Even Bicycle-Friendly Communities Continue to Fail to Build Bicycle Infrastructure

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By Charles Pekow — Building bicycle infrastructure really does help people get around in cities. It's just that American municipalities haven't gotten the message. So says an evaluation of an infrastructure-building effort in five cities, including Denver, between 2018 and 2021. The Urban Institute's report on the Final Mile Program concludes “cities in the United States have thus far failed to systematically expand their cycling networks in a fashion that is safe for users and encourages a mode shift out of cars and into this more equitable and environmentally friendly transport mode.”

A cyclist braves State Street. Multimodal, personal transportation, should be safe for all users on State Street in Salt Lake City, Photo by Dave Iltis

The Final Mile provided private grant money for publicity, engineering support and advocacy – not building infrastructure. In all the cities, leaders had shown support for bicycling previously.

The institute concluded that municipalities – rather than larger or more distant governments – need to take the lead as they control most streets. They need to set long-term goals and then set priorities. It is also necessary to keep pushing city officials to get things done but that also causes stress among the staff.

The 86-page evaluation offers plenty of tips for bicycle advocates, city officials and funders. It acknowledges that advocates by and large haven't produced adequate ways to minimize the influence of NIMBYs and other opponents of bike lanes, who will always exercise their First Amendment rights to show up and speak at public meetings.

Find the RESEARCH REPORT: Making the Case for Improved Bicycling Infrastructure: An Analysis of the Final Mile Bicycle Infrastructure Program at https://www.urban.org/sites/default/files/publication/105402/making-the-case-for-improved-bicycling-infrastructure.pdf

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