Trails in Indiana

Andy Clarke’s Blueprint to Move the United States Forward

It has been a long time since the wheel was invented. According to archeological evidence, the wheel appeared almost simultaneously across Europe and Asia approximately 5,000 years ago. In terms of the growth of civilization, that is around 3500 BC. Nevertheless, it was only about two hundred years ago that people aligned two wheels and “got up on it” to move about. The first version of a human-powered ‘bicycle,’ called a Draisienne or Dandy Horse was crafted in Germany in 1818. It had no gears, chain or pedals. Yet the prospective for mobility for everyone was sparked.

That potential for freedom, utility, and re-creation inspired many improvements climaxing in the 1890s as the Golden Age of Bicycles. The intoxication of the limitless road, the kinship of fellow wheelmen (and women), the diversity of what may be discovered, and the simplicity and economy of use have been the impetus for the popularity of the bicycle that continues today. It has been estimated that there are over 70 million bicycles in the Unites States today and in the most recent year for figures; 18.7 million more were sold in 2012. (

At the forefront of bicycle advocacy in the United States for over 130 years is The League of American Bicyclists (LAB).  The group is headquartered in Washington D. C. and its president for the last ten years has been Andy Clarke. While not sitting at a drafting table as the German Baron Karl von Drais most assuredly did in 1818, The Bike League has drawn a blueprint “to create safer roads, stronger communities, and a bicycle-friendly America.” The League has developed standards and Best Practices to guide individuals, local advocacy groups and governing bodies in attaining “safer, stronger and better connected communities” and “a nation that is healthier, economically stronger, and environmentally cleaner and more energy independent” by way of bicycle friendliness. Their advocacy focuses on five categories of activity:

The success in leadership that the Bike League has cultivated through the years is exemplified by the 100, 000 bicyclists who showed up in support of better roads in Washington D. C. for the 2013 National Bicycle Summit. This year’s summit is scheduled for March 3-5, 2014.

One of the Bike League’s most successful bike advocacy strategies is the Bicycle Friendly Community Program. The program rewards communities, businesses, universities, and states for their level of bike-friendliness. The program’s Platinum, Gold, Silver and Bronze levels of achievement give bragging rights to ‘top” achievers while still providing incentive to reach the next level of attainment. The award is earned annually and is based on the Five “E’s:
Engineering, Education, Encouragement, Enforcement, and Evaluation.

The program though is more than just bragging rights because it:
• Sets standards for what constitutes a real bicycling culture and environment
• Affects decisions on how communities, businesses, universities and states grow
• Inspires action, involvement and coordination among people that want to improve conditions for bicyclists
• Guides progress by acting as a roadmap for what communities, businesses, universities and states should do next
• Rewards persistence as people respond to feedback, make changes and come back again and again to get recognition.
• Raises expectations as to what really is expected and involved in making a great place for bicycling
The Bike League also describes the program as more than an assessment of resources:
1. It’s a study into the DNA making bicycling safe and more comfortable for all people
2. It’s the combined knowledge of hundreds of engineers, government officials and bicycle advocates.
3. It’s a toolkit of projects, policies, programs and plans designed to make biking better.
4. It’s a roadmap for improving conditions for bicycling and the direct assistance to make it happen.

Taking a closer look at the awards for 2013, these are some of the facts:
• The State of Washington is the top ranked Bicycle Friendly State
• Two neighbors of Indiana—Wisconsin and Illinois---are in the TOP 10 States.
• Indiana is ranked 42nd.
• There are only four Platinum Level communities in the country----Boulder, CO; Davis, CA; Fort Collins, CO and Portland, OR.
• There are 18 Gold Level Communities and Madison, WI and Minneapolis, MN are the only Midwestern communities on this level   of award.
• There are 60 Silver Level Communities, with six only in the Midwest including Ann Arbor, MI, Chicago and Evanston, IL;          Houghton, MI, and Lacrosse, WI.
• Bloomington, IN is the only Silver Level community in Indiana
• Carmel, Columbus, Fort Wayne, Goshen, South Bend and Warsaw/Winona Lake, Indiana join Indianapolis at the Bronze Level    of achievement in being bicycle-friendly.

Individuals and advocacy groups know that support, particularly from government officials speeds, facilitates and unifies visionary actions. The Bike League added a new award in 2012 to recognize leaders that can make the vision of a bike friendly state, community, university or business happen without as much of an uphill battle. Andy Clarke visited Indianapolis to give the second only Leadership Award to Mayor B Greg Ballard for exemplifying that leadership for Indianapolis and the country as a whole.

The continuing leadership and advocacy of the League of American Bicyclists portends another successful century or more of achievement in the United States for becoming a completely bicycle-friendly country. The League of American Bicyclists under President Andy Clarke and their Blueprint to “Honor the Past” while “Looking to the Future” needs no revisions to move the country forward.

(Article by Tina Jones)