Cyclists name Grand Rapids bike-friendly city


Bike racks are part of the Grand Rapids DDA's bike-related funding in the city. Image via

Three years ago, the city of Grand Rapids created its first half-mile bike lane on a public street.

Since then, another 34.5 miles have been designated for bicyclists, with much of that mileage running through the busy urban core.

So it wasn’t a surprise when the League of American Bicyclists named the city a Bronze Bicycle Friendly Community recently, giving Grand Rapids its second four-year bronze award.

The city received its first award in 2009 when it announced its intention to become more two-wheeler friendly.

“We are making investments in cycling infrastructure and education that will help all of our neighborhoods thrive and become even more desirable places to invest and raise a family,” Mayor George Heartwell said.

The Greater Grand Rapids Bicycle Coalition Executive Director Tom Tilma presented Heartwell with the LAB Bronze plaque this month and told city officials that his group has a different color in mind.

“The league has awarded the city a bronze award. It’s a high-standing bronze, but we’re hoping for silver the next time,” Tilma said.

A bike-friendly city

Tilma pointed out that it wasn’t just the bike lanes and how quickly the markings were installed that drew LAB’s attention to the city.

He said the mountain biking facilities at Grand Rapids Bike Park, Richmond Park and Ken-O-Sha Park and the increase in downtown bike parking were also factors in the city receiving the honor.

The Downtown Development Authority and the city’s Parking Commission have done their part to make the city more bicycle friendly.

The Parking Commission set aside $10,800 in February to spend on bicycle-related improvements in downtown this year, and the DDA’s priority plan this year contained $45,000 for signs, bike lanes and parking areas for cyclists.

The DDA also spent $10,000 this summer on a marketing campaign to encourage the use of bicycles in the downtown district.

“All things bicycle, we hear that all the time,” said Kristopher Larson, DDA executive director.

Room to Ride

The local bicycle coalition is using its Room to Ride initiative to make Grand Rapids a safe cycling city and promote the economic, health and environmental benefits of bicycling.

The coalition is pushing for the city to have more than 100 miles of bike lanes in place by 2015.

“The city of Grand Rapids is playing a critical part in creating a truly Bicycle Friendly America,” said Andy Clarke, LBA president. “We know Grand Rapids’ investment in bicycling will be returned many times over in the economic, health and environmental benefits that contribute to a thriving community.”

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