Connecting state and local government leaders
The Final Mile program successfully encouraged rapid expansion of local cycling networks in five cities, according to a new report that includes recommendations for policymakers.
While cycling infrastructure can help widen access to low-cost, reliable and sustainable means of transportation, cities have failed to expand their cycling networks so they are safe for users and more equitable and environmentally friendly, according to a report by Urban Institute. But the organization’s analysis of the Final Mile program in five cities shows successful rapid expansion of local cycling networks is possible.
To see whether U.S. cities could get more people onto bikes, the Urban Institute examined the PeopleForBikes Final Mile program, which is designed to jump-start municipal bike infrastructure improvements. Initiated in 2018, the program supported a combination of advocacy, communications and engineering support in five cities—Austin, Texas; Denver; New Orleans; Pittsburgh and Providence, Rhode Island—but did not directly fund infrastructure, which was largely constructed using local capital funds, the report says.
Despite the Covid-19 pandemic, by the end of 2021 all Final Mile cities (except New Orleans) reached the cycling infrastructure mileage goals set by local officials. In fact, Austin and Denver completed at least 100 miles of improved bikeways, which was a significant expansion in investment compared with previous years, the report says.
According to the report, the Final Mile program was framed around three primary goals:
- Establishing the importance of setting an initial, ambitious goal for future action.
- Promoting the development of a long-term commitment to achieving a goal set in place.
- Supporting raised local capacity to execute projects.
Recommendations for Policymakers and Funders
Here are some of the recommendations provided by the Urban Institute for cities looking to expand their cycling infrastructure and encourage a shift toward biking:
Ensure elected officials’ buy-in from the start. Meetings with elected officials and their staff before agreeing to fund local organizations ensure that political support is present for improved cycling projects. This approach helped guarantee that the Final Mile program cities had a champion and committed local governments to funding cycling investments from the beginning.
Monitor plan implementation closely, with a focus on accountability. Supporting project managers in each city allows individuals to keep advocates and city staff in frequent communication, ensuring that officials keep the project on the front burner.
Develop a broad set of mechanisms to engage the public and its leaders. By combining communications with technical assistance and a project manager overseeing city–nonprofit relations, programs can hold political officials accountable on multiple fronts.
Commit to ambitious and quantified implementation goals. Negotiating with the mayor’s office to identify goals that would expand the mileage of cycling infrastructure can help keep city staff on track (when associated with mayoral support).
For more information from the Urban Institute report click here.
Andre Claudio is an assistant editor at Route Fifty.