The New Wave of Bike-Friendly Suburbs

Central cities don’t have a monopoly on making cycling a safe and convenient choice for residents. In the latest round of the League of American Bicyclists’ bicycle-friendly communities program, several suburbs made a strong showing.

Ferguson, Missouri's bike education efforts helped make it one of the country's newest bike-friendly communities. The suburb's "Earn-a-Bike" program gives every child an opportunity to own a bike. Image: Ferguson Youth Initiative

The League’s Liz Murphy shares a few examples of the suburban communities that won recognition for their efforts:

Suburban towns, like Menlo Park, Calif.; Elmhurst, Ill.,; and Ferguson, Mo. are showing large urban centers aren’t the only areas making biking better for millions of Americans.

Menlo Park, Calif., moved up to Silver status in this round by making significant improvements through its partnership with Facebook, a Gold-level Bicycle Friendly Business. Since its last application to the BFC program, Menlo Park has added miles of bike lanes and boosted its share of bike commuters to 8 percent — more than doubling its bike commuters in the last 10 years…

Ferguson, Mo., a suburb of St. Louis, has led the way with its education and encouragement policies, including an Earn-a-Bike program that’s free to local youth…

Outside Chicago, Elmhurst, Ill., has so many children who bike to school — between 10 and 20 percent — that they recently had to install hundreds of additional bike racks to local schools.

“We applaud Elmhurst,” said Ed Barsotti, executive director of the League of Illinois Bicyclists. “They could have been content with the major regional trail going through their suburb. Instead, they took a holistic approach to becoming bike-friendly through education, encouragement, and expansion of the bike network.”

Elsewhere on the Network today: Better Institutions shares a recent analysis by a Toronto mortgage broker showing that it pays to live in a place where you don’t have to drive everywhere, even if the housing costs more. The State Smart Transportation Initiative outlines a new MIT study that found emissions from vehicles caused an astounding 53,000 premature deaths in 2005. And Bike Portland says a new protected bike lane has resulted in a 15 percent increase in cycling on that street.