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Colorado Continues to Improve for Bicycling

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Bike Colorado educates on bicycle safety issues.

The Cherry Creek Bike path in Denver.

In a recent radio interview, Colorado Bike Czar Ken Gart told Colorado Public Radio’s Nathan Heffel that as a part of expanding Colorado’s programs and facilities for bicycling, Bike Colorado is teaching schoolchildren about bicycle safety, the importance of wearing helmets, and how to navigate roads.

Cycling Plan Has Critics

The interview touched on the controversy over the $100 million dollars it will cost to make Colorado the best state in the U.S. for bicycling — Gov. John Hickenlooper’s intention — CPR’s Michael De Yoanna wrote. Critics think the state should focus first on fixing its crumbling bridges and clogged roads. State Sen. Randy Baumgardner (R-District 8) told Heffel that he thinks bicycling is wonderful, but that the state needs to prioritize, and that the public is calling for the state needs to fix its roads and bridges.

In response to such critics, Gart said:

I think that’s a valid concern. But if you look at it, the incremental cost in negligible and the impact is dramatic. A little bit of paint, a little bit of focus on widening the shoulders. And [Great Outdoors Colorado] is already doing this outdoor trail work, so I don’t really see it as one or the other. I think it will improve both.

Paying for Bicycling Programs

Gart said no money from the state’s general fund would be used for the three components of the bicycling plan (encouraging kids to ride bikes, connecting bike trails across the state, and helping local communities to improve bike and pedestrian infrastructure). Instead, it would come via the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) from federal pass-through money, and from Colorado lottery proceeds via Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO).

The program to improve bicyling in the state began nine months ago, and some of its impact will be seen immediately, but most of the results will appear in the future, Gart said. The biggest short-term impact will be in local communities.

Asked by Heffel how he has the time to work on the project, Gart responded that Gov. Hickenlooper likes to say that he, Gart, is paid a dollar a year but is worth twice that much. “It’s a wonderful privilege to do something positive for the state,” he said.

Bicycle Commuting

In a related news item appearing on the site of Colorado Public Radio, the Associated Press reports that the state of Colorado ranks second in the percentage of its people who commute by bicycle,  according to a new study from the The League of American Bicyclists (TLAB) on what percentage of people in each state commute via bicycle. In the past decade bike commuting in Colorado has risen by 43%, with 1.3% of its commuters using bicycles.

In TLAB’s list of the largest 70 cities in the U.S. with the highest share of bicycle commuters, Denver’s ranking jumped from 13th in 2013 to ninth. In Denver, 2.5% of residents now commute by bike, as compared with 2% last year. Colorado Springs also appears on the TLAB list at number 43, and Aurora is number 62. Boulder was third among the top 20 cities with the highest share of bicyclists. In Boulder, 8.9% of residents commute by bike. Denver and Ft. Collins are both in the list of cities with the largest number of bicyclists overall.

Image by Mad Hippies Life, used under Creative Commons license.

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