PeopleForBikes’ Final Mile Is a Playbook for Accelerating U.S. Bike Networks
May 24, 2022
BOULDER, COLO. (May 24, 2022) /OUTDOOR SPORTSWIRE/ – Can U.S. cities move faster, more efficiently and more equitably to build better mobility networks for residents nationwide? The answer is yes, proven by the work of PeopleForBikes, a national bicycling advocacy organization, following two years of partnership and action in five American cities.
In 2018, PeopleForBikes set out to create a model for U.S. cities to systematically increase bicycle mobility. The Final Mile, a collaboration between Wend Collective and PeopleForBikes, was successful in achieving that goal. The strategy includes tapping into existing community support for biking, amplifying that support with paid communications and thoughtful neighborhood-based engagement and empowering elected leaders with the political will to accelerate the construction of local bike networks.
Five cities — Austin, TX; Denver, CO; New Orleans, LA; Providence, RI; and Pittsburgh, PA —took part in the Final Mile, which provided cities with the necessary financial resources and expertise to execute broad marketing campaigns, create diverse coalitions of community partners and overcome public opposition that too often delays progress. It did not, however, provide any direct funding for infrastructure costs or governmental operations. All of the participating cities understood that funding the rapid implementation of safe, equitable and comfortable bike networks is the best way to address growing transportation needs and the urgency of climate change.
“For too long we’ve designed our streets for cars and not people,” said Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza. “But what we’ve seen for the last couple of years is that we’re reversing that and changing that here in Providence. The enhancements that we’re seeing throughout our streets are going to benefit all of us.”
The Final Mile was successful in accelerating the construction of mobility networks in each of the five cities:
- 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.
While the mileage gains were significant, equally impressive are the tangible effects of the Final Mile on individuals in each city. That includes Movetia Salter, who moved to Austin with her three children in 2016 and found the experience difficult and isolating. Looking for opportunities to get outside and meet new people, Movetia eventually joined a bike meet-up group and has since watched the city transform.
“I have driven through neighborhoods for years and rode my bike once, and saw a completely different place,” said Salter, who’s featured in PeopleForBikes’ Final Mile video. “Austin making a concerted effort to broaden bike paths has really encouraged that non-traditional cyclist to come outside, dust off that old bike and start biking again.”
The best part about living in a city is the connection it offers — an experience that is all but nonexistent when we spend our days driving alone in our cars. Even in Austin, a city known for big trucks and highways, a Final Mile survey found that 70% of people said they wanted protected bike networks. Being able to lead with such data was key to the accelerated buildout of a network that benefits everyone.
“We set what we thought were pretty ambitious goals and frankly, I would’ve been really proud if we had just met those original goals,” said Austin Mayor Steve Adler. “But then we had a community that indicated that it was ready to open up the pocketbook and really develop these multimodal choices faster.”
“With a bold vision and sufficient resources, these five cities were able to establish ambitious goals tailored to their different needs,” said Jenn Dice, president and CEO of PeopleForBikes. “The Final Mile emphasizes the importance of collaborative leadership, inclusive community engagement and creating support among non-bikers. Through effectively communicating the universal benefits of connected networks, these cities show us what’s possible.”
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 learn more, check out this Urban Institute study on the Final Mile and visit finalmile.peopleforbikes.org
PeopleForBikes is making biking better for everyone by uniting millions of Americans, thousands of businesses and hundreds of communities to make every bike ride safer, more accessible and more fun. When people ride bikes, great things happen. Join us at PeopleForBikes.org.