Boulder, Colorado

By Finnegan, Lora J. | Sunset, November 1999 | Go to article overview

Boulder, Colorado


Finnegan, Lora J., Sunset


We love our cars. But we can love alternatives too

WE MAY DECRY CROWDED FREEWAYS and smoggy air. But getting us Westerners out of our cars has never been easy. Using automobile alternatives for commuting is a little like eating bran: It always seems like a good idea-for somebody else.

Boulder, Colorado, proves that one alternative-the bicycle-can be viable indeed. Sure, Boulder is predisposed to be bike-friendly. After all, it's a university town and the bicycle is classic student transportation. But there has to be more to the story in a community where 11 percent of all resident trips are by bike.

City transportation planner Noreen Walsh points to other possible factors. "People here are athletic and willing to explore alternatives in many areas of life," she says. `And we have a lot of professional cyclists and bicycle manufacturing companies, like Schwinn, based here."

Other factors? One is Boulder's compact nature. Another is, simply, space. Boulder's system of greenways allowed room for bike paths and trails. That gets to the third, most important factor: Early on, Boulder planners and citizens had a vision of their city that included the bicycle.

Boulder began encouraging bike commuting more than a decade ago. Today the city boasts 35 miles of bike lanes, 48 miles of multiuse paths, and 50 miles of bike routes. The town recently crafted a new master plan to provide several crosstown bike travel routes. And each year, Boulder turns national Bike to Work Day in June into Bike to Work Week and offers free tune-ups, safety clinics, and "Walk and Roll" events.

What could other communities learn from Boulder about planning for increased bike use? …

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