Policy entrepreneurs, windows, and cycles: Exploring policy change through bicycle infrastructure at the municipal level

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Weber, Johann C.
Norton, Bryan G.
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Although bicycling has been the subject of increasing academic attention, particularly in the areas of mode choice, benefit analyses, and discussions of policies/treatments, much less attention has been devoted to actually studying how communities have made decisions about whether and what they’ll implement in regards to bicycle infrastructure. “Policy entrepreneurs” are theorized as actors centrally responsible for either creating an opportunity or capitalizing on an opportunity to pair a public problem with a policy solution. A survey instrument solicited directly the participation of the 200 most populous municipalities within the United States. Using a variety of analytical tools (and merged data sources) as well as a novel matching methodology for the selection of case studies, it was possible to identify interesting and broadly informative relationships, which were explored further via the case study comparison. 20 case interviews were conducted across 6 case study cities as a complement to the survey project. Individual policy entrepreneurs and their role or qualities were not significant quantitatively or qualitatively, despite being regularly present. However, having a network of supportive actors (including strong champions/policy entrepreneurs) played a critical role in making projects happen and at larger scales. Advocates and planners may be more successful by being attuned to these networks and political contexts and taking advantage of open “windows” of engagement. Alternatively, these windows can be opened ‘manually’ through grant applications, developing relationships, hosting trainings or speakers, and more. Lastly, city population was also associated with implementation, suggesting underlying factors to be explored in the future.
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