A growing number of mayors want to make big strides on bike policy, and they need smart advocates to help them do it.
Mayors Michael Nutter of Philadelphia, Bill Peduto of Pittsburgh, Jennifer Selin of Morgantown, and A.C. Wharton of Memphis addressed the opening session at the 2014 Pro Walk Pro Bike Pro Place conference, now underway in Pittsburgh. The mayors highlighted their own cities’ efforts to create safer conditions for biking and walking, and shared their thoughts about how their cities have overcome key obstacles and how advocates can make an impact.
In all four cities, mayors called investment in walking and cycling infrastructure a smart long-term policy with numerous community benefits. “It’s healthy, it’s good for the economy, and our citizens,” said Philadelphia’s Nutter. They each cited constructive partnerships with advocates, and intensive listening to community concerns, as keys to advancement. Selin of Morgantown said, “I enjoy bicycling, but I can’t put it forth as my own agenda. It has to come from the community.”
Each mayor also highlighted how their bike networks will bridge social divides within their cities, and they pointed out that city mayors, unlike legislators, are obliged to make things work: “We’re the government of last resort,” said Memphis’s Wharton. “We can’t pass our responsibilities down to anyone else.”
Martha Roskowski from PeopleForBikes led off by introducing Isabella, a fictional 12-year-old girl. She urged planners and advocates in the audience to design bikeways that people like Isabella would enjoy — and highlighted how protected bike lanes have multiplied across the country. Yet in city after city, advocates alone can’t build new bike networks. “The single determinant” that best ensures success, Roskowski said, “is a really great mayor.”