Walk Bike Forward with Michael Coleman

#WalkBikeForward: Join us on our journey honoring key moments and people that have shaped our field as we celebrate 20 years of creating active, healthy communities.

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Michael Coleman was mayor of Columbus, Ohio from 2000 to 2015. He is now Director of Business & Government Strategies of the IceMiller law firm. Ebony magazine named him one of the 100 Most Influential African-Americans in America.

A Culture of Biking and Walking in Columbus

Columbus has come a long way in the last 15–16 years. We’ve built 100 miles of off-street bike paths. And bike lanes now go everywhere around town. Parts of the city that never thought about bicycle infrastructure now have it. We built bike bridges. We have a downtown bikesharing system. You see people riding them everywhere. We put a bike plan together in 2012, which is very helpful in clarifying what needs to be done. A significant amount of public resources are now going into bike projects. Pedestrian activity has been equally significant — we added sidewalks, slowed traffic.

We have a culture of bike riding and walking that has developed in Columbus. Prior to that, it was pure automobile here. Alta has been fundamental in achieving this. It all started with grassroots activity by citizens, which connected with the leadership in the city. People here insisted on bike-friendly and pedestrian-friendly improvements and created the political will to do it.

Twenty years ago lower income neighborhoods were skeptical about bikes. Those barriers have broken down. Now people love it. It was important for us to listen to concerns in these areas. We engaged with the leaders in those communities, showing them examples of cities where biking has been very successful in poorer neighborhoods.

While we’ve made substantial progress, we still have a way to go.

Biking and Walking as a Driver of Economic Development

Looking ahead to 2036, I envision flying bicycles run by pedal power. [He laughs.] Actually, you’ll see that biking and walking are driving economic development. Every new building will want bikeways. That’s already happening, in fact. You’ll see a proliferation of the biking and walking culture in the coming years. Biking and walking to work will be pretty standard. I’m a lawyer in private practice now, and a lot of our lawyers already do it.

Twenty years from now, I will still be walking. I’ll be 81, going all around on foot. The greatest inspiration of people getting older is to get even older. That’s a motivator. The medical profession is now telling people the best way to extend your life is to walk. The secret of longevity is not a pill you take or a drink you take — it’s the steps you take.