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How One Group Wants to Help 10 Cities Become Cycling Paradises

The Big Jump Project wants to help usher in a new era of growth for cycling, doubling and even tripling capacity

Communities across the country have been building great examples of bike infrastructure for years. But according to Kyle Wagenshutz, Director of Local Innovation for People for Bikes, these additions often lack the connectivity to other lanes and trails needed to truly grow a bigger cycling community.

"Communities haven’t been focusing on how to connect bike infrastructure in a way that makes it as easy to use as a car," he says. "Think of cars as the gold standard for network connectivity. There are few places you can’t get to if you’re in a car. They’re extensive and redundant. If you were to take out the roads on a city map and leave in just the bicycle corridors, in many cities, it would look like a few pieces of dropped spaghetti."

To help encourage more growth in cycling infrastructure, People for Bikes recently announced the Big Jump Project, a plan that seeks to double or even triple cycling capacity in 10 cities, towns, and suburbs by 2020. The main focus is information sharing; the organization will provide the selected cities with access to experts in network design and cycling infrastructure. Additionally, advisors will help cities create the support programs and community engagement plans that can maximize the acceptance and use of new cycling infrastructure. People for Bikes has found the "if you build it, they will come" model for new cycling infrastructure won’t work without proper outreach.

"After years of development and growth, there’s a toolbox for communities to reference to build great places for people to bike," Wagenshutz says. "Now, it’s about figuring out how to use all those tools together."

People For Bikes devised the Big Jump campaign after finishing the Green Lanes project, which has helped popularize and grow protected bike lanes over the last five years. With the United States now boasting more than 300 miles of protected bike lanes, and the number of lanes doubling over the last few years, the organization decided to focus on the network effect and building out from the transit backbones already established in many cities.

Another aspect of the plan is to gather more data about the positive effects of cycling. By collecting more information about health and safety benefits of expanded access and better-connected communities, the organization hopes to create an even stronger case for expanding cycling and transit networks. Application are due by October 28th.