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Bicycle Friendly Community

Bicycle Friendly Communities: We Can Do This!

by Jim Wood

Fifteen years ago, Boca Raton was a bicycle friendly leader in Florida. In 2003, Boca and Miami Beach were the only two communities in Florida to receive The League of American Bicyclists’ Bicycle Friendly Community (BFC) award. There are five award levels: bronze, silver, gold, platinum and diamond. Boca and Miami Beach received bronze awards. 

Fast forward 15 years to 2018 and there now a total of 29 communities in Florida with BFC awards ranging from bronze to gold. Miami Beach has advanced to the silver award level; however, Boca is still at the bronze level. Bronze is considered a “getting started” award and diamond is a “setting the standard” award. Boca is the only community in Palm Beach County with a BFC award.

Florida is Leading But Boca is Not

Florida is actually now a national leader with 29 BFC awards. A total of 464 communities across 50 states have achieved award status for an average of a little over nine awards per state; whereas Florida has 29. The following graphic shows the Florida communities receiving awards and their current award level.

BFC Status 2019
BFC Status 2019

Community population is not a significant factor in BFC awards. Sanibel, a gold award recipient, has a population of 6,700 residents and Miami-Dade County, a recipient of a bronze award, has a population of 2.7 million residents.

Five communities have received platinum BFC awards. They include Davis, CA; Boulder, CO; Ft. Collins, CO; Portland, OR and Madison, WI. Geography and climate are not large factors driving BFC awards. 

Are the Bicycle Friendly Community Awards Legit?

The BFC award program was started in 1995 and 1,500 communities have submitted applications for BFC awards. The application form is quite comprehensive and consists of 54 pages of questions requesting community details on bicycle enforcement, education, engineering, evaluation and encouragement. To confirm each community’s effectiveness on the above measures, details are also requested on ridership, crashes and fatalities. The following graphic shows the quantitative/qualitative scores required in each evaluation category to achieve one of the BFC five award levels.

BFC infographic
Bicycle Friendly Community Building Blocks

Can Boca Get Back in the Game?

What’s stopping Boca from again achieving the BFC award leadership status it once enjoyed? Reviewing the list of Florida communities in the first graphic that have surpassed Boca suggests the reason is lack of motivation. The payoffs for making cycling enjoyable in Boca could be huge, including reduced traffic and parking demands. 

The following graphic shows the growth in bicycle commuting in those communities that have been aggressive in implementing the criteria specified for BFC award status. Note, in particular, the bicycle commuting growth in Portland, OR; a community that has achieved the platinum BFC award status.

Bike Commuting Growth 2015
Bike Commuting Growth 2015

There are numerous examples of communities in the United States getting serious about cycling growth. Hiring a consultant for a million dollars to specify what to do in Boca is not needed as the criteria is clearly described in the requirements for BFC awards. Implementation can start today. We can do this!

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