What is a Bicycle Friendly Community?


This article, originally published by Al Zucaro on BocaWatch.org, is preserved for historical purposes by Massive Impressions Online Marketing in Boca Raton.
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You’ve seen the purple signs proclaiming Boca Raton as a Bicycle Friendly Community (BFC), but what does that really mean? This brief article explains the BFC award in general as well as Boca’s BFC status in particular.

The League of American Bicyclists created the BFC program in 1995 as a roadmap for improving conditions for bicycling in communities across the US. That is, community leaders are provided with feedback on the status of their community’s bicycling-related status as well as suggestions for improvement. The areas addressed are:

  • Engineering: Creating safe and convenient places to ride and park
  • Education: Giving people of all ages and abilities the skills and confidence to ride
  • Encouragement: Creating a strong bike culture that welcomes and celebrates bicycling
  • Enforcement: Ensuring safe roads for all users
  • Evaluation & Planning: Planning for bicycling as a safe and viable transportation option

Communities that are interested in participating in the BFC program are required to have a government official complete an application consisting of more than 80 questions regarding the above five areas. The application is then reviewed by the League and a score assigned. The score determines the award level. The following chart shows the latest BFC award ranking.

Communities who receive awards must reapply every four years to receive an evaluation and a determination of an award level, if any. Since its inception in 1995 over 1,500 community applications have been processed and 430 communities are currently recognized as BFC’s. The reason for requiring re-applying every four years is that the bar for qualifying for awards continues to be raised.

Boca’s first BFC award was a bronze level in 2003. At that time there were only a few BFC’s in Florida and none in Palm Beach County. Today there are 26 BFC’s in Florida and Boca is still the only BFC in Palm Beach County. Of the 26 BFC’s in Florida seven have the silver award and 19 have the bronze award. Click here to see Boca’s latest report card.

Our city scored very good in the category of Bicycle Education in Schools. Here is a League comment on Boca’s most recent award.

Renewing Bronze BFC Boca Raton, FL, is committed to “providing more opportunities for education and outreach to younger riders.” The city has offered a three-week bicycle education program that includes off-bike (pedestrian safety) and on-bike (bicycle riding skills) components. Two out of five of the Boca Raton elementary schools received bike education last year. The other three will receive education within the next few years.

May is National Bicycle Month (Florida Bicycle Month is March) so let’s use this as motivation to take advantage of the bicycling opportunities in Boca. Where to go? The City makes available some awesome cycling maps in print format and on-line. Print maps are available in City Hall as well as other places around the City and on-line cycling maps are available at: https://www.myboca.us/420/About-Bicycling.

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  1. I’ve got a somewhat different take on the bicycle friendliness qualities of Boca Raton, and will focus on one area of the City: downtown. In Mizner Park, there is not one bike rack. From Federal Highway east to the beach, there is not one bike rack on Palmetto Park Road, even though the City invested a chunk of money only a few years ago on streetscaping. And where are the bike racks in Royal Palm? The City’s response, provided to my comments on FaceBook oostedbin 2015, was essentially “we are working on it”. While some of the areas I’ve mentioned may be privately owned, that does not negate proactive partnering between landlords and the City. As I assess it, the first element mentioned in the article, engineering (safe places to ride and park) has not been addressed by the City. No awards are warranted. Let’s get action on safe bike parking in the downtown area if the City is serious making this a bike friendly area. Actions and results rather than empty rhetoric and self congratulatory remarks.

  2. The only issue I have with “Bicycle Friendly City”, as a lifetime biker, is placing bike lanes next to high speed roads. I NEVER ride in those lanes. Choose paved sidewalks.

  3. Well I encourage bicycles and their riders be it work or pleasure. But much like everything these days, there are those who ruin in for most. Every day we see the arrogant biker, crowding the bike lanes, riding 2 or 3 abreast (violation), demanding the “same” road rights as a car or truck, yet here comes the red light, or stop sign and those who want the “same” rules, all of a sudden forget they must also abide by the “same” rules. Where are the police? Where is the enforcement? This creates resentment among many and the result is more injuries, more accidents, more anger, less willingness to all get along. Unless every community that embraces this bicycle friendly concept also reaches out to the bike clubs and encourages they promote this concept of rules to their members, it will likely go the way most of the South Florida sense of entitlement issues do.

  4. Bicycle friendly is not the same as bicycle safe.

    I have been a bicyclist for more than 60 years (30 here in East Boca)…but I must say that most of the cyclists I see are unaware how their status changes from vehicle operator to pedestrian (and vice versa) as they move from street to sidewalk (and vice versa). In particular, operating their bike (vehicle) in crosswalks and riding without lights after dark. More needs to be done to educate adult cyclists (the kids are actually pretty good about knowing the rules) about the rules of the road/bike lane/sidewalk.

  5. I love the idea of biking around the city. My family bikes to JC Michell Elementary on NW 5th Ave.Sadly is extremely dangerous. Cars do not care about bikers. People in the cars make a u-turns on sidewalks where pedestrians and bikers joined together road to school. Police is now close by on school property and still nothing has change when it comes to children safety.Cars are driving on sidewalks when children are walking or riding the bikes. There was already one accident when my friend child was hurt by car. What is city doing to make sure the children are safe to get to school not by the car?
    There is nothing friendly about biking when drivers do not care and take advantage of the road.

  6. Suburban auto sprawl cannot be bicycle friendly. Boca is like any other new place built exclusively for the car. It is suburban, low density, single use zoning -nothing like a walkable traditional European town (maybe except for a tiny “downtown”), with land uses that are separated by 6 lane arterial highways. All of US suburbia is far, far behind any life-sized pedestrian and bicycle friendly environment. People are not walking because there is nowhere to go, everything is far. And there is no money or motivation to change that. That is why car ownership is 800 car per 1000 people with resulting carnage on the roads, degradation of environment, sedentary poplulation, and general ugliness of roads and highways. Let’s just hope the gas prices rise to the level they are in Europe.


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