Bend is rapidly becoming known as a national bike Mecca. Our mountain biking trails and COTA’s collaborative work with the Forest Service have received recognition as a national model. The city hosts dozens of road & cyclocross races. Oregon is the first state to begin designating state-recognized scenic bikeways, several of which are in Deschutes County. Bend residents value active lifestyles and see it as a part of the regional character. Yet, despite this emerging world class reputation for biking, few people use bikes as a regular method of commuting, running errands, or going out to see friends.
We believe that this is in part because of a lack of quality urban bike infrastructure and in part because of a lack of strong urban bike culture.
New innovations in bike friendly urban infrastructure have emerged in the past few years. Recent research has shown that some of these ideas are having a significant effect on increasing the use of bikes for urban transportation. Cities like Portland, and Minneapolis, with far less native reason to be the top bike cities of the nation are taking the lead in implementing these ideas. Given our existing bike culture, small size, relatively flat topography, and dry climate, Bend is ideally positioned to be as much of a national leader in urban biking as it is in all the other forms of biking.
Becoming a world class leader in urban biking would provide important economic, social and environmental benefits to our citizens.
Economic Benefits: High quality urban biking infrastructure would encourage more tourism and give the tourists who are already coming a better experience. Visitors to Bend are often attracted by the active lifestyles and would have a better experience if they felt they could comfortably ride throughout town. As Bend grows in reputation as a bike-Mecca, the share of visitors bringing bikes to town is growing.
Service workers, who make the Bend visitor experience, would also be benefited. Being able to forgo a car could save workers up to $8,000 per year most of which would go back into our local economy benefiting local business owners. Because Bend is home to no car manufacturers, oil companies, or insurance companies, none of the money paid to these institutions benefits our local economy.
Long term road maintenance costs would be reduced. Miles traveled by bike have a much smaller impact on roads than miles traveled by car. Every car we take off the road extends the life time of our roads.
Social Benefits: America is currently experiencing an epidemic of diseases related sedentary lifestyles. Diseases such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease are putting a huge burden on federal, state and local healthcare systems as well as private insurance premiums. The fewer people with these diseases the less health care will cost all of us. Active transportation is an easy way to get exercise into a busy lifestyle, and exercise has been shown to be the most effective way of avoiding these devastating diseases. Although active transportation options may not cure people who are already sick, creating a culture of active transportation is likely to reduce their incidence in the future.
Further, making car-free living a pragmatically viable option for commuting and errands would be a huge benefit to all our citizens living at or below the median income. Cars can be extremely expensive to maintain. Providing people with few financial means an option for self-reliance is an important investment in social equity.
Environmental Benefits: Miles traveled by bike have fewer environmental impacts than miles traveled by car. Bikes create virtually no greenhouse gases, smog or other air pollution. Bikes release virtually no oil, anti-freeze or other chemicals into our waterways. Because bikes require no fuel (except a hearty breakfast) they are responsible for virtually none of the environmental impacts of mining petroleum like the BP oil spill, or the open pit mines removing the Canadian tar sands. Finally, the natural resources required to make or dispose of bike parts, especially tires, is substantially smaller.
We have a two-pronged strategy.
- Policy & Funding Advocacy at the state and local government levels: Although local and state funding sources all agree in theory that more funding should be allocated to active transportation, we believe that active transportation is chronically underfunded because of a lack of strong advocacy at the key decision making points. We plan to identify key decision makers and key decision points in state and local funding cycles, and ensure that we send well educated, politically effective individuals to advocate on behalf of better bike infrastructure at all key opportunities.We also plan to help decision makers, especially elected officials, understand the high level of the political support for better bike infrastructure in Bend. We plan to become a high-profile membership organization that speaks on behalf of a large coalition of Bend citizens. We hope that creating clear vocal, political support for better bike infrastructure will lead to greater funding.One possible avenue for raising this level of awareness would be creating a visionary Citizen’s Bike Transportation Plan, which would replace the existing chapter on bike lanes in the current Bend Transportation Plan.
- Making Urban Bike Culture Fun: Creating a culture of fun. We plan to hold several events encouraging a vibrant urban cycling community.