City of Laredo Receives Honorable Mention as a Bicycle Friendly Community from the Bike League
On June 2018, Laredo received Honorable Mention as a Bicycle Friendly Community (BFC) from the League of American Bicyclists, the largest membership organization of cyclists in the country, which aims to promote cycling for transportation, fitness and fun through advocacy and education. On average, Laredoans are spending a third of their household income in transportation costs. By riding a bike not only does this number decrease, but it also allows money to be allocated in other costs. In addition, younger generations are more inclined to biking as their means of transportation and Laredo’s median age is 28, ten years younger than the national median age at 38. These are some reasons why we want the City of Laredo to provide more mobility options to their citizens.
The Bicycle Friendly Community program provides a roadmap to improving conditions for bicycling, as well as guidance to help make a community's vision for a bikeable community a reality. The program evaluates six indicators for a community’s bike friendliness including engineering, education, encouragement, enforcement, evaluation, and key outcomes. It also assesses the number of local businesses that have bike friendly facilities for their employees. The Bicycle Friendly Community evaluation of Laredo also takes into account the number of businesses that received recognition for their efforts in making bicycling a real transportation option for their employees.
Honorable Mention, according to the League’s website, is given to those communities
recognized for starting efforts to address the need of bicyclists in their community. They often have shared use paths, community-wide bicycling events, or bicycle planning processes, but have not yet met the standards that would award a Bronze BFC designation. In Texas, 9 cities have been awarded Bronze status, including border cities Brownsville and El Paso, while Austin is the only Texas city with a Gold designation.
The Bicycle Friendly Community program aims to assess and guide municipalities in their advocacy efforts to diversify transportation options, which data shows, has tremendous benefits for the environment, the health, and the quality of life of a city. Regina Portillo, advocate of Bike Laredo, said “when living in Austin, I enjoyed having the option to either drive or ride my bike to work. It didn’t matter that the hills and heat made biking a more challenging feat; some days I was up for it. It was nice to get away from traffic. I want Laredo to give its citizens this same option while also providing safer routes to those who don’t have the luxury of choosing.”
Since May 2017, the City of Laredo has been working with the Laredo Active Living: Mayor’s Wellness Council and Bike Laredo, as well as multiple bike advocacy groups around the city, to provide alternate methods of transportation to those who may not have access to motor vehicles. Active members of Bike Laredo include cycling advocates, city council and staff, TxDOT, and local school districts.
In addition to collaborating with the Active Living Coalition and Bike Laredo, the City is taking bold steps towards diversifying transportation options. Ramon Chavez, executive director with the City of Laredo, recently spoke about the City’s efforts to add bike lanes on Santa Maria starting at the Outlet Mall running to Del Mar Blvd.
Robert Eads, Director of Traffic with the City of Laredo, has been making active strides since joining the department November 2017. “In addition to creating a healthier Laredo, having diverse methods of transportation can get cars off the road and alleviate traffic congestion,” he said. The Traffic Department has placed active transportation at the forefront of priorities by hiring a bicycle and pedestrian coordinator as well as amping their social media and communication efforts, among other initiatives.
Additionally, El Metro recently unveiled their Walk. Bike. Ride. initiative, which aims to encourage residents to use public transit as part of their daily commute. Their first annual event took place on Tuesday, July 10th at the El Metro Transit Center on 1301 Farragut St. Claudia San Miguel, Director of El Metro, said this is “an active-transportation initiative that promotes public transportation use while encouraging people to meet their mobility needs without driving a vehicle.” El Metro has unveiled over 7 Park and Ride Plazas throughout the City of Laredo in the past year.
In the League’s assessment of Laredo’s status as a bicycle friendly community, they commended the active bicycle advocacy group efforts as above average, but suggested, for example, that school districts offer bicycle education programs. They also suggest to implement a Complete the Streets policy and a Vision Zero strategy, which are already in discussion. You can find the full assessment of the report card here.
Local businesses can contribute to the Bicycle Friendly Community by applying for the The Bicycle Friendly Businesses program, which provides a roadmap that businesses can follow with specific steps to reach a bicycle friendly culture. Currently, Frank Architects is the only local business designated as bike friendly. Creating a bicycle friendly culture is not only helpful for our health, but for local economics as well. Businesses that have bicycle friendly designation have also shown that by cultivating bicycle friendliness, their overall revenues are positively impacted.
If you own a private business, you can apply for Bicycle Friendly designation at bikeleague.org/bfa. If you are interested in learning how to navigate the application process or have other questions, contact Frank Rotnofsky or Regina Portillo at Bike Laredo at 956-725-7418 or email@example.com. Visit bikelaredo.org for more information.