The Rapidian

Greater Grand Rapids Bicycle Coalition's prepares for city certification

Executive Director Tom Tilma talks about creating longevity for the Greater Grand Rapids Bicycle Coalition, and how they are helping to create a cyclist friendly community.
Tom Tilma and Tricia Boot, the staff at GGRBC

Tom Tilma and Tricia Boot, the staff at GGRBC /Kendra Vanderlip

From the most recent annual fundraiser; The Clips. Beer and Film Tour

From the most recent annual fundraiser; The Clips. Beer and Film Tour /Kendra Vanderlip

Crowds enjoying the beer and waiting for the films at the local fundraiser

Crowds enjoying the beer and waiting for the films at the local fundraiser /Kendra Vanderliip

Tom Tilma, executive director of The Greater Grand Rapids Bicycle Coalition (GGRBC), has big plans for the local cycling nonprofit. Tilma wants to be a silver level cycling friendly community, according to the standards set by the League of American Bicyclists. Grand Rapids is currently a bronze level city.

GGRBC is working with the city to set up a plan to get to the next step. With other major cities such as Ann Arbor and Chicago taking big steps to get to their new goals, Tilma says Grand Rapids shouldn’t be far behind. He’s been working closely with city officials to lay the groundwork for more bike lanes and creating more bicyle friendly communities.

Grand Rapids has been making big strides with working on its legislation and planning Tilma says. Having recently received a large grant from the Michigan Department of Transportation for a cycling safety education program, as well as facilitating the addition of bicycle lanes in the Grand Rapids area as part of the GGRBC Room to Ride program. Another 28 miles of lanes are scheduled to be added before next June.

Tilma would argue that there is still more that the city could do.

“There has to be a commitment of a few hundred thousand dollars more a year from the City of Grand Rapids, for us to compete with Ann Arbor.," says Tilma. "So we are not asking for tremendous amount of money, given the size of the city budget.”

Tilma’s dream for a gold status rating needs a financial commitment from the city in order to be achieved. While Tilma and the GGRBC have assisted the city with achieving some major grants for the city to expand the bicycle lanes within the city limits, there is still more that needs to be done. Regular maintenance needs to be performed on the lanes once they’ve been installed in order to be accessible to both cyclists and pedestrians.

“We really need a full time bicycle engineer and bicycle planner who are implementing together a comprehensive bicycle and pedestrian plan,” Tilma says.

With that kind of support at the legislative level, Grand Rapids can start pursuing other opportunities to make their community more cyclist friendly. Tilma has been working with the city commission on several other projects, such as working with the Grand Rapids Public Schools on a program called Safe Routes to Schools.

The program would encourage students to walk or bike to school, providing them with areas to store their bikes safely while in school for the day. This program is just one of many that Tilma is hoping to support in an effort to engage a variety of people in the cycling trend.

“We want the benefits of our movement to be available to all neighborhoods. We want all parts of the community to experience the benefits of the cycling movement," Tilma says.

GGRBC is also working to appeal to a variety of citizens is with their She Rides Her Own Way program, a Facebook campaign designed to build self esteem and promote healthy awareness in women.

A final project the Tilma and the GGRBC is also anxious to start working on is a bike sharing program, similar to the one Ann Arbor will be rolling out soon. It is with these kinds of programs that communities are more likely to earn a gold level status. A gold status is achieved by having a  With projects like a bike sharing program taking years to plan and implement, Tilma wants to get started on this next endevor as soon as possible.

Tilma says he is extremely thankful for the city for the support that he and the GGRBC have already received in their goals for a cyclist friendly community.

“We appreciate the leadership of the mayor and the city commission in Grand Rapids," Tilma says. "They have a strong vision for a sustainable community and they understand the many wins that come with being a bicycle friendly community. They are taking a serious look at how we can get taken to the next level.”

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