As Earth Day draws near, Truckee Meadows Bicycle Alliance wanted to share some of the benefits of improved bicycle infrastructure in the Truckee Meadows.
What is bike infrastructure?
We see bike infrastructure as coming in two flavors, social and physical. An example of social infrastructure is workplace support. Employers can support bicycle commuting in a number of ways that include providing secure bike parking sheltered from the weather or onsite showers or changing rooms. Offering financial incentives to commute by bike rather than a car is another way to support commuter cyclists.
Physical infrastructure on the other hand, generally includes bike routes and adequate bike parking. Sufficient bike parking appears to be a very distant afterthought in many urban areas. Wave racks and schoolyard racks (the ones that just hold a bike’s front or rear tire) can be found in many places, but they don’t provide the functionality or security that is really needed for bicycle commuters. Additionally, bike parking is usually way too sparse, especially compared to car parking. Fortunately, it’s a lot easier to bring a bike up onto a sidewalk to lock it to something like a parking meter (although that isn’t always legal). You can learn more about what makes good bike parking here.
Bike routes pose an entirely different set of problems. Most people think of “bike lanes” when they think of bike routes. These are those bike routes you see marked by nothing other than white paint. However, where vehicle speeds exceed 15-20 miles per hour, white paint bike lanes don’t feel safe enough to encourage more people to ride. In these conditions, we need routes for cyclists that are physically separated in some way from car traffic. An example of this can be seen along Victorian Avenue in Sparks and will be represented by the Center Street Cycle Track, once it is completed. Thanks to advocacy efforts from TMBA, the current preferred design of the Oddie/ Wells Project includes a bike route that will be separated from traffic as well. Portions of the Tahoe-Pyramid Trail through Reno and Sparks represent a bike route that is completely separated from traffic.
In 2018, TMBA conducted a survey of over 600 people. Only two in 10 people said that a bike route that was marked only with white paint (compared to a road with no bike lane at all) would encourage them to ride more frequently. Four times as many people, eight out of 10, would ride that same route more frequently if there was a protected bike lane.
So, what are the broader benefits?
According to Project Drawdown, bike trips currently account for about 3% of urban bike trips around the world. They calculated the costs and benefits of increasing that percentage to 8% over over 30 years by installing infrastructure needed to encourage people to ride. This would be equivalent to between two and four trillion bicycle commute miles annually around the world. This would prevent the release of up to 6.6 billion tons of CO2 from fossil fuels. A potentially unexpected outcome of this study is that because bicycle infrastructure is so much cheaper to construct and maintain than car infrastructure, we could save up to $7.5 trillion in construction costs and up to $827 billion in maintenance costs over 30 years.
What are some more tangible benefits of increased cycling locally?
Increased cycling could bring a number of real benefits to our community. These include improved air quality by reducing fossil fuel use, increased personal wellness by participating in active transportation alternatives, decreased traffic, and improved social connectivity among people and their community.
How can you be a part of the solution?
- Ride: As Freddy Mercury once sang, “Get on your bikes and ride!” You can make the choice to replace a car trip here and there with a bike trip. Just being on your bike will show others that people in our area do ride and maybe inspire them to ride too.
- Use Your Voice: Let local leadership know that you support planning, policies, and projects that will make cycling safer and more accessible for more people. The cities of Reno and Sparks, Washoe County, and RTC Washoe all have regular public meetings where you can show up and give a three minute public comment.
- Volunteer: There are lots of local organizations that promote cycling in one form or another. Just about all of them need volunteers to help bring cycling to a larger audience. Here are some examples:
What is the Truckee Meadows Bicycle Alliance?
TMBA, also known as @BikeWashoe on social media, is a local cycling nonprofit whose aim is to make Washoe County a safer and more inclusive cycling community. In general, we hope to achieve this goal by:
- Providing non-competitive events for cyclists to build relationships;
- Advocating for all a connected, protected, and equitable bicycle infrastructure network; and
- Helping maintain a connected and cooperative network of organizations whose missions are benefitted by more active transportation in Washoe County.
Our events include Bike Month every May, monthly Fourth Friday Dinner Rides, and an annual Tweed Ride. Our advocacy, among other things, helped get the Center Street Cycle Track approved. This project, once constructed, will provide a two-way separated bike lane along Center Street that reaches from the University to Midtown.