Palo Alto is a city committed to promoting and encouraging bicycling in the community as an alternate way of getting around. On April 9, City officials had the opportunity to show off all that it has accomplished in terms of bicycle planning and safety in the community for a visiting representative from the League of American Bicyclists (LAB), a national organization that leads the movement to create a bicycle-friendly America. The City currently holds Gold Level Status from the organization as a Bicycle Friendly Community.
Steve Clark, LAB Bicycle Friendly Communities Program Specialist, joined City transportation officials and community members for a tour of the City's Safe Routes to School activities and its bicycle infrastructure as part of the organization’s San Francisco Bay Area innovative cities tour.
On the day-long bicycle tour, Clark received updates on the City’s Safe Routes Program, a movement to make it safe, convenient, and fun for children to bicycle and walk to school. He observed students biking to Gunn High School, students biking and walking to JLS Middle School, Hoover Elementary and Fairmeadow Elementary, and Palo Alto High School’s bicycle parking.
Clark also received updates on active bicycle boulevard projects, and toured City facilities and many of the City’s bicycle routes, including the Charleston Streetscape, Park Boulevard’s bike boulevard, California Avenue, Castilleja Bike Boulevard, and the multi-use path from Churchill to Homer.
The day ended with a presentation and discussion by Clark who said the City had state-of-the-art, cutting-edge bicycle planning.
"You’ve got on a list of things to be implemented some really fantastic projects," he said.
From 2000 to 2012, Clark said the City had a 69 percent increase in bicycle ridership. In Palo Alto, 9.5 percent of the residents also commute to work by bike, ranking the City third in the U.S. behind only the cities of Davis, CA and Denver, CO.
The City’s Gold status is current through 2015 and City officials are already preparing to reapply for Platinum Level Status, an honor only four communities around the country can lay claim to, in the fall.
“We got the impression that we are doing a lot that is consistent with what other Platinum cities are striving for,” said the City’s Chief Transportation Official, Jaime Rodriguez.
In order to have a better chance at achieving the new status, Clark suggested a few key steps the City should take. He advised the City to build community support for bicycle planning, prove to people that biking is better than driving, and to add more staff to build and even stronger bike and pedestrian program.
Rodriguez said that though achieving Platinum status is important, doing the right thing by the community is even more important.
To that end, the City will continue its work to increase its proportion of travel by bicycle by providing facilities, services, and programs that promote bicycling.
“We need to keep coming up with better ways to make biking and walking the safest and most attractive alternatives,” he said. “We need to be innovative and take risks that are well calculated and backed up with data.”