Community member suggests creation of committee to continue supporting cyclists in Iowa City

An Iowa City resident wrote to the city council in support of the creation of a Bicycle Advocacy Committee which would merge two existing committees to better serve cyclists.


Tate Hildyard

City council member, John Thomas poses for a portrait in from of his home in Iowa City on Tuesday, September 8th, 2020. John along with several other city council members and citizens are in the process of creating a bike advocacy committee to help Iowa City reach “gold” tier in bike friendly cities.

Brian Grace, News Reporter

Iowa City resident Bob Oppliger is advocating for the creation of a bike advocacy committee for Iowa City to more effectively represent the interests of all ranges of cyclists in future city development and policymaking.

Oppliger is a member of the Metropolitan Planning Organization of Johnson County’s Regional Trails and Bicycling Committee and is a board member of the League of American Bicyclists, a nonprofit organization promoting bicycle education and bicycle-friendly urban development in cities across the nation.

Iowa City also has an internal Bicycle Advisory Committee that Oppliger is not on, he said. He thinks the Regional Trails and Bicycling Committee and the Bicycle Advisory Committee should merge into a single, more effective committee, he said.

Iowa City was designated a Silver Level Bicycle Friendly Community by the League of American Bicyclists in 2013, a title the city still holds seven years later.

The League plans to re-evaluate Iowa City in 2021 to renew its Silver Level standing or give the community a new ranking based on how well the city represents what the League calls the six “E’s”: Engineering, Education, Equity, Encouragement, Enforcement, and Evaluation.

Related: New bike lanes improve commute to University of Iowa campus

Oppliger said the creation of a more cohesive bike advocacy committee could help Iowa City reach the League of American Bicyclists Gold-Level distinction.

Iowa City implemented a comprehensive Bicycle Master Plan in 2017 to set the framework for becoming a Gold-Level in the future, which lays out detailed maps of relevant bike data and objectives for fulfilling each of the League of American Bicyclists six “E”s.

In a letter to the Iowa City City Council, Oppliger said the pursuit of a friendlier biking environment has additional benefits for the larger community, beyond those directly impacting cyclists.

“Finally, it should be noted that a growing body of evidence suggests that bike friendliness has economic value,” Oppliger wrote. “In a study published by the American Institute of Economic Research, 32 of 40 communities that they identified as the ‘hottest’ job markets were Bike Friendly Communities.”

MPOJC Executive Director Kent Ralston wrote in response to Oppliger’s proposal and said that even though the two committees Oppliger wishes to merge both work to promote a bike friendly community, they are each unique in how they approach that goal and they should remain separated.

He said while the Regional Trails and Bicycling Committee hosts public meetings and posts its agendas, the Bicycle Advisory Committee is more of an internal group focused on addressing the specifics of the Bicycle Master Plan.

“Iowa City holds their own Bicycle Advisory Committee and is frankly very happy with it and it was even recommended in the Iowa City bike master plan to continue,” Ralston said. “Then we’ve got this whole other group which is the metropolitan planning group which really needs to exist as it does because it really is more focused on how to spend federal money. They’re kind of two different things.”

City Councilor John Thomas spoke with Oppliger on Friday and said he thinks the ultimate goal of advancing bicycle culture in Iowa City is a worthwhile effort.

“The idea of a coalition between interests that support alternative means of getting around town other than driving I think is important,” Thomas said. “And it’s something I’ve been trying to advocate for for some time, so I’m always interested when someone like Bob [Oppliger] comes forth and shows interest in trying to advance that as well.”