On Friday of last week, I attended the first Colorado Springs Bicycle Summit, which was organized by the city’s Trails and Open Space Coalition and presented by The Colorado Springs Independent, whose publisher is a cycling fan. The other key organization involved was SRAM, the components maker that has a heavy and active presence in the Springs.
Even though we don’t live in the Springs, I had several reasons for wanting to attend. First and foremost of course was to get the word out about Joycycling Services and our hostel to be. Second, was to learn and meet new people and/or reconnect with people I’ve met before. And third, I wanted to represent for Active Pueblo-PACE, with which I’ve become a little bit involved since I got to town.
The day kicked off with a wonderful bike ride led by the inspirational Allen Beauchamp, who took about a dozen of us on a tour of some of the local infrastructure that is in place as part of the effort to make the Springs increasingly bike friendly.
There were a couple of fabulous stops, including at the Crit Café, a new café by a bike shop right on one of the cycling paths and the Cottonwood Creek Bridge, which is one of the few remaining parts of the original Denver highway built in 1923. It’s on the National Register of Historic Places, so it can’t be retrofit for pedestrian and cyclist safety. As a result, it’s blocked off and all we could do is look at it, but it was cool to learn about it anyway.
Another great highlight of the ride was reconnecting with Torie Jennings-Giffin, the about-to-be owner of the Buffalo Lodge Bicycle Resort in Manitou Springs. I met her at a Bikes, Biz + Beer event in Denver a while ago, and of course we want to be supportive of each other’s dreams, so it was really great to be able to spend a bit of time with her. No website yet because she hasn’t closed on the property, but I put a link to their Facebook page above.
It was a great ride (Allen really knows his stuff and is so passionate about promoting cycling and activity for all people) and it finished in good time for us all to get changed and get to the upper part of the campus to check in for the conference proper and get lined up for the tasty taco bar lunch.
After lunch, we were treated to some introductions, including a short speech by CDOT deputy director Mike Lewis who said that the objective of the agency is to be the most bike-friendly DOT in the country! This echoed the points made by his boss, Shailen P. Bhatt, who spoke so compellingly at the state bike summit I attended earlier this year.
We were then treated to a stimulating keynote address from Randy Neufeld of the SRAM Cycling Fund. Much of Randy’s focus in his talk was about addressing the conflicts that occur when two or more types of transportation moving at different speeds and with different levels of mass come together.
His goal is to have 10% of a city’s population use a bike for some reason every day. He noted that 44% of the state’s population doesn’t have a Colorado Driver’s License, because they are too young, too old or disabled in some way.
Neufeld suggested 9 tools for the city:
- Separate and Calm—have cars and bikes in the same space only when the speed limits are low.
- Change the process: embed the vision for complete streets by scoping, design, public outreach, and construction maintenance so that everyone is a winner. Or, as he put it, nothing new gets built that sucks! He noted that in Portland, a protected bike lane is the default.
- Bikes and stormwater (swales). I’ve read about this a few other places lately. The point here is that these are often water management projects too and that means they can be funded by flood mitigation rather than roads projects. Neufeld calls these multi-winner projects and noted that most of the bike routes in Boulder, especially around Boulder Creek, are funded by flood mitigation.
- E-bikes! Germany is investing in E-Bikeways!
- Grow recreational cycling. 57% of cyclists ride only recreational cycling, which provides increasing economic benefits through tourism.
- Get a big win, such as improving stoplight compliance.
- Try stuff: experiment. People for Bikes have a book called Quickbuilds for better streets
- Don’t Just think of bike infrastructure in terms of commuting.
- Connect with other cities.
After the keynote session, there were breakout sessions. I went to a panel on recreational cycling, but it was much more relevant for Colorado Springs residents. It was well attended, well presented, and well received.
The final breakout session of the day that I chose was The Case for Advocacy. When I selected it, I didn’t know that the incredible Kim Arline of Pueblo was one of the three exceptional presenters. The other two were Allen Beauchamp, who I mentioned earlier, and Carina Gaz of Bike Denver.
Carina spoke about some of the projects her organization has completed in Denver, including the Colorado Center Bicycle/Pedestrian Bridge; the 15th Street protected lane, and the Arapahoe and Lawrence parking protected lanes. She also talked about Bikes on Broadway, a program that involved the local merchant’s association. Carina finished with what she felt were the keys to successful advocacy:
- Showing up
- Have a vision
- Be community driven
Carina finished with these takeaways about becoming an advocate:
Allen gave his part of the presentation on the Popcycle Bridge, a project on which I’d seen him present before. He does a weekly ride with kids and adults that goes to a bridge that is the turn-around point and they hand out popsicles. The bridge was in terrible condition and Allen and others put together a community collaboration to make it happen.
Allen’s takeaways were:
- Don’t be afraid to ask for too much
- Get buy-in from the community, including a lot of in-kind work
- Find a rallying point
- Have a vision
- Leverage existing organizations
The third person to speak was Kim Arline, who I’ve met since we moved to Pueblo. As I mentioned above, Kim is the chairperson of Active Pueblo–Pueblo Active Community Environments. This is a group in Pueblo that promotes walking, biking and access for differently abled people through infrastructure, policy, education, and events.
Kim got her start with this advocacy when she moved to Pueblo and realized that there were some gaps in infrastructure. She wanted to make kids feel safe and get them moving, so she started a walking school bus, eventually taking more than just her own children along with her on the trip to school.
Kim’s focus is on five factors:
- Engineering (this is about infrastructure, among other things)
Key in this is the education piece, which is focusing on things like lobbying city councilors and county commissioners and teaching the police department bike law and bike safety.
In addition, as part of the effort to promote health equity in Pueblo, city ordinances permit ebikes and wheel chairs in the bike lanes.
There are now about 20 miles of bike lane in the city and two full-time bike commuting police officers. Pueblo is a traditional town and there’s a lot of work to be done, but PACE is moving things forward.
Kim is leading a campaign in Pueblo called IShare the Road. The goal is to make each of us responsible for our own behavior. The campaign asks people to take a pledge to be a good user of our infrastructure, whether we are drivers, pedestrians, cyclists, skateboarders, or using a wheelchair. The campaign also includes a series of videos as well as bus and bustop signs and some cool swag.
As Kim said, you have to look for the champions, and she is certainly one of them.
The formal part of the day ended with an entertaining plenary session. Linda Kogan, the sustainability director for the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs (our host for the event by the way), introduced the city’s new senior bike planner. Kate Brady was a highly entertaining and interesting speaker.She talked about the importance of getting away from cycling being viewed as a special interest and of addressing the excess of pavement around the city.
After Kate’s fun and witty presentation, I went to help Kim set up for the Expo (usefully located in the same place as the post summit happy hour). When I heard there was going to be an expo and before I even knew Kim would even be attending the summit, I volunteered to table to represent PACE and the IShare campaign. Kim brought along some additional materials to help draw attention to our table. She and I staffed it and took it in turns to get food and drink (food from Whole Foods, drink from Bristol Brewing for the beer, not sure about the wine, which wasn’t free, but at least they had it, pretty unusual for a bike event).
I talked to some wonderful people in the course of the happy hour, which went till about 7. It made it so much fun. I talked to one couple who had moved from Wyoming and thought Colorado Springs was a huge town, and one couple who loved to come down to Pueblo to ride and were asking me about some of the routes. I had a really good time, but was ready to pick up and head home after what was essentially a 12-hour day.
I really have to commend Colorado Springs Trails and Open Spaces and all their collaborators, who put on a heck of an event. It was exceptionally well run and I hope it helps move the bicycle world of Colorado Springs forward and gives a jump start to the rest of the region.