How Colorado Springs Plans to Boost Bike Commuting

See how Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers and town planners plan to boost bike commuting. Shown are the mayor and several riders on the city's June 22 Bike to Work Day.
Twitter Photo: Mark Weiss The Gazette

Learn how one city is taking steps to make bike commuting safer and more reliable.

COLORADO SPRINGS, COLO. — In the shadow of Pike’s Peak, the city of Colorado Spring celebrated the state’s annual Bike Month with its 23rd annual Bike to Work Day on June 22nd. The campaign to boost bike commuting is supported by several planning efforts and projects to improve the city’s bike network.

Mayor John Suthers, who spearheaded a four-mile ride concluding along the Pike’s Peak Greenway, told a local reporter that the best thing about cycling in Colorado Springs is “the combination of exercise and scenery. You can’t beat it.”

Bike Month is about inspiring the community to use Colorado Springs bike network, 100 miles of bike lanes and nearly 120 miles of urban trails, as a celebration of what’s possible. More than 150 reportedly joined the mayor on his ride, according to reporter Mark Reiss of The Gazette, with more than a 1,000 other riders participating in the bike commuting event.

According to Where We Ride 2014: Analysis of Bike Commuting, Colorado Springs ranks #43 on the list of 70 Largest Share of Bicycle Communiters. The report by The League of American Bicyclists is based on U.S. Census Bureau’s 2013 American Community Survey data on bicycle commuting in 375 cities.

The city is focused on improving bike trail quality and connectivity for its already robust cyclist population. Another reason to improve bicycle infrastructure and route connectivity, according to Mayor Suthers, is tourism.

Increasing cycling can also help a municipality reduce traffic problems and carbon emissions. But in order to increase cycling for commuting and transportation, cities must support strong bicycle networks that make it easy, safe and efficient for riders.

In a previous EfficientGov story on How and Why Cities Are Catering to Bicyclists, researchers at the University of Minnesota evaluated bicycle networks in 74 municipalities. They analyzed bicycle network factors, such as detours and gaps, that impact ridership. The study found that network density, connectivity, fragmentation and directness are factors to address to increase ridership numbers.

There are several initiatives Colorado Springs is working on to address such gaps in its bicycle network and get more people commuting to work or running errands by bike.

Apparently the Colorado Springs bike trail network’s gaps are significant, according to Adrian Stanley, an experienced cyclist who writes for the Colorado Springs Independent.

There’s a ‘build it and they will come’ dynamic in bike commuting. In the Springs, we either haven’t built it, or we haven’t completed it. Bike lanes and bike trails often dead-end, and whole parts of the city don’t have many bike lanes or paths at all. It can be tough to navigate this city by bike. And that, coupled with the city’s sprawl, is likely why so few people commute by bike here, she wrote last year in Back in the Saddle.

The irony of Colorado Springs, she said, is that it loves its sports bikes. Stanley took the Mayor’s challenge and tested bike commuting to work, writing about her experience as well as the city’s plans. What she determined last year is that both the city’s biking network, and on some days, she herself could make bike commuting possible.

Here’s how Colorado Springs is planning to boost bike commuting over the next decade.

Better Planning

To encourage more residents to get out and cycle, the city completed a master plan under Kate Brady, its experienced senior bicycle planner, brought on board in March.

The city has implemented on-street bike lanes, buffered bike lanes, extended bike lanes and protected bike lane–as well as increased signage and added secure bike parking. But the current master plan hasn’t been updated since 2001, and an update is needed to get people biking to work and errands that are just a few miles away.

While Colorado Springs has maintained a policy of adding bike lanes during pavement overlay projects, the result, according to Colorado Springs traffic engineering manager back in 2013, was short bike lanes that are disconnected. The master plan is targeting 10 corridors that need the most improvement and make the most sense for building sensible safe bike routes.

City planning officials held public meetings in May and June to get input from the community in order to refine details.

In addition, the city is involved in discussions to join its network of trails to other cycling trails in the region. Planners are working with the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments on its Regional Non-Motorized Transportation Plan and Economic Impact of Cycling Regional Report, according to the Colorado Springs Business Journal.

The city has also conducted a bike share feasibility study for downtown, a plan called expensive but necessary.

Increased Funding

In November 2015, Colorado Springs residents voted to use $2.1 million in excess 2014 revenues to fix eight trails, including the Pike’s Peak Greenway that was part of the city’s Bike to Work Day. Three phases of the project have been completed with the fourth due to complete by November.

The city has an excise tax on resident and visitors bikes that generates funding, about $100,000 per year.

A Trails and Open Space tax generates about $1.2 million annually, according to Stanley’s story in the Independent.

The Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority will provide $3 million over 10 years for bike infrastructure improvements, also according to Stanley.

 


See the U.S. Federal Highway Administration’s Separated Bike Lane Planning and Design Guide for details on how to build bicycle infrastructure.

About the author

Andrea Fox

Andrea Fox

Andrea Fox is Editor of EfficientGov.com and Senior Editor at Praetorian Digital. She is based in Massachusetts.