Last week Columbus earned a Bronze Award from the League of American Bicyclists, which announced a new crop of bike-friendly communities to kick off a campaign to raise awareness about life on two wheels.

Last week Columbus earned a Bronze Award from the League of American Bicyclists, which announced a new crop of bike-friendly communities to kick off a campaign to raise awareness about life on two wheels.

Locally, National Bike Month, running through May, will include seminars for first-time riders, family activities, the Bike to Work Week commuter challenge and many other events.

The Bronze Award signals that Columbus - the first city recognized in Ohio - is on track to becoming a great cycling city. It's also an opportunity to look at how riding has improved here and how a car-centric town like ours can progress even further.

"I've been involved in stuff for eight or nine years in Columbus, and I'm excited about the progress," said Jeff Stephens, executive director of local advocacy group Consider Biking. "Sometimes these things don't move as quickly as you would like, but I really can't give enough praise to the city for their willingness to listen and to make financial commitments to move things forward."

A focus on complete streets - designed to accommodate cars, bikes, buses and pedestrians - was mentioned by numerous respondents to Alive's What Columbus Needs survey, and local riders say that change is coming, slowly but surely.

Within the past year, city officials have implemented several changes proposed in the Bicentennial Bikeways Plan, which was finalized last May to create a more livable Columbus through new bicycle amenities and facilities, bike boulevards and a shared-use path system.

Bike racks have been installed around Downtown, the Short North, Campus and other riding hot spots. Bike lanes have been added along thoroughfares like Morse Road, while other roads, including Gay Street, have received makeovers aimed at calming traffic.

Racks installed on COTA's bus fleet have also proven popular, with more than 172,000 bike-and-bus trips recorded from 2004-2008.

The Bronze Award and on-street changes are evidence that things are moving forward, said Meredith Joy, who fosters a community spirit and support network through her blog, Yay Bikes!

"I think the community aspect has really been helpful," Joy said. "People are out there more, so there's more awareness."

To ensure that Columbus moves forward, activists express the need for safer east-west corridors, more regional cooperation and greater emphasis on share-the-road techniques in driver education courses.

Another concern is that Columbus has made strides only in isolation - that a complete-streets consciousness doesn't yet inform the bulk of city planning.

"The [bike plan] is a positive move from the city government," said Zach Henkel, who hosts the weekly Cranksters radio show on WCRS. "But I think it's too heavy on bike trails and not enough on sharrows, signage and traffic calming. For every bike project they do, they'll do 20 regular road projects."