Ann Arbor has been on the radar of the League of American Bicyclists for quite awhile now, starting out as a bronze entrant in 2005, remaining bronze in 2007 and 2009, and then rising to silver status in 2013.
Ann Arbor city officials don’t plan on staying put at silver for as long as it took them to pass bronze. It’s onward to the gold, platinum, and diamond honors, according to Ann Arbor Transportation Department Manager Eli Cooper.
Cooper and other city officials in his department recently held a meeting to coax out the most enthusiastic bicyclists in the community, in order to both get their feedback and also their information in order to show LAB the strength of the Ann Arbor bicycling community.
“The League of American Bicyclists is a nationwide bicycling advocacy organization and they’re seen as a reputable purveyor of information on bicycling,” Cooper said. The group also puts together guides and brochures and generally promotes the results of its designations which are backed by stringent standards that raise the bar for those communities that wish to be literally on the national bicycle enthusiasts’ map.
This program also allows Ann Arbor and other cities a two-way participation in LAB’s setting of guidelines for how governments, businesses, and other organizations can make themselves more bike friendly and promote the establishment and growth of bicyclist culture.
“The city’s been actively engaged in bicycle planning and bicycling systems going back to the 1980s and likely beyond,” Cooper said. In 2003, the city government was in the process of adopting its first non-motorized transportation plan, which prioritized the establishment of a connected network of bicycle lanes.
From there city officials become “very serious” about bicycling not just as a recreational activity that promotes health, but also as a serious mode of transportation that more and more people could opt into as their primary means of commuting to and from their jobs.
The sorts of people who are serious about the bicycling lifestyle taken to such an extent, are typically the people who look to organizations like LAB for their community assessments, which provide well-thought structure for consideration in government transportation planning and also real incentives for making that structure a physical part of a city’s transportation system.
While usually such designations are government “nice-to-haves,” Ann Arbor is serious about climbing the rankings of LAB’s Bicycle Friendly Community list.
“Clearly when I was hired in 2005, as a bronze committee, they wanted to know how I’m going to get us to gold,” Cooper said
Those who couldn’t attend the August 3 meeting are encouraged to reach out via email at [email protected] by this Friday with thoughts and suggestions.
Cooper said it was helpful to see the 25 attendees at the meeting and learn a bit about them, as the city would like to facilitate the expansion of bicycling groups and the bicycling community as a whole throughout Ann Arbor.
“These groups are important because they do the promotion, training, and advocacy of bicycling, while we do the engineering, education, enforcement, and building of the facilities,” Cooper said. “The more involvement we have from not just us, but everybody in the community, the stronger our application will be.”
The application will be submitted to LAB on August 17 and the results will come in sometime towards year’s end.
“I do believe we have a stronger application this year,” Cooper said. “We are four-and-a-half years into the development of our bicycle program. Since 2005 we’ve gone from 2.2 to 2.5 percent of people commuting via bicycling to 5.3 to 5.5 percent.”
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