The pedals are turning in the right direction for improved bicycling in Colorado Springs. You could hear it in the passionate conversations of cyclists last week at the Bike Colorado Springs Kickoff Party at USA Cycling headquarters.
Riders in the Pikes Peak region have known for years that cycling opportunities here are excellent. Our network of rideable singletrack trails is arguably the best in the country for its proximity to our urban areas. Road cycling has some problems, but the potential is fantastic. There are multiple organizations, clubs, bike shops, bike-related businesses, nonprofits and cycling advocates who share a love for life on two wheels. But the community as a whole has never really gotten its act together, never figured out how to speak as one as a way to benefit all.
Until now, fingers crossed.
Bike Colorado Springs (BCS) is a new nonprofit, a project of the Trails and Open Space Coalition, which could change and grow the profile of cycling in Colorado Springs. These kinds of efforts are often short-lived as the players come together, realize their differences, discover that real change takes work, and then disband.
But this feels different. Great cycling cities have strong advocacy organizations, folks who will wade into a maze of bureaucracies, engage local government in real planning, who'll spread the word about cycling projects. We've never had such an organization. So now the experiment begins.
Bike Colorado Springs communications committee chairman Michael Rigney — who is part of a five-person steering committee — was surrounded by inquisitive cyclists and patiently answered their questions at the kickoff party. Most of them wanted to know the organization's role in the community.
"Bike Colorado Springs is an organization of people dedicated to making Colorado Springs more bike friendly," says Rigney. "It'll be a hub for cycling initiatives within the greater Pikes Peak region."
Think of it like this. Where did you go on your last ride? What would you do to make cycling better, or safer or more fun? That's Bike Colorado Springs' mission.
"If you want more places to ride, better places to ride, if you want more safe routes to school, or for shopping, we're the ones who are going to advocate with the City Council, the streets and parks departments, to make that happen," Rigney says.
The effort has produced results in a $5 million Sand Creek stormwater project on the city's east side. There are 17 miles of rideable terrain for fat bikes in and along Sand Creek, according to Allen Beauchamp, who heads up the Bike Colorado Springs Education and Encouragement Committee. Beauchamp invited Jerry Cordova, the city's stormwater specialist, to ride Sand Creek. The result? That project now includes fat bike-specific access, along with permanent trail and connectivity amenities.
Al Brody, a longtime cycling advocate who spent years riding the city's creek beds and hidden places, coined the term "Complete Creeks," a spinoff of "Complete Streets," a national program calling for street construction accommodating all users. (The city still has some work to do in that area.) But why not explore and build riding opportunities in creek beds and drainages, away from traffic?
Cordova gets it, and he is praising the efforts of Bike Colorado Springs, which is inspiring him to think creatively, to think about complete creeks. And he's pretty jazzed about fat bikes, too.
"I am amazed at the networking and professionalism that they bring to this community," Cordova says.
Bike Colorado Springs is now responsible for the annual Mayor's Ride, an event to promote the benefits of cycling. And the organization worked quietly but tenaciously behind the scenes to convince the city to hire bike planner Kate Brady.
This is progress. Cyclists catching the ear of Colorado Springs city government. Who'd have thought?
Cory Sutela, the president of Medicine Wheel Trail Advocates, heads up the Bike Colorado Springs Advocacy Committee, while Andrew VanDerWege, owner and director of Go West Camps, a kids' summer camp in Colorado Springs, is the Outreach Committee chairman. Susan Davies, Trails and Open Space Coalition executive director, also serves on the steering committee.
Looking ahead, Bike Colorado Springs will encourage cyclists to use the new buffered bike lanes on Research Parkway. There are plans for group rides on the new Legacy Loop, an off-street route that encircles downtown Colorado Springs. And VanDerWege said the group is working to create more bicycle-friendly businesses with the aim of creating community and a bigger voice for cyclists on the political landscape.
Those who want to be involved are encouraged to visit bikecoloradosprings.org (click on "Advocate" in the main bar.)
Making Colorado Springs a more bike-friendly city. It doesn't have to be difficult. "We want people to be able to choose to ride a bicycle for whatever reason they like in their daily lives," Beauchamp says.