Denver Post Bike Commuting Article
Good solid article, including some practical obstacles in infrastructure. I can’t
see any serious commuter ever storing their bike at a bus stop for the day in anything other than a lockable bike locker.
Pedaling with a purpose
CYCLING TO WORK | Commuting by bicycle can help keep you fit, reduce your stress and it saves on fuel costs too.
By Jack Cox
Denver Post Staff Writer
Denver lawyer David Broadwell doesn’t always ride his bike to work. But on days when he does, paradoxically, he arrives feeling a lot fresher than when he commutes the 7 miles by car.
You’re more awake, you’ve got endorphins going, and you’re ready to tackle the world, says the 50-year-old assistant city attorney, who typically pedals an old road bike to Civic Center from his home in Observatory Park two days a week.
There are huge mental health benefits, agrees David Rapp, the 38-year-old president of Bike Denver, who regularly commutes about 2 miles from Cheesman Park to downtown on an aging mountain bike. When youre not white-knuckling it behind the wheel of a car in gridlock, you’re not building up that stress that people get that turns into road rage. If I had to drive to and from work, I’m sure I’d be a lot crankier.
Observes Sandy Beazley, another longtime Denver cyclist, If you bike-commute for a year you will know yourself far better than had you spent an equivalent time entertained by drive-time talk radio crawling along the interstate.
Despite such payoffs in fitness and stress relief, however, cycling in Denver – as in most American cities – remains largely a recreational pursuit.
While this year’s Bike to Work Day pulled in some 20,500 registrants, a 9.7 percent increase over the year before, the latest available traffic counts show that perhaps no more than 1,000 people use their bikes to get in and out of downtown during drive time on a typical weekday.
Three-dollar gas is not quite enough yet to trump people’s concerns over safety and convenience, says Christopher Hagelin, an urban transportation researcher at the University of South Florida in Tampa.
There is a latent demand for bicycling – there are people who have the awareness and desire. But to get them to the next stage – taking action – requires education and engineering. Nationally, we have designed our transportation system around the automobile, as opposed to either bikes or pedestrians.
On the education front, Dan Grunig, executive director of the advocacy group Bicycle Colorado, points out that today’s commuter bikes – with built-in lights, fenders and luggage racks, as well as shock-absorbing seats and virtually leak-proof tires – are a great improvement over previous models.
You feel more confident riding them, because you’re more upright and you can see better, and they come with an internal hub that needs no maintenance, Grunig says. The other revolutionary development is LED headlights, which are lightweight, last a long time and are really visible.
As for engineering, Denver bike planner James Mackay notes that the routes in and out of the central business district are continually being improved.
A new bike-pedestrian bridge over Interstate 25, linking the Highland neighborhood to Lower Downtown via 16th Street, is due to open within the next few months. The city also has recently completed a new off-
street route that goes under I-25 from West 36th Avenue and Inca Street to Rockmont Drive, which should make a huge difference to people who live around 38th and Pecos, Mac- kay says.
But it takes more than safe crossings and good connections to get commuters out of their cars. Hagelin says it’s also important to have bike racks at bus stops, so that people can pedal the first leg of their journey to work on quiet residential streets, then lock up their bikes and board mass transit for the second leg on more heavily traveled roads.
In the Denver area, regular bus stops rarely have racks, but more than 500 bike lockers have been placed at park-n-Ride lots and light-rail stations, and another 100 lockers are due to go into service on the southeast line when it opens in November.
For commuters who pedal all the way into and out of downtown, bike racks are available in or outside many buildings and on most streets adjacent to the 16th Street Mall.
We encourage companies to make it easier to travel by bike by providing changing rooms and bike storage,says Bicycle Colorado’s Grunig. There’s a real financial advantage to this, too. These employees tend to be healthier, they have fewer sick days and they reduce the need for parking, since you can put 10 bikes in the space for one car.
In Cherry Creek, bike commuters have access to free indoor storage at the Bike Rack, 171 Detroit St. It’s a rental and repair shop sponsored by Transportation Solutions, a nonprofit group promoting bike and bus ridership in southeast Denver.
We have definitely had an increase in interest in bike commuting, as people look for ways to not fill up their gas tanks as often, says Monica Stobel, the group’s marketing manager.
We don’t say ride every day, but we try to suggest that if people live under 5 miles from work, they ride once a week. That would take 20 percent of the cars off the road, and it would help people realize they don’t have to go home and drive to a fitness club to work out.
Staff writer Jack Cox can be reached at 303-954-1785 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bicyclecolorado.org offers tips for commuting by bike, as well as an informative list of excuse busters.
BikeDenver.org offers camaraderie plus reassurance from members who share their street smarts in personal essays.
Denvertrails.com provides updates on trail and bike-path conditions for cyclists as well as runners, in-line skaters and others.
RTD-Denver.com has a brochure explaining how to take a bike on a bus or light rail. Click on the site map and scroll down to Special Rides.
Commutebybike.com is a national site offering guidance, gear reviews and links to numerous other related sites.