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American professionals cycled in on tool to foster bicycle-friendliness


Urban Systems widens active transportation network

A tool to help communities across the U.S. ultimately become more resilient and livable is now available online.

Sarah Freigang is a transportation planner with Urban Systems, which helped to develop the bicycle account guidelines. She shared the news of the guidelines’ online availability with the Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals (APBP) at its 2013 professional development seminar in Boulder, Colorado, in September.

Sarah says she fielded a lot of questions about the guidelines, which were created about a year ago for the American League of Bicyclists — a national, nonprofit group in the U.S. committed to creating a bicycle-friendly America.

“A lot of people did recognize the potential of (the account) as an engagement and encouragement tool,” Sarah says, noting it’s not only a comprehensive way for communities to track their bicycle activity and initiatives but also to convey to existing and potential citizens what’s available to support an active lifestyle and the resulting health, social and other benefits. These are elements of resilient, vibrant communities that cities generally strive to promote, and Urban Systems is called to support.

“What makes it a great tool is that it presents information that you might not normally have access to if you’re a regular cyclist using everyday roads and networks,” Sarah says.

“It provides information about traffic counts, the quality of the network and infrastructure, so it presents information in a way that’s neat, organized, concise and accessible to a lot of people, and it tells a bit of a story about what’s going on, monitors trends, and focuses on future goals.”

A bicycle account can also help shape policies. In the Danish capital of Copenhagen — one of the first cities ever to have a wide-scale account — the city’s policy shifted to widening existing cycle tracks rather than creating more after surveyed users cited congestion as an issue.

Sarah says APBP delegates were keenly interested in how data for the account is collected; cities are already obtaining much of it, and different community and advocacy organizations and volunteers can also be engaged to help, she says.

Developing the account guidelines marked a first step for Urban Systems to grow its presence in the U.S., and Sarah’s participation at the APBP event widened the circle with like-minded professionals working on active transportation issues.

“It’s really exciting to have the opportunity to talk with other people who are interested and passionate about the same thing,” Sarah says, adding she gave input on challenges and heard new, thought-provoking ideas.

“Just sharing a lot of information was really valuable for me — it’s learning from everyone,” she says. A high point was participating in a walking/cycling tour of Denver, which Sarah says was a window on how different challenges are met and some interesting initiatives underway.

Sarah wasn’t the only Canadian amongst the 300 planners, engineers, public health professionals, advocates and others at the seminar, noting professional groups for active transportation professionals are scarce in this country. She says there was “really strong interest in what we’re doing up here, especially in Vancouver.”

“Some of the work we’ve done here is pretty unique and I think fairly ground-breaking in a way,” Sarah says.

Currently, Urban Systems is involved in a cycling safety study for Vancouver, which follows on the heels of a pedestrian safety study. A regional bicycle monitoring study may also be in the works for a metro transportation authority.

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