Steve Clark Visits Portland: input from the Bicycle Friendly Communities Program

May 16, 2015 at 3:00 pm Leave a comment

Steve Clark - League PhotoThanks to Tyler Kidder, the Sustainability Coordinator at the University of Southern Maine and Nancy Grant of the Bicycle Coalition of Maine, Portland hosted a visit in late April from Steve Clark, specialist with the Bicycle Friendly Communities Program (an initiative of the League of American Bicyclists).

There are designated Bicycle Friendly Communities in every state in the country (Bath and Brunswick are listed as Bronze). Places like Boulder, CO and Davis, CA are at the highest Platinum level (not a shocker) – but other cities like Chicago, which lagged behind in bicycle improvements for a long time, have shot up in the rankings due to concerted on-the-ground infrastructure and programming efforts in recent years. It’s clear that a community’s Bicycle Friendly Community status has become a standard economic and liveability draw for everyone from families to corporations.

IMG_0890 (2)The application is lengthy and then followed up with on-site 3rd party assessments – one of which I’ve done here in Maine.  Portland was disheartened to apply twice for Bicycle Friendly Community status and only get Honorable Mention both times.  (And I’ve personally questioned how Bath – where I’m from, so I’m a supporter! – and Brunswick have Bronze and Ogunquit received Honorable Mention and yet Portland hasn’t moved up in the rankings.)

IMG_0892 (2)The meetup with Steve involved a group ride to review built projects and places needing improvement and we really covered some ground (route map here).  Staff from the City of Portland, PACTS metropolitan planning organization, and the local Federal Highway office also participated in the tour.

This was followed by an in-office consult session with Steve at the Bicycle Coalition. Steve has a broad biking background – including serving as the Bicycle Coordinator for Boulder, Colorado and program manager for the Non-motorized Transportation Pilot Program in Minneapolis. (I went on a bike facilities tour that Steve led around Minneapolis at the 2011 National Safe Routes to School Conference.)

IMG_0897 (2)He had plenty of input to offer on ways for Portland to grow more visible in bike friendliness. Even more helpful than I thought it might be – sometimes I feel like we’re all talking in an echo chamber and to the choir – and I admit to a bias of thinking mid-westerners have way more land and right-of-way to build what they want. I found Steve a good mix of grounded and no-nonsense – offering multiple perspectives from his trips around the country and fresh, concrete ideas.

Steve was impressed by all that’s going on and/or planned and funded for Portland, too, and he encouraged us to share more about it all in our next application.  He also made clear that the proposed loss of the City of Portland’s Bicycle & Pedestrian Coordinator position would be a real step backward for the City and the City’s Bicycle Friendly Community status.  Here’s hoping we can bring the position back asap!

Entry filed under: Active Transportation. Tags: , , .

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