Portland, Boulder, Madison, San Francisco, Seattle, Austin, Chicago – these are cities known to be magnets to young college graduates and the “creative class” that so many cities including Dayton are trying to retain and attract. But what else do these cities have in common? They are all known as some of the most bicycle-friendly cities in the country according to a city ranking by the League of American Bicyclists – the standard for cities looking to capitalize on the growing popularity of the bicycle culture. While Dayton must continue to work hard at attracting businesses that provide good jobs, we must at the same time be doing everything we can to make our city attractive for living – and bicycles can play a major role in that.
Columbus is the only Ohio city that ranks on the Bicycle Friendly Community list (bronze level), but Dayton has the potential to join and even surpass Columbus as a bicycle-friendly community. Our region already enjoys one of the best recreational trail networks in the country, with main trails converging at Riverscape in Downtown Dayton where the region’s first bike hub is now being built. We also have the new MetroParks Mountain Biking Area that is growing in popularity. Imagine if we capitalized on these unique recreational assets by integrating them with a city and region-wide transportation network that encourages more people to use bicycles for short trips and even commutes to work.
There are few things as versatile and that transcend race, gender, socio-economics, age or even physical fitness level more than a bicycle – whether being used recreationally or for basic transportation. By transforming our streets to be more pedestrian and bicycle-friendly, we can:
- Provide low-cost transportation options to those unable to afford automobiles as well as those that simply want to drive less
- Decrease traffic congestion and pollution
- Lower obesity levels by increasing physical activity
- Add vibrancy and safety to our downtown streets
- Allow people to spend less on gas and perhaps spend more in our local economy
The City of Dayton is taking initial steps by implementing the region’s first dedicated bike lanes and sharrows (shared lanes that are marked) when it completes the downtown two-way street conversions over the next several months. It is a nice nod to the Wright Brothers that St. Clair Street will have one of these dedicated bike lanes, since it shares its name with a line of bicycles that the Wrights built and sold. Added to groups like Courteous Mass (a grassroots urban bicycle awareness movement) and the Drive Less Live More campaign, we are moving in the right direction toward a comprehensive plan that aims to put Dayton on the map for bicycle-friendly communities. This includes efforts as simple as expanding driver/bicycle education and awareness, and as complex as implementing bike share programs and “Complete Streets” plans that truly transform our streets from being designed predominantly for the automobile to being equally accessible to autos, bicycles and pedestrians alike.
We all know about the Wright Brothers and how their invention of flight has helped shape Dayton over the past several decades, though few would suggest that it is their prior work with bicycles that may represent the future for Dayton. However, in this age of rising transportation costs, traffic congestion, growing obesity, climate change and culture shifts, cities across the country are discovering that the bicycle can play a pivotal role in the quest for economic prosperity. It is time for Dayton to join this trend.
Join the first Miami Valley Cycling Summit this Friday at UD, where government officials, experts, community leaders and bicycle advocates from across the region AND the country will be presenting plans already implemented in other cities and ideas for us here in Dayton. As of the time of this post there are over 275 registrants.