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California city is first to Platinum

Posted by on September 28th, 2005 at 9:25 am

Reporting from Interbike

…the first “Platinum” level Bicycle Friendly Community in the U.S. is Davis, California.

In talking with representatives from the League of American Bicyclists (the organization behind the designation), they said Davis is simply “way ahead” of any other city and that they are even on par with European cities.

I was hoping Portland would be first to get this designation, but I can rest easy knowing that we are a major city and Davis is a small, quaint town, dominated by cows, college kids and a major university. Portland on the other hand is a major city and the challenges we face to become more bike friendly are much greater.

So the “Go Platinum Portland” campaign will press on! Stay tuned for how you can get involved.

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  • Chris Smith September 28, 2005 at 9:45 am

    Any sense of what we can learn from Davis to apply here in Portland?

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  • Jonathan Maus September 28, 2005 at 10:01 am

    I’m not sure if we can really apply their successes and experiences to our situation. I can’t get over the fact that they’re a much smaller, younger (due to the college) community with a vastly different socio-political environment. That being said, I’m sure some of their programs would be good brainstorm fodder for us to consider.

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  • Ryan September 28, 2005 at 10:22 am

    How’s the MTB access situation in Davis, and I wonder if that played a major roll in achieving their platinum status.

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  • WOBG September 28, 2005 at 11:00 am

    I was bike safety coordinator at UC Davis years ago while I went to school there. MTB access is pretty much a non-issue within Davis city limits, because the city–and Yolo County, by and large–is flat. MTB riders head to the Bay Area or the gold-country foothills.

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  • WOBG September 28, 2005 at 11:56 am

    MTB access is pretty much a non-issue within Davis city limits, because the city–and Yolo County, by and large–is flat. MTB riders head to the Bay Area or the gold-country foothills–or the Sierras.

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  • Robert Ping September 28, 2005 at 12:39 pm

    I think we should push LAB to differentiate their designations based on city size and any other appropriate factors. As Jon said, there is a big difference between towns like Davis and Portland.

    It would be much easier for an isolated small town to reach Platinum goals than a major urban city.

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  • West Cougar September 28, 2005 at 2:12 pm

    I must say I am not much surprised. But neither am I impressed. Nor do I care. To herald a (Ag) college town as some bike mecca the rest of North America should emulate is almost mockable. It is laughable.

    I’ve been to Davis. In the summer. I was very disappointed. For years I had heard such wonderful things about their bike community. I was considering a move to Sacramento and thought it would be cool to live in a great bikey town like Davis.

    When in finally got there I thought may be I was in the wrong part of town and was ‘missing it’. So I asked around. Nope, in fact I was in the “cool/trendy” area. Again this was summer, but all I saw was a bunch of out of towners hanging around a couple blocks not much different from Sisters Oregon. The rest of the city seemed to be like any medium sized midwest college town (and I’ve been to quite a few) during summer break. A few grad students going from here to there, and still fewer under-grads killing time drinking beer. As for the bike facilities, not seeing much note-worthy, I asked about them too. Nope, I’d seen them. A few bike-only routes cutting through campus and circumscribing the perimeter.

    Sheesh! By that logic if Harvard wasn’t surrounded by Boston, it could probably be a platinum level city. Certainly Madison, WI could be if it didn’t have the surrounding suburbs agitating over all the classic Conservative complaints against taxes and public subsidies.

    I have to wonder if any League-ers have actually *been* to Davis. I’d wager they sure don’t live there… well maybe they do. That would explain a lot. :-)

    My real supposition is that a few cities have groups that are serious about getting the award and so try hard in their application forms. As for the remainder of the US, they could probably not care less about the League-ers. Does anyone know if Madison (to pick one city) has even applied?

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  • Fritz September 28, 2005 at 3:09 pm

    I was involved in my city’s efforts to become a “Bicycle Friendly Community,” which we were awarded in 2004. A couple of notes.

    1.I believe the LAB does take city size into consideration. Population, area, income, climate and other factors are used in determining the city’s level of “bicycle friendliness.”

    2. The LAB recognized Portland in its press release as a city that is “close to achieving platinum status,” which is very impressive for a city of over half a million people.

    3. Andy Clarke urged the city of Davis to help Portland “learn from their work,” but — as others here have noted — the things Davis does probably don’t scale that well to a real metropolis.

    4. The other city in the running for Platinum status — Boulder — is close to Davis in size. 16% of local trips are by bike in Boulder, but Boulder also has a poor traffic capture rate — most workers live outside of Boulder and commute into town.

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  • Cyclelicious September 28, 2005 at 3:11 pm

    Davis: Platinum Bicycle Friendly Community

    Jonathan Maus of BikePortland correctly predicted that Davis would be chosen as the first Platinum Bicycle Friendly Community.

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  • hanna September 28, 2005 at 4:29 pm

    Don’t forget that Davis is FLAT and a lot less rainy than Portland…

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  • West Cougar September 28, 2005 at 4:44 pm

    Rethinking it, I am going to soften my criticism slightly. Or perhaps fine tune it. :-)

    As the LAB goes, they are properly a single issue advocacy group. As such a city may under the sole criteria of bike friendliness be a paragon of such while at the same time not being any place anyone would/could live.

    So in that regard, I was probably a bit too dismissive. LAB can’t help it/be blamed if a boring small town in the California Central Valley is setting the bar for *accomodating* bicycles. Give credit where credit is due. If one’s measure is *accomodation*, Davis is likely superior.

    Davis is *accomodating*, but they are not bikey-paradise USA. It is not a strech to suggest rational people will not be moving to Davis to ‘live the bike scene’ anytime soon. Or ever. That is Portland. No questions, no debate.

    Lastly, I have to say LAB comes across a bit condescending suggesting that Portland can learn a thing or two from Davis. The two cities are apples and oranges. Should an orange learn from an apple the convenience of an edible skin? Its ridiculous.

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  • Joyful September 29, 2005 at 10:46 am

    While on Cycle Oregon earlier this month, I spoke at length to the LAB representatives traveling with us. I asked them what, specifically, Portland needed to do to achieve the coveted Platinum designation. The LAB reps told me that Portland is getting very close to Platinum but that we need to substantially increase the number of local trips by bicycle; Davis and Boulder were both cited by the LAB as cities with a significantly higher percentage of local trips made by bicycle as compared to the same trips made by car. To increase Portland’s number of local trips, they suggested a greater focus on safety and education (share the road, etc.) issues.

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  • Roger Geller September 30, 2005 at 11:25 am

    In briefly discussing Davis’ platinum status with the League’s executive director, he told me that the review committee asked themselves the question: “what else could we ask Davis to do before awarding them the highest designation?” The answer to that was “not much.” Given that, the review committee felt that if they couldn’t give Davis the Platinum designation this time, then they would never be able to award it to any city.

    Portland clearly needs to and can do more to encourage increased use of the bicycle. However, Portland is also a much different city than Davis, and much different than the other cities that currently share the Gold-level designation with us (Palo Alto, Boulder, and Corvallis). While Portland has a population of 540,000 and a land area of 134 sq mi, these other three have populations of 57,000, 93,000, and 50,000, and land areas of 24 sq mi, 24 sq mi, and 14 sq mi, respectively. This makes a difference in terms of building a bikeway network and promoting bicycling.

    To that end, it makes sense for the League to recognize these inherent differences and establish separate categories based upon population, area, and perhaps even proportion of population that are college students.

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  • [...] I’ve added all these to my sidebar, which now lists 24 Portland bike blogs…take that Davis! For more on local bike blogs, check out this post. [...]

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