For starters, only cities larger than 100,000 people were considered. That means Provo could have qualified, but didn’t. All of the cities do happen to be larger than Provo, but at least one — St. Petersburg, Florida — is only about twice as big and hasn’t seen any substantial growth in 30 years.
Probably the biggest lesson that these cities offer is on how to become bike-friendly. Boston for example, has experienced a complete turnaround in a very short period of time:
Not long ago, Beantown was often cited as one of the worst cities for biking. Dismayed by the unsavory title, Mayor Tom Menino started the Boston Bikes (http://www.bostonbikes.org) initiative in 2007 headed by former Olympic cyclist Nicole Freedman. In the past five years, Boston has created over 50 miles of bike lanes (up from just 60 yards), installed 2,500 bike parking spaces and 850 bike racks, and established numerous city-wide programs to promote cycling and bike safety. The city recently ranked number one in the country for safety for bikers and pedestrians by the Alliance for Biking & Walking, and carries silver-level status as a bike-friendly community from the League of American Bicyclists.
Chicago has also benefited immensely from a pro-biking mayor, and Minneapolis has seen its downtown revitalized as it has become a famous biking city. It’s also worth pointing out that those two cities, as well as at least Denver and Boston, have weather that is as severe or worse than Provo’s.
Why does this matter? Because in addition to being pleasureable and healthy, biking benefits the entire community — including people who don’t actually bike themselves. From Shareable Cities:
Even if you will never ride a bike in your life, you still see benefits from increased levels of biking. More bicyclists mean less congestion in the streets and less need for expensive road projects that divert government money from other important problems. Off-road paths, bike lanes, sidwalks and other bike and ped improvements cost a fraction of what it takes to widen streets and highways. It’s proven that bicycling and walking increases people’s health and reduces obesity, which will translate into huge cost savings for government and a boost for our economy.
Provo often ranks highly on lists related to quality of life, economic recovery and other positive factors. But if the city is going to stay on those lists for 10, 20 or even 30 years, residents and city leaders need to engage in serious investment now. To be sure, the city has experienced some remarkable progress, but far, far more is needed. To that end, the city is holding a bicycle master plan workshop on April 10. Click here for more information.
Ultimately, biking is an obvious area in which to invest because it produces a demonstrable payoff. Past leaders in some of the most bikeable cities understood that, and today those cities are reaping the rewards. In other cities, current leaders are creating a legacy for future generations. In Provo, our legacy can either be tight-fisted austerity that mortgages the future of our children, or it can be a dynamic city that benefits from biking.