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Educating Bike Riders and Communities

Cynthia Hoyle has over 30 years of transportation planning experience at the local, state, and national levels. An active bike commuter, she helps to raise awareness for creating bike and pedestrian friendly infrastructure both in her adopted home of Urbana, IL and across the nation. During our interview, she shared her perspective on bike commuting, transportation planning, and lessons for the future.

Cynthia works with Alta Planning and Design, which started as a design firm to help municipalities create walking and bicycling-friendly communities. One way this is accomplished is through the design of Complete Streets, which provide safe, comfortable, and convenient travel for everyone including motorists, pedestrians, bicyclists, and public transportation riders. For example, a Complete Street may include separated biking and driving lanes to support multiple modes of transportation.

Cynthia explains that people want to bike more however they are scared of cars. She cites survey after survey showing that Americans want to spend less time driving and Millennials look for places to live that do not require driving. ​For communities that want to position themselves well for the future, one the best things to implement are Complete Streets that accommodate everybody.

In a recent engagement in Wichita, KS, Cynthia and the Alta team created education materials to support new biking infrastructure. She points out that drivers don't automatically know what to do when riders are present and need training. The same holds true for bike riders. Through education and modeling the correct behavior a culture of what's expected from others is created. A similar social change for instance occurred through education to build awareness on the benefits of wearing seat belts.

Design Streets for Everyone

Engage Youth in Biking

​She believes children in school should be taught to ride a bike, just like we teach sports such as football or soccer. Compared to other activities, there is a greater likelihood people will continue to cycle as an adult. Cynthia has put her belief into practice by organizing Walk and Roll to School Days in her native Oklahoma and in Champaign-Urbana. At home, she was a model for her children, teaching them to ride in an urban environment and use public transit. She takes pride that as grown adults none of them own a car.

​To celebrate national bike month she is active in the local CU Bike Month initiative. The organization is collecting used bikes and equipment to raise money. Their goal is to purchase a fleet of bikes and a trailer to support organized rides and safety training for kids.

Active in Transit Planning in Champaign-Urbana

For 14 years, Cynthia has also worked with the Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District ("MTD") to improve local biking and pedestrian options. MTD was at one point selected as the 7th best transportation system in the nation and provides a staggering 11 million rides/year in a community of just 140,000 people. When she moved to the area, MTD had just adopted a strategic plan to play a broader role as mobility provider, including increased advocacy for walking, biking and transit supportive development.

Cynthia was tapped to lead community outreach and performed market analysis as part of a transit grant in 2008-2010. The study revealed that people in the community wanted car-sharing, a guaranteed ride home program, better street lighting and sidewalks, They did not want more roads. She recalls that a key part of moving forward on these initiatives was securing the involvement of the local bike community. Cynthia approached the local riding clubs and their participation in the planning process ultimately led to the creation of Champaign County Bikes. Today this non-profit encourages and facilitates bicycling as transportation and recreation, and promotes the benefits that bicycling brings to the local community and the world.

Advice to Bike Commuters

Cynthia is a committed bike commuter, riding whenever she can including to our interview. She also uses the bus and drives when necessary. ​For individuals that want to bike to work she recommends taking a bicycling class and getting the right equipment.

She traces her own cycling evolution, starting with a hybrid Schwinn bike. After getting caught in the rain one day, she bought fenders and later added a rack and panniers to the bike. Today, she has a Trek Alliant bike for commuting and running errands. And she uses a Brompton folding bike when she travels. She simply unfolds the bike and pedals, adjusts the seat and is ready to ride. From Cynthia's perspective, if you have the right equipment and know how to ride on the roadway, bicycle is safe, healthy and fun.

Check out Cynthia's advice to bike commuters

Looking forward, Cynthia points out that Urbana is poised to be a community that is not dependent on automobiles. Today, 35% of trips are non-auto and 17% of work trips are done by walking.

She envisions a community where people have equal access to mobility. Cynthia sees it as a social justice issue - that all people need to live and work without having to depend on a car.

Across the nation, there are a variety of places where a car is not required including Seattle, Portland, Davis, CA and Aspen, CO. These communities have significant infrastructure for complete streets. The challenge however, is that these are isolated examples in relatively affluent areas. There is much work to be done to reach a broader scale of urban locations that include the less affluent. ​

The Future of Urban Mobility

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