First published in the Coloradoan March 3, 2014
The outbreak of bike crashes calls for full funding of the city’s Bicycle Safety Education Plan.
Unfortunately, the two transportation staffers who wrote the plan are no longer with the city, and the two City Council members who requested the plan are no longer on the council. The result is a poorly implemented BSEP, even though it is ready to launch. It just needs a little funding and staffing, both of which involve little additional cost.
The mantra of transportation planners is “engineering, encouragement, education, enforcement and evaluation.” In other words, build infrastructure, encourage and educate users, enforce regulations and evaluate the results.
For years, our bicycle program did little more than build bike trails and lanes (engineering) and encourage people to use them. There was little enforcement or education, and the evaluations are now coming in the form of crash statistics.
Thanks in large part to budget allocations by City Council in 2012, we have an active Safe Routes to School Program, or SRTS, and city staff has begun to focus less on encouragement and more on education. But full implementation of BSEP holds the key to increased safety. To launch the BSEP, we need to reorganize FC Bikes. A good model is the educational outreach arm of our Utilities Department.
The Utilities “Community Education” division has 2.5 full-time-equivalent, or FTE, employees who work with ClimateWise and the city’s Natural Areas program to offer “classes, programs and events for community members of all ages to gain the knowledge and skills to appreciate and protect our natural resources.” FC Bikes needs a similar program.
FC Bikes currently has 2 FTE employees, while a separate FC Moves Safe Routes to School coordinator, funded at about 0.7 FTE, runs the Safe Routes to School program borrowed from Bicycle Colorado. FC Bikes teaches a full-day bicycle safety class every other month based on Traffic Skills 101 of the League of American Bicyclists.
These programs should be adapted to local needs and the adult classes should be shortened and offered more frequently. One FC Bikes employee could focus full time on outreach to adults, and the SRTS program coordinator should be full time working with schools and with the parks and recreation departments on summer bike camps.
FC Bikes and the SRTS program should be merged with two full-time employees working on education while one, the bicycle program manager, continues to work as a professional planner, helping to coordinate infrastructure improvements (“engineering”) with educational efforts throughout the city.
The new FC Bikes should focus on “education” programs and outreach to city departments, Police Services, CSU, driver education schools, local businesses and bicycle advocacy groups. The SRTS program needs to develop a strategy for teaching 11,000 fourth- through eighth-graders annually. Encouragement programs such as Bike to Work Day could be passed to local bicycle advocacy groups. FC Bikes should coordinate a bicycle ambassador program, called for in BSEP. This would increase the reach of FC Bikes in all its educational programs. Please tell City Council by writing CityLeaders@FCGov.com.