Despite its reputation as the premier bicycling city in the U.S., the advocacy movement that thrived in larger cities since the 1990s took longer to catch on in Davis. Bike Davis formed in 2007. Originally calling itself “Davis Bicycles!” it was founded with the goal of reviving the bicycling culture and restoring the 25% bicycle mode share that characterized Davis in the 1980s. In 2000, bicycle mode share Davis was 17% (according to the US Census Bureau).
BD grew out of a Master’s thesis by Ted Buehler in the UC Davis Transportation Studies program. Ted documented Davis’ rise to prominence in the 1960s and 70s as the city created the nation’s first bike lanes, developed an extensive network of greenbelt bicycle and pedestrian paths in the 1980s and early 90s, and the decline of bicycling in recent years.
Various explanations exist for the decrease in bicycle mode share in Davis. These include demographic factors: an increase in residents commuting to work outside of Davis; the decline of cycling among students entering UC Davis. The retirement of visionary bike advocates from the city’s Public Works Department in the late 1990s, and the rise of the Unitrans bus system as the preferred mode for student transportation also are likely factors.
When Ted first presented his thesis in December of 2006, a few concerned citizens saw an opportunity to create an advocacy group. Ted gave his presentation again to a packed house at the Varsity Theatre on February 26, 2007, and Bike Davis was born. At the first general meeting following the Varsity presentation, Ted announced, “We’re going to have more fun than the City Council and the School Board combined!”
And we do!