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Grand Rapids again named Bronze Bicycle Friendly Community by League of American Bicyclists

Grand Rapids has once again received the designation of Bicycle Friendly Community at the Bronze level by the Washington, D.C.-based League of American Bicyclists. The award recognizes the city's efforts toward transforming its transportation networks, quality of life for residents, and sustainability. Grand Rapids received its first award in 2009.

The five award levels -- diamond, platinum, gold, silver, and bronze -- provide clear benchmarks for communities to improve in the "5 E's" of the Bicycle Friendly Community program -- engineering, enforcement, encouragement, education, and evaluation and planning.

"People are looking for a vibrant bikeable and walkable city, and a Bike Friendly Community city can say 'look at all the wonderful things we have for you, come to our city to experience it,'" says Elizabeth Murphy, spokesperson for the League of American Bicyclists. "Bronze usually means a city is doing excellent in one 'E' or a couple of 'E's', but there's room for improvement. In Grand Rapids, 'encouragement' is the strong 'E,' because of organized group rides, high involvement with bike month activity, the Mayor's Bike Ride, and there are several bike shops."

Tom Tilma, executive director of the Greater Grand Rapids Bicycle Coalition, led the extensive application process and was among the city leaders to receive the award on Tuesday.

"This puts the city on the map nationally as a place that is bicycle friendly," Tilma says. "The coveted 25- to 34-year-olds demographic is driving less and seeking communities that are bicycle, pedestrian and transit friendly."

Tilma adds that Grand Rapids has made great strides with 30 miles of bike lanes added in less than a year and half, and an increase in downtown bicycle parking. He believes the city still needs to develop a non-motorized transportation plan, create a bicycle coordinator position with the city, and promote bicycle commuting.

"The GGRBC has established a goal for the community of 2.5 percent [of bicycle commuters], which would be a five-fold increase," Tilma says. "We are seeing increases. Our fourth bicycle traffic count conducted in September 2013 showed a 36 percent increase in bicyclists over 2012."

Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

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