Reno, Nevada has not been known as a city that caters to bike riders. In an effort to turn that around, a group of residents made a few changes to make the city more livable, which led Reno to receiving the American League of Bicyclists’ “Bicycle Friendly Community” Bronze status – a pretty big turnaround in just 5 years.
The effort was started by the Reno Bike Project, a group of 20-somethings determined to win over city leaders who have the power to reshape city streets.
According to Jeff Mitchell, the project’s program manager, there’s been a “large amount of flight” out of Reno, with residents leaving to live in Portland, San Francisco, Seattle, and New York. “There are a lot of people from Reno doing a lot of cool stuff that doesn’t benefit Reno,” he says, “because they’re doing it somewhere else.”
A lot of this was due to investments in housing developments around the outskirts, which turned the once tight-knit community into a sprawled-out metropolis with limited access to transportation or bike-friendly roads to get around. Combine that with the booming economy of the mid 2000s, and it was not a suitable area for high school and college grads looking to get on their feet. Campbell says most of his classmates moved elsewhere after graduation.
Noah Silverman and Kyle Kozar, the project founders, also loved riding bikes in Reno and didn’t want to be forced to leave because of this situation. They decided to stay and fight for change instead, gaining support from a few influential local figures who realized that investing in projects like these would help Reno survive the current economic state. They started with bicycle donation drives, then a nonprofit repair shop, and eventually found themselves working in bike advocacy.
The overall response to this was extraordinarily positive, and in just five years, systematic changes were made throughout the city – enough to make it “Bronze”-worthy in the eyes of the American League of Bicyclists. It sounds like a lot of American cities – my hometown of Detroit included – could learn quite a bit from the Reno Bike Project.
What’s the biking situation like where you live? Could your city stand to learn a thing or two from these kids in Reno?
Image CC licensed by jcantroot