Sunday, February 8, 2009

Boulder Bikes!

This week I visited Boulder and came back thinking about the community and how progressive they are. I have always been excited about how we shape our communities. Downtown Boulder is a very walkable scale, but it quickly changes as you leave the center core. One thing is for sure, after reviewing their Bike Summit document (see link above), they are talking the talk and judging from their facilities, they are producing a community that is seeking to be one of the best in the country.

I wrote the following article for, it would be great if accept it.

Comparisons to Portland
As a City that just went Platinum shortly after Portland, it is remarkable that while many similarities exist between the cities, Boulder used a distinctly different path to get there. Boulder’s emphasis for physical infrastructure has been on off-street paths associated with flood control and connecting the community by using wider sidewalks for connections on busier suburban streets.

The City and County have been opportunistic in how they’ve built up the system. This approach has been inspired by people open to trying new things in a community that has been willing to experiment. I knew I was in a special place when the hotel I checked into offered bicycles for loan to visit nearby homes for sale. Pedal to Properties is behind the program and maintains nearly 40 bikes for visitors to use whether or not they’re looking to relocate.

Boulder also is lucky to have great events dedicate to cycling. Whether it be programs in the schools to those that develop commuters, they’re best known for their Walk and Bike Month which is celebrated throughout June, with a Bike to Work Day held on the last Wednesday in June. The event is presented by GO Boulder and is produced by Community Cycles. Begun in 1977, Boulder's annual celebration of biking is believed to be one of the oldest in the United States.

I visited with Boulder staff fresh off their first Winter Bike Day that was held to “encourage local commuters to give winter biking a try and to celebrate those who cycle all year long”.

The People Make it Happen

Boulder is a great community because it is made up of good people and great places. CU Boulder is just one of the institutions that helps attract enlightened minds and develops a well-educated community that is passionately devoted to making sure Boulder maintains its position as one of the greenest cities in America.

Marni Ratzel, the City’s Bike Coordinator described that the City maintains 381 miles of bike lane that includes on-street, contraflow bike lanes, and bikable shoulders. This includes over 100 miles of off-street paths, which represents a unique network for a City of Boulder’s size.

Marni and Cris Jones hosted me on a bicycle tour last year and I was impressed with the efforts the City took to keep the off-street paths clear of snow and other hazards for cyclists.

The Engineering Details

Marni, Cris, and others also make sure that City staff are focused on the details associated with making the community work. City design policies focus on good signage to warn motorists of cycling facilities and physical design elements such as speed tables in the path of turning vehicles, in the right turn lanes.

Boulder has also experimented with blue markings on the pavement designed to raise awareness of vehicle-bicycle interactions.

One of my observations during a recent trip to Boulder was the number of cyclists travelling on the left side of the road. While the path widths allow for two-way operation, it creates conflicts that present new challenges for engineers and planners. The City is keenly aware of these challenges as they consider our first cycletrack design.

Boulder is a model city for creating a community that is conscious of the importance of cycling infrastructure and how significant a role it can play in creating a great place. Similar to Portland, the success of the community will continue to rely on the people that have inspired others through innovative ideas such as a Winter Bike to Work Day.

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