Tuesday, February 26, 2019

"Battle of the Bike Lanes" draws large, noisy crowd

Posted By on Tue, Feb 26, 2019 at 5:41 PM

click to enlarge About 300 people crowded Studio Bee to hear panelists speak about bike lanes. - FAITH MILLER
  • Faith Miller
  • About 300 people crowded Studio Bee to hear panelists speak about bike lanes.

Bike lanes are currently one of the most controversial topics in Colorado Springs, at least in terms of the number of comments and letters-to-the-editor that local media receive on the subject.

So, we stopped by a free public event called "Battle of the Bike Lanes," hosted by the Gazette at the Pikes Peak Center's Studio Bee on Feb. 25. Billed as a "Community Conversation," the event had five panelists debate the pros and cons of the new bike lanes and striping changes that arrived downtown this year. Gazette readers and audience members were invited to submit questions for the panelists to answer.

Around 300 people crowded the room, dozens standing in the back when seats were quickly filled. Bike lane supporters cheered and rang bicycle bells when their ideological counterparts — City Council President Pro Tem Jill Gaebler, Cory Sutela of Bike Colorado Springs and city traffic engineer Tim Roberts — defended the lanes that have some residents feeling safer and others fretting that their tax money was misused.

Opponents applauded bike-lane skeptics Edward Snyder of Restore Our Roads, and Rick Villa of SaferCC.com, when they challenged the city's traffic priorities.

The Gazette published a recap here, and posted a video of the forum on its Facebook page.

We reached out to Gaebler and Snyder for comment on the event.

"I appreciate the Gazette offered a forum for citizens to speak about why they do or don't support bike infrastructure," Gaebler said via text. "But I'm disappointed they did nothing to find common ground, and instead asked questions that promoted discord and anger. The forum could have brought all of us together and instead it only fueled the fire."

Gaebler said a group of people in the front row "heckled and booed me the entire time."

"There was at least one comment about finding common ground and I am hopeful we can find some agreement toward understanding each other better," she added. "I also think there are ways for the city to work with citizens to get better data that informs how we build our roads to meet the needs of all users."

click to enlarge Don Ward, a KKTV 11 News anchor, doles out questions to the panelists. - FAITH MILLER
  • Faith Miller
  • Don Ward, a KKTV 11 News anchor, doles out questions to the panelists.

Snyder told the Indy he was grateful for a platform to express his organization's views, but thought that in the end, it may not do much to change the city's way of operating.

"The city has made pretty clear what they think and what they want to do," he said. "They’re not acting in the best interest of either bicyclists or cars, and more importantly they’re ignoring the majority of the public who are actually opposed to (bike lanes) by any measure."

However, Snyder said he received "a lot of responses" after the panel from people who "finally heard someone express what they’ve been thinking and waiting to hear for some time."

"The public is getting increasingly irritated that the city’s not taking them seriously — the majority opinion or, you know, the data," he added. "I’m not pretending that (the mayor and City Council have) got an easy job, but I do think it could be done a lot more effectively that it’s being done now."

This story has been updated to reflect the correct spelling of Edward Snyder's name.

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