Walk Bike Forward with Tim Young

#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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Tim Young is Executive Director of Wyoming Pathways, a statewide advocacy organization for people who bike and walk. From 1992–2002, he led the planning, fundraising, and construction of pathways in Jackson Hole. He served two terms on the board of the League of American Bicyclists and is one of the founders of the Alliance for Biking and Walking. In the 1980s, he made an around-the-world bike tour covering 45,000 miles over seven years.

Major Breakthroughs Over the Past 20 Years

One breakthrough over the past 20 years is our success around the country in bringing the topic of walkable and bikeable communities into the mainstream of government planning. Now we have local government staff working on planning, grants, funding, permits, building pathways and complete streets. And we have independent nonprofit advocacy organizations speaking up, bird-dogging, helping, pushing for projects to be completed and the new ones started.

Another breakthrough is keystone projects that make a huge difference for getting around by bike and foot. Here in Jackson Hole that includes the Grand Teton National Park Pathways, 20 miles that connect Jackson to Moose and Jenny Lake, which took 30 years to build from the original meetings with the Park Service to the first pathways to ride. It is part of Jackson’s 60-mile pathway system. Our success in Jackson Hole has been mirrored with other pathways around Wyoming, even in more conservative communities.

I knew this movement had legs (so to speak) exactly 20 years ago when we completed the first pathway in Jackson Hole, the Russ Garaman Trail. It was an instant success. We connected neighborhoods, schools and commercial areas, and people began to see the community with new eyes.

I know Alta made a big difference here. In the mid-2000s they helped us prepare a pathways master plan that set out a number of specific projects. It took us ten years to complete the five-year plan. A big accomplishment was transforming the main street through town by adding sidewalks and separated cycle tracks. More recently Alta created the concept plan for the Greater Yellowstone Trail, 180 miles in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho — with more than 100 miles rideable today.

Alta was the first company to focus on non-motorized transportation, and they showed everyone how to do it. The big design firms then had no one specializing biking and walking. The engineering schools were not teaching that. This was transformative after decades of motor vehicles traveling at the expense of human beings. I appreciate the leadership Alta has provided. It’s gone way beyond just a business seeking profits — it’s helped envision our community in new ways.

Another 20th anniversary this year was the very first Thunderhead Alliance meeting here in Wyoming at the Thunderhead Ranch. Almost all two dozen leaders of the bike movement at that time attended. It was an eye opener to see that everyone shared a vision for a better American future with walkable and bikeable communities. The Alliance for Biking & Walking grew from that, and today we have hundreds of bike and active transportation groups around America, making huge gains for livable communities.

The Next 20 Years

Over the next 20 years, I see communities everywhere really expanding biking and walking, which will revitalize them. There will be much better access to parks and public lands that you can reach on bike. State governments will be strongly supporting biking and walking, the way some local governments do today.

It’s hard to believe, but this year is my 25th year working in this field. I’ve gone from being a community volunteer on a bicycle committee in 1991 to having enjoyed a rewarding career helping my community, improving public lands, and now helping Wyoming enhance its quality of life by including better options to bike and walk safely and fun.