Building a Better Bicycle Future for Iowa

The Iowa Bicycle Coalition focuses its energy and resources on advocating for better laws, infrastructure, and other enhancements to the safety of cycling in Iowa. Coalition staff and volunteers are familiar faces and trusted experts at the table when municipalities and the state are developing plans. Recognizing that attitudes, practices, and funding do not change overnight, the Iowa Bicycle Coalition has committed to years-long advocacy efforts.

The 2018 draft of the Iowa Department of Transportation’s Iowa Bicycle and Pedestrian Long-Range Plan is one place the Coalition’s influence can be seen. The plan—10 years in the making—opens with the following statement of the value of bicycling and walking:

Walking and bicycling are proven ways to improve the quality of life for Iowa’s citizens, providing an essential option for people to get to work, school, and other destinations. Many Iowans have embraced bicycling and walking for transportation purposes, and with the extremely popular RAGBRAI event and the state’s extensive trail system, Iowa is also a great place for recreational riding and walking. Moving forward, Iowa DOT has made a commitment—through the development of this Bicycle and Pedestrian Long-Range Plan—to expand opportunities and further improve conditions for bicycling and walking across the state.

Today, this statement seems somewhat unremarkable. It expresses a view that, while certainly not universal, is fairly common within government organizations, and is one that seems logical and reasonable to many Iowans. But the reality is that this view was not always a commonly accepted one, and this statement represents a significant shift in thinking at the state level. In fact, the state of Iowa’s Bicycle Friendly State ranking has dropped significantly in recent years, and it will only be through plans and efforts such as this that the ranking will improve.

The Iowa Bicycle Coalition has been at the table for many years working to influence this shift and to help move Iowa to its current thinking related to the place of bicycles in the transportation landscape. In no small part because of the Iowa Bicycle Coalition’s contributions to the process, the new Iowa DOT plan incorporates some groundbreaking details such as these:

  • Implementation of Complete Streets policy across the state so that bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure is included in all road projects; this policy stipulates that the default is for bicycle facilities to be incorporated into road projects unless an exception is requested and approved by a newly created committee
  • Use of same-source funding for all elements of Complete Streets projects
  • Incorporation of paved shoulders into road projects as a measure to reduce run-off-road crashes; this will result in approximately $11 million in project funding per year
  • Alignment with US Bicycle Routes, which are national bikeways for cyclo-tourism and transportation
  • Expansion of Iowa’s multi-use trail system to eliminate gaps and improve access
  • Providing technical assistance and training for the planning, design, construction, and maintenance of best-practice bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure

The Iowa Bicycle Coalition will continue to work on behalf of Iowa cyclists, contributing expertise, best practices, and innovative ideas to planning and implementation efforts across the state. This long-term vision is why is it is critical for the Coalition to ensure it is a sustainable organization—so it can continue to educate, advocate, and create a community for Iowa bicyclists for years to come.

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