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Sunday, May 27, 2007

Colorado Springs challenging for bicycling?

Images of locked bikes in Colorado SpringsFrom the Colorado Springs Gazette, 05.26.07:

Consider a gas-saving commute on a bike
Bike Month in Colorado Springs kicks off Friday with a variety of events and rides designed, in part, to promote commuting by bicycle.

John David Norton thinks that's great. Really. The 54-year-old father of five and grandfather of two has been riding a bicycle in Colorado Springs for 30 years. He's been commuting to his job at Atmel--nine miles one way--for the past 10.

He said commuting isn't something newcomers to the sport should take lightly, especially in this town. On July 4, 2005, Norton was hit from behind by a hit-and-run driver, an incident that left him with a concussion, deep bruising of his hip and lesions on his spinal cord.

Over the years, he's been hit by a rock, fast food and drinks. He's been flipped off and screamed at more times than he can count. He considers himself a courteous rider who doesn't blow stop signs and never takes more of his lane than he needs.

The fact is, he said, if cyclists are thinking of commuting in a town with its fair share of impatient, mean-spirited, cell-phoneyakking motorists, they’re going to need their wits about them.

"For the most part, it's been a great experience," he said of commuting by bike. "And motorists, for the most part, are very kind and courteous. But there are a certain percentage who are not, and that exaggerates the danger." (Read more.)
Motorists fear other motorists, so many opt for large vehicles such as SUVs. They persist with these gas-guzzling monsters, in spite of high costs, out of fear. This fear of motorists also prevents many Americans from bicycling, a transportation mode they perceive would increase their vulnerability.

Cars are a menace, killing more than 40,000 people each year in the U.S. and injuring another 2.7 million. Motorists pursue individual solutions to enhance personal safety, buying vehicles with abundant air bags, braking capacity, and metallic mass. However, what is needed are social solutions.

This is where Complete Streets comes in, pushing government to design roads that are safe for all users. This means, above all, reducing vehicle speeds to lower safety risks. Slowing down traffic also reduces the relative advantage of cars over other transportation modes, making bicycling, walking, and transit more attractive.

For most of the past century, government transportation agencies have prioritized vehicle mobility above all else. The result has increased both vehicle speeds and motorist sense of entitlement. And traffic danger. Turning this situation around--to prioritize safety rather than speed--requires more than courtesy and responsible behavior. (Bicyclists being "nice.") It requires advocacy.

This article suggests that Colorado Springs lacks strong bicycle advocacy, which can increase bicycling awareness and legitimacy, and reduce motorist hostility and irresponsibility. "Newcomers" to bike commuting shouldn't feel threatened; streets should welcome everyone regardless of mode.

Image: Web capture.
Visit: Bicycle Colorado
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site


Yokota Fritz said...

My in-laws live in Co Springs. Recreational/sport cycling is huge there, but I've never seen much transportational cycling.

Colorado Springs trail system is anchored around the very nice Pikes Peak Greenway that stretches 14 miles from the Air Force Academy south to the city of Fountain (where my mother-in-law lives). Various east-west paths connect to the main trail.

In Fountain, the Pikes Peak trail connects with the Fountain Creek Regional Trail that runs south about 10 miles across the various municipalities south of C.Springs.

To the north, the Pikes Peak path connects with the county Santa Fe Trail through the Air Force Academy grounds and 15 miles north to Palmer Lake. From there, cyclists can continue north another 5 miles on Douglas County's Greenland Trail.

cwiehle said...

I've lived in Colorado Springs since 1997. With nearly 14 years of trials and tribulations riding bicycles here--I can honestly say that Colorado Springs is more dangerous now for cyclists than it was in the past.
Four years ago, I was hit by a pickup truck on the roundabout at New Center Point shopping center. The driver did not yield and was talking on a cellphone. $3000 for the emergency room visit. $10 of damage to my bicycle.
Under no circumstances try to use roundabouts in Colorado Springs on a bicycle. Also, do not ride on Academy Boulevard from Airport Road to Woodmen. Do not ride on Powers Boulevard from Airport road to Stetson Hills.
Use bicycle routes. The bicycle trail/routes maps posted on the city website hasn't been updated since 2003 (but better than nothing). Check out the addresses of residences and businesses in Colorado Springs, and note their locations with respect as to how close they are to existing bicycle routes.
Colorado Springs roads can barely manage the increased traffic from the urban sprawl. This will not change anytime soon.