Global innovation happens in Silicon Valley office buildings, but the streets and highways around Google, Facebook and other tech giants are trapped sometime in the Eisenhower era. Plentiful free or low-cost parking, multi-lane streets designed for high speed, and intermittent sidewalks and bike lanes make driving to work the default choice.
What’s the key to making change? Relating to people through what matters most to them. If communities are fearful, ask about their biggest fears. If they want more joy, talk about what brings them joy. And in Silicon Valley, the way I found to connect was through the language of data.
Data drove our successful conversation, along with Joint Venture Silicon Valley, that united leaders from Google, Facebook, and Stanford University. Together, we found data to support the notion that collaborating to build a safe continuous bikeway network would help the region meet 21st century transportation needs.
An Oregon state transportation official said to me recently, “If you can inspire Silicon Valley to build a connected, protected bike network despite a lack of evidence that people will bike and walk, you can do it anywhere.”
We used crash data to show exactly where people are at risk of injuries or death as they move between popular work and residential destinations. In Silicon Valley, it is not unusual to see bicyclists sharing a lane with motor vehicles traveling at 35 mph and above. At that speed, crashes are more likely to be life threatening. Unfortunately, many high collision crash locations are on the borders between cities—a boundary that is invisible to people using the system and requires high levels of cooperation among city officials to fix problems.
The Silicon Valley Bike Vision, released in March, brings together data on crashes, land use, and transportation network to visualize the current State of the Valley for people on bicycles. The data shows clear opportunities to improve the network of safe continuous bikeways, and supports filling in the gaps and barriers by visualizing benefits to human health and local economies. Now, project partners will be able to use this data when speaking with local officials and neighbors to generate consensus on how better bikeways can support community values.
This model can be replicated anywhere. It gives advocates, employers, and city leaders a starting point to measure what matters most: more people riding safely miles of connected bike lanes. When more people can enjoy the ride—rather than simply surviving it—everyone wins.