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The Greater Grand Rapids Bicycle Coalition (GGRBC), a non-profit advocacy group, is working with city officials to make Grand Rapids more bike friendly and promote active commuting - cycling, riding the bus, walking and other alternatives to driving to work. They hope to make headway on their campaign "100 by 2014: Bike Lanes Now!," an aim to create 100 miles of bike lanes by the end of 2014.
"In 2009, when the city of Grand Rapids was designated as Bronze, the city had no bike lanes," says GGRBC's Interim Director Tom Tilma referring to the Bronze Bicycle Friendly Community designation from the League of American Bicyclists. The coalition has since made efforts to connect with the city to reach their 2014 goal. GGRBC held a bicycle summit during May of 2011. Grand Rapids responded to the summit and added six miles of bike lanes that year.
"The desire of GGRBC is to increase bicycle commuting here to a rate closer to Ann Arbor, [which has] a rate six times the national average," says Tilma.
"In 2012, after a number of meetings between GGRBC and Grand Rapids officials, the City Commission approved bike lanes for 26 miles of streets," says Tilma. "The rate of bike lane development in the city of Grand Rapids has been very fast and has required a big commitment on part of the City staff."
Last year, GGRBC members advocated or provided assistance at over 30 public meetings with city staff, focusing on bike lanes, to encourage the community to find new, more active ways to commute.
"The city put in almost 12 new miles [of bike lanes] last fall and could put another 14 miles this spring - giving the city a total of 34 miles by June 30 of this year," says Tilma.
Recent efforts have included advocating for city projects like Revision Division, which in addition to changing car lanes, also added lanes to accommodate area cyclists.
Now GGRBC, through the city's Michigan Street Corridor Plan, is working with the city to create a new bikeway on Lyon Street from Plymouth to Diamond. the bikeway could include a two-way cycle track from Diamond to Monroe. The new cycle track would be buffered by parked cars, a safety precaution to encourage more cyclists. The new lane would accommodate and increase the current number of cyclists and the cycle track would be one of the first tracks built in the state.
"There is a cultural shift among millenials and college students- many are choosing a lifestyle independent of a car," says Tilma. "We want to broaden that momentum of the emerging bicycle culture to include more people commuting to work on their bikes."
Bike lane maps and other information about upcoming GGRBC events and Active Commute Week 2013 are available on their website.
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