Because the agricultural land around the City of Davis is flat, riding a bicycle has always been an easy way to get around town. After the city incorporated in 1917, the increasing number of paved roads encouraged local citizens to take up cycling. University of California students have been coming to Davis since 1908 and bicycling has always been an important part of their campus experience.
After acknowledging that the well-educated and well-traveled citizenry would be receptive to European-style bikeways, the Davis City Council decided in 1967 to create a few short blocks of bicycle lanes. As a result, Davis became the first city in the United States to install official city bicycle lanes.
The combined system of bicycle lanes and dedicated bike paths today reaches well over 100 miles in a small town that is about 11 square miles. Davis has become a model for hundreds of U.S. cities because of its safe, integrated bicycle transportation network. The UC Davis campus has developed its own extensive bicycle path system, support programs and infrastructure including numerous roundabouts.
Over the years Davis has become even more pro-bicycling in its planning and policies as well as promotional events, educational programs and infrastructure. Although it’s impossible to confirm, the urban legend is that there are more bicycles in Davis than the 64,000 citizens.
The 2010 U.S. Census Bureau count revealed that Davis had the highest percentage of bicycle commuters in the U.S. An estimated 22.1% of the working population commuted to their job using a bicycle. The Davis’ Bicycle Plan aims to increase the amount of bicycle trips as a percentage of all trips made in town to 25%.
For over forty five years, Davis has had one of the highest levels of per capita bicycle use in the country. Bike lanes and trails permeate the community and enable people of all ages to ride to school, work, for recreation and errands. Davis is the only city in the United States that features a high-wheeled bicycle in its city logo.
Other bicycle support includes: police officers on bicycles, May is Bike Month activities, bike to work and school events, bicycle auctions, bike rodeos, free bike fixit stands, printed and online bike maps, city staff responsible for bicycle infrastructure and programs, a citizen Bicycle Advisory Commission, ten active bicycle shops (including the UC Davis Bike Barn) and an active hand-built bicycle frame building community.
Other Davis bicycling milestones include:
- The permanent home of the U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame. The museum opened April 2010 featuring community events and education, a speakers program, Hall of Fame memorabilia and museum bicycles from the historic Pierce Miller collection.
- Davis was the first city in the U. S. to install bicycle signal heads on traffic lights.
- The Livestrong Foundation has produced successful Livestrong Challenge bicycle events in Davis.
- The 2010 Davis High School stadium renovation included the Steve Larsen Bicycle Plaza. Spectators can now easily ride and park their bikes when attending football games, track meets and graduation ceremonies.
- Bicycle path “Loops” around the community are identified by painted symbols. A local “Loopalooza” event helps publicize safe routes to schools.
- Davis has hosted stage starts of the Amgen Tour of California professional bicycle race.
- The Davis Bike Club is one of the most active bicycling clubs in the U.S. It produces bicycle tours and races such as the Davis Double Century (for over 42 years), the 4th of July Criterium (over 35 years) and Foxy’s Fall Century (over 35 years).
- Davis features advocacy groups such as Davis Bicycles! and the Davis Bike Collective with its “Bike Forth” bicycle shop
- The UC Davis Cycling intercollegiate racing team is a collegiate cycling powerhouse. The men and women’s team captured the 2009 USA Cycling Collegiate Road National Championship.
- The Davis Farmer’s Market “Farm to School Program” holds an annual “Tour de Cluck” bicycle tour of backyard chicken coops to support the “fresh food in school meals” initiative.
- The Davis Odd Fellows created the “World’s Greatest Bicycle Parade.” Begun in 2010, it raises thousands of dollars for local public schools.
- Some hotels provide loaner bicycyles for their guests
- The American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO) encourages participants to ride bicycles to all games and practices.
Davis was proudly named the first platinum Bicycle Friendly City in October 2005 by the League of American Bicyclists. The city’s recent sustainability efforts have also ensured that bicycling is recognized as an effective tool for lowering our carbon footprint, improving air quality, benefiting public health and reducing childhood obesity.
Bicycling is part of the city’s economic development strategy. Downtown businesses have requested that some vehicle parking spaces be removed and replaced with on-street bicycle corrals full of racks. Replacing a parking spot with bike racks has become an inexpensive way to handle more shoppers and downtown workers.
Local realtors tout the proximity of homes to bicycle paths that lead to schools, shopping and the university knowing that the bike paths increase property values. Some Davis realtors tour homes with their clients on bicycles.
Entrepreneurs and businesses are concerned about quality of life and they locate in Davis because of the good schools, educated workforce and because it is a safe, bike-able community for their employees and families. Some Davis businesses provide lockers and showers for their employees, covered bicycle parking for clients and sponsor employee bicycling teams.
When the City of Davis turns 100 years old in 2017, high-wheeled bicycles will still be riding in the annual UC Davis Picnic Day parade. In the next century, you can count on bicycling being an increasingly important part of the fabric of the Davis community.
For more information, contact the Bicycle & Pedestrian Coordinator, Dave “DK” Kemp at: email@example.com.
~ Written by Bob Bowen, Public Relations Coordinator, City of Davis (c) 2012