The City of Minneapolis recently released the 2011 Bicycling Account, a colorful pdf full of stats and tidbits about all the programs the City of Minneapolis has done to improve cycling throughout 2011. It’s a nice document that’s worth the 3 minutes it takes to flip through it online.
I think documents like these are mostly PR and are primarily an opportunity for the City and cycling advocates to pat themselves on the back and feel good about the hard work they’ve done (and they have done a lot this year), and hopefully end up with a number of newspaper articles and blog posts about all the great work they’re doing. Given this objective, it’s not surprising that the City is pretty selective about which statistics to include. Notice, for example, they don’t mention the amount of money spent on bicycling programs or infrastructure in 2011, and the discussion of crashes and safety is cursory at best. Nobody really wants to dwell on the number of bicycle fatalities, I suppose.
Despite lacking important details, I think documents like this are effective at helping to establish a strong cycling community and to encourage the continuation of improvements in the future. Documents like this go a long way towards encouraging trust between the general public, elected officials, city employees, and bike advocacy groups. It is also well-known among public works departments that pointing at past successes is one of the best ways to continue having success in the future. Controversial projects often rely on momentum (rather than analysis) to overcome opposition (this is neither good nor bad, it’s just how the democratic process works at times). I think documents like this have a powerful ability to build the momentum necessary to receive buy-in from the major decision makers (city councils, city residents, county boards, etc.).
Take a few minutes to flip through the document. What statistics are missing? What is this document trying to communicate? Is it effective?