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Ithaca, NY: A Model for Collaborative Bike Advocacy

“People DO ride bikes if you give them a comfortable and safe place to ride.” Vikki Armstrong, Director, Bike Walk Tompkins

Ithaca, centrally located in the middle of the beautiful Finger Lakes in Upstate NY, is a hotbed of active bicycling and advocacy. Home to Cornell University, Ithaca College, and a host of dynamic businesses big and small, Ithaca is a very special place that attracts many very special people.

One special person at the epicenter of the bicycling movement in Ithaca is Vikki Armstrong, an energetic, hard-working, ball of fire who can be found at every bicycle-related event in town.  Vikki is the Director of Bike Walk Tompkins, an organization dedicated to improving active transportation options in Ithaca and its surrounding communities.  

When I told Vikki I wanted to interview her about the great things she was accomplishing for Ithaca bicyclists, she was very quick to say this: “What is going on in Ithaca is not about me; it’s about many people, all working together to accomplish a common goal of making it easier, safer and healthier to get around Ithaca.  Together we do pretty cool things.”

Vikki Armstrong photo

And that, in a nutshell, explains why Ithaca advocacy works:  total collaboration, where no one is worried about taking credit for or declaring turf wars over the many different elements of the local bike movement.  Bike Walk Tompkins plays nice with the road riders at the Finger Lakes Cycling Club who play nice with the mountain bikers at CycleCNY who play nice with the great folks at RIBS (Recycle Ithaca’s Bicycles).  All of these groups are united in the common cause of working together to improve bicycling in Upstate NY.

And that collaboration really works which is reflected in the success of so many cool cycling initiatives in Ithaca:

One development Vikki was particularly excited about was the impact of the LimeBike bike-share program.  As she said, with the introduction of large numbers (200+) of LimeBikes, “There were bikes everywhere and everyone was talking about bikes.” Understandably, not all that talk was positive initially, but Vikki says she has been pleasantly surprised by how quickly the conversations became more positive and focused on how the LimeBikes could be better integrated into the downtown transportation options.  

And the response to the LimeBikes was amazing:  more than 75,000 trips by bike in just the first five months of the program!

Ithaca Lime Bike

Vikki shared an interesting story about LimeBikes.  Just after the LimeBikes were introduced, LimeBikes got a call from a large, local car dealership.  Answering the call and assuming the auto dealership was calling to complain, they were surprised that the auto dealership was calling to ask for MORE LimeBikes to be stationed at their dealership, saying the bikes were very convenient for their staff and customers.  Never would have seen that one coming!

And finishing our conversation, Vikki encouraged anyone interested in bicycling in the Ithaca or Finger Lakes area to reach out to the friendly folks at Bike Walk Tompkins or the Finger Lakes Cycling Club to answer any questions you might have about cycling in the area.

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