That is right – after months of hard work by many community players and organizations, it has just been announced that Dayton is joining Columbus as Ohio’s only other official Bicycle Friendly Community (both bronze level) – awarded by the League of American Bicyclists (LAB)! This is a huge achievement, as LAB has over the years developed a comprehensive framework of guidelines and processes that application cities must follow and implement in order to be recognized. Other bronze cities in the Midwest include Indianapolis, Grand Rapids, Louisville, Lexington and of course Columbus (among several others). Only Chicago and Ann Arbor have silver status – and only Madison, WI has been awarded gold status in the Midwest. (click here for a complete national list)
Thirty years in the making…
While much of the recent work leading up to now has had the spotlight, it should be noted that this effort is decades in the making – starting with River Corridor Committee and Horace Huffman Jr. leading the charge in the early 70’s (with the Miami Conservancy District, Five Rivers MetroParks and Greene & Miami Counties following soon after) to begin building what is now over 230 miles of connected bike trail in the Dayton Region over the past 30 years. During that time, several advocacy groups emerged including the Ohio Bike Federation, Bike Miami Valley, Dayton Cycling Club and the Miami Valley Mountain Bike Association – as well as sixteen area bike retail businesses. A few short years ago, MVRPC led a group of regional partners to come together and develop a Comprehensive Local-Regional Bikeways Plan for Montgomery, Greene & Miami Counties that included on-road infrastructure (bike lanes), recreation trail extension priorities (such as the SE Corridor) and education, enforcement and encouragement needs for the region. Safe Routes to School was incorporated and in the last couple years received federal funds for implementation.
In the past five years, the mountain biking community has grown significantly with trail mileage almost tripled – including the MetroParks MoMBA facility that opened in 2007. During this time, MetroParks has taken the lead in developing an outdoor recreation initiative and advocating for cycling to be considered for alternative transportation in addition to recreational use. Programs like the Bike to Work Day Pancake Breakfast at 2nd Street Market, Drive Less Live More campaign, Miami Valley Cycling Summit and this year’s Bike to Dragons Games campaigns have been successful in getting more and more people outside and pedaling. Five Rivers MetroParks is about to open (this June) the brand new RiverScape commuter bike hub & pavillion – only the third such facility east of the Mississippi and the first in a mid-sized city. And MetroParks, MCD and University of Dayton have teamed up with the City of Dayton to develop a cycling initiative for the city that became part of the Cycling, Rivers and Active Lifestyle portion of the Greater Downtown Dayton Plan (which will be unveiled on May 18). The bicycle portion of that plan initiative was written by Greg Brumitt & Hans Landefeld and included a path for the City of Dayton to reach bronze level BFC this year, silver by 2012, gold by 2015 and platinum by 2020 (based on Madison, WI’s platinum plan).
Earlier this year, the City of Dayton adopted a Complete Streets policy and city commissioner Nan Whaley continued the push to organize the City of Dayton Walk/Bike task force. This group (including city staffer Bobbi Dillon, Kate Ervin, MetroPark’s Andy Williamson, MVRPC’s Matt Lindsey, MCD’s Hans Landefeld and others) developed the application that was submitted to the League of American Bicyclists a few months ago, and we are now officially a bronze-level Bicycle Friendly City!
Whew – we’ve done a lot! …what’s next?
With all that has been done leading up to this designation, it would be reasonable for people to say its time to relax and enjoy our community’s achievement – but we can only rest for about five minutes because there is MUCH to be done. Adding bike parking facilities and MANY more bike lanes (not just downtown but connecting our city’s many neighborhoods and suburbs), continued advocacy and education programs, and ultimately building a culture and critical mass of bicyclists that ride for both recreation AND transportation alike are the next steps. It will all take more investment, political will and cooperation/collaboration between organizations and municipalities to make these things happen. But as this community has proven, it CAN happen. In the end, this isn’t at all about bronze, silver, gold or platinum – it is about the fact that our community is coming together and accomplishing the necessary things in order to provide a superior quality of life here in Dayton. Kudos to everybody involved with these efforts thus far!
UPDATE: We must mention that Troy, OH received an honorable mention this year (as Riverside did in a past round). Kudos to Troy and ALL of the individual communities surrounding Dayton that are working toward building a bike-friendly region!