If not for an amazing push in Fort Collins, CO, Boise, ID could lay a claim to the title of the most bicycle friendly community in America. That is, if you judge a town by the number of Bicycle Friendly Business (BFB) designations awarded by the League of American Bicyclists (LAB).
In the spring version of the biannual announcement of new awardees, Boise won six new awards (plus local transportation engineering planners Kittelson & Associates, Inc, moved up from silver to gold status and vacation rental firm Vacasa earned honorable mention, which LAB doesn’t count in the totals).
But the Colorado college town of Fort Collins pulled off an amazing feat and got 29 new honors this round (plus two honorable mentions), raising its total of BFBs to 41, ahead of the 35 in Boise and 33 in Pittsburgh. Boise advocates have aimed for 100 BFBs and claiming the honor of the most bicycle-friendly town in America.
These cities certainly don’t rank among the largest cities or those with the most bicycle-friendly climates. Ft. Collins ranks #163 it terms of population of American cities, while Boise ranks 98th and Pittsburgh 62nd. Even cities doing so much to promote bike riding like Portland, OR haven’t made as much of an effort to reach out to the business community in this way. Advocates from the Boise Bicycle Project and Boise GreenBike (formerly Boise Bike Share) have gone out of their way to promote the program to employers.
The latest round of Boise winners, for instance, includes a community theater, law firm, sign company and physical therapy office – plus Ada County government, and is sure helps when the local governments provide an example and get behind the program. The City of Boise won bronze in 2014 – even the mayor bikes to work. Several other government agencies in town, such as the Ada County Highway Department and Idaho Department of Water Resources, have also been named BFBs.
Trademark Sign Company won gold. In addition to providing indoor bike parking and tools for bike repair “we bought a building close to the Greenbelt so employees wouldn’t have to use roads to bike to work,” says company co-owner John Yarnell. He and his partner advocate for cycling outside work and “we heard another sign company in town was going to apply so we figured ‘why don’t we apply?’”
But support for bicycling in Boise is so strong that the advocates don’t even need to reach out. The local personal injury law firm of Holzer Edwards, Chartered applied on its own and was just awarded bronze. “We just saw the application floating around and filled it out. They said ‘you are bronze,’” relates partner Kurt Holzer. “We have a shower here. We tell our staff to ride their bikes to work.”
Holzer has taken some bicycle injury cases and competes in USA Cycling races. He says three of the seven people at his office bike to work. The others have an excuse not to. “It would be a 35-mile commute for one; another would have a 3,000-foot vertical climb,” he notes.
Meanwhile, down in Utah, LAB awarded three new silver BFBs and four bronze ones. But the new class lacks the diversity of the Boise crowd. Six of the seven awards went to bike shops.
So what do Utah cities need to do to improve? Take a lesson from Fort Collins. “About eight people in this community (advocates and previous awardees) got together to create a BFB Peer Network. The idea was for people who were already familiar with the process to go out and pound the pavement and recruit other businesses to join,” explains Fort Collins Bikes Program Specialist Jamie Gaskill-Fox. It sometimes took helping them fill out the application.
“We just had a celebration last night with all the applicants and celebrated the success of everyone who applied, whether or not they received designations. Just that they took the time to apply and cared enough about bicycling in our community” provides enough of a reason to honor them, she says
“We’re the smallest city in the top 10 and we’re number one,” Gaskill-Fox boasts. But Fort Collins now expects Boise to redouble its effort and welcomes the competition, she adds. “We hope we can inspire other cities to adopt this mode and really use it to make a better bicycle friendly America.”
Trademark Sign Co. – Boise – new
Kittelson & Associates – Boise –moved up
CSHQA – Boise – moved up
Loyal Cycle Co. — Farmington – new
The Bike Shoppe – Ogden – new
GREENbike Salt Lake City – new
Ada County – Boise – new
Boise Contemporary Theater – Boise – new
Holzer Edwards – Boise – new
Sawtooth Physical Therapy –Boise – new
Bicycle Center Inc. – Salt Lake City – new
Crank SLC – Salt Lake City – new
Hyland Cyclery – Salt Lake City – new
Salt Lake City Corporation – Salt Lake City – new
Bank of the West – Meridian
J-U-B ENGINEERS, Inc. — Salt Lake City
Wasatch Community Gardens – Salt Lake City