses, with the help of regional organizations, have been working to update our practices and policies to be more bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly,” said Dwayne T. James, Ferguson City Council member.  “Receiving this Bronze Award shows that we’re on the right path to doing what is right and what is best for our residents and the region as a whole. I’m thankful for this honor as well as look forward to continuing our efforts to be an even better Bicycle Friendly Community.” 

Outside Chicago, Elmhurst, Ill., has so many children who bike to school — between 10 and 20 percent — that they recently had to install hundreds of additional bike racks to local schools.

“We applaud Elmhurst,” said Ed Barsotti, Executive Director of the League of Illinois Bicyclists. “They could have been content with the major regional trail going through their suburb.  Instead, they took a holistic approach to becoming bike-friendly through education, encouragement, and expansion of the bike network.”

Elmhurst Mayor Steve Morley said the BFC application process served as a powerful self-assessment tool.

“We have worked to integrate bicycles for recreation transportation and exercise into our community to make Elmhurst a more susatinable, livable and desirable environment in which to raise a family,” Morley said. “This was community-wide effort, including the city, park district, school district and key stakeholders executed over 4 years.”

Learn more about the program and view the full list of Bicycle Friendly Communities at www.bikeleague.org/bfa.