Thursday, February 24, 2011

A Little History of the Fort Collins Bike Library

When the Bike Fort Collins Bike Library management team, headed by Jeff Morrell, then President of the Board, was preparing the kiosk in Old Town Square in the late summer and fall of 2008 they found an artist ready to paint a mural.  It was modeled after the famous Perfecta bicycle poster by the Czech artist, Alphonse Mucha.   After some deliberation a few members of the board of Bike Fort Collins prevailed on having the mural cancelled.  The argument against went something as follows: 

"Women have struggled for centuries to be considered the equals of men.  The bicycle played a role in that struggle.  Indeed, Susan B. Anthony, that stalwart crusader for the emancipation of women, said in 1896 that she thought the bicycle had “done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world.”  The mural scheduled for the bike library kiosk reminded us of the 1880s idea that women are beautiful and men ride bicycles.

Several members of the Board of Directors of Bike Fort Collins prevailed and the mural was cancelled.  In its place today is an 1880s penny farthing.  

(For a hand made oil portrait of the original click here.)

Monday, February 21, 2011

Cyclists should set the pace for being a good example

By  Rick Price, Ph.D.
First Published in the Coloradoan February 21, 2011

 I sometimes hear from readers who think I focus too much on the rights of bicyclists and not on their

As one reader recently wrote: "I am totally against the buffoons who do not follow the rules, cross the
street against traffic without the signal, cross in front of traffic just because there is a small break in
traffic, wear dark clothing on a dark street after dark, cyclists without lights" and so on.

I agree. So here's one for the "buffoons" out there. If you know one, please pass this along.

Dear fellow bicycle rider:

The Washington, D.C., Area Bicyclist Association, or WABA, adopted a New Year's resolution making
2011 the Year of the Bicycle. They invited every bicyclist in D.C., Maryland and Virginia to sign the
following resolution:

In 2011:
> I resolve to be a more responsible bicyclist.
> I resolve to better respect the rights of other road users.
> I resolve to make a good faith effort to better follow the law.
> I resolve to yield to pedestrians.
> I resolve to help make bicycling safer and easier for all of us.

The resolution was signed by 757 cyclists. That's not many.

Admittedly, WABA had some pushback from its membership. Not everyone agreed to sign the ride
responsibly petition. One member said he could not "imagine how WABA thinks it is going to change
cyclist behavior on these points. This probably will happen about the same time motorists never exceed
the speed limit by a single mile per hour or always signal when they are changing lanes."

 When I teach bike safety to kids in local schools, we talk about rules. Even the kindergartners understand
the concept of rules of the road and agree it would be tough to have a football game where one team is
required to follow the rules and the other is allowed to make up their own. They agree this game wouldn't be fair (or fun) for anyone.

So, fellow cyclist think about this as you run that red light or as you race past pedestrians ("walkers"
as the kindergartners call them) in the crosswalk: As minority road users and as the more vulnerable
road users, we need to bite the bullet and set the example. Maybe by adopting these resolutions we
will inspire motorists to join us in practicing correct rules of the road, like yielding to cyclists when we
"take the lane" because it is too narrow to share, coming to a full stop at stop signs on the commute
to work, not exceeding the speed limit, signaling when we change lanes and watching for bikes when
pulling out of alleys, driveways and secondary streets and when opening car doors.

As for those on sidewalks and trails - pedestrians are the more vulnerable users. They have the right
of way. Always. Even the kindergartners understand that rule.

Vote for or against the WABA resolution in the side column of this blog (at the top of the column).

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Saving Fort Collins' Bicycle Coordinator - A Little History (October 2005)

In October 2005 a City Council seeking to save money was prepared to cut the small allocation of funds for the City's Bicycle Coordinator's position.  Those funds could be used to create a right turn lane on South College Avenue, it seems.

The fledgling organization, Bike Fort Collins stepped in to rally the troops.  Bike Fort Collins President and Co-founder, Rick Price, sent the following message to an ad-hoc mailing list.

From: Rick Price
To: rick
Date: Oct 28 2005 - 5:02pm

Bike Coordinator or No Bike Coordinator?

First of all you need to know that the approximately 200 e-mails that our City Council received before their Oct. 11 meeting were the most messages Council has EVER received on ANY issue.  It made an impression.  Though not a big enough impression.

Last Tuesday night City Council defeated a proposal for funding of the Bike Coordinator's position by a 4-3 vote.  This week there have been discussions among some council members about funding a possible part-time position or funding a volunteer position of some type.   So it looks as if they may take this up again at their next meeting, almost certainly for the last time for a year or two.

Many of you have expressed concern with continuing the current Bike Coordinator's position in SmartTrips.   I share your concerns.  But I think we should still push for a part-time position, at the very least, that might be housed in Transportation Planning and NOT in SmartTrips.

Here's why:

1) Funding history for the Bike Coordinator functions have been (numbers are approximate):
    2003 - $200,000
    2004 - $120,000
    2005 - $65,000
    2006 - 0    (proposed)
    2007 - 0    (proposed)

2) In 2006 the Transportation Dept. will revise and update the entire bicycle portion of the Master Transportation Plan.  A Traffic Planner will be assigned to this at about half-time.  Because of budget cuts this update will be done entirely in-house without the assistance of consultants as has been common in the past.  The planner will not have time to carry out grant writing and funding efforts to assure Fort Collins gets its fair share of Federal tax monies which are already flowing and which is very competitive.

3) All functions of SmartTrips relative to Bike to Work month, the Freewheels program, the Commuter Coach program, Bike Rodeos at Schools, and Educational Outreach to schools, businesses or others will end.

4) The chance of retaining our League of American Bicyclists Silver Medal as a Bike Friendly Community in 2007, when it will next be evaluated, is slim without a bike coordinator.
Here's what we'd like to ask your help with:

Making the case that it isn't fair to the community, to our kids, or to cyclists in town to shut this program down cold turkey without giving a group like the Friends of the Fort Collins  Bicycle Program, Inc. (OR any other group) a chance to step in and take it over.  We'd like a liaison, ombudsman, planner, PR person, or someone funded at least part-time to work with us as we take on the functions of the Bike Coordinator.

Call to Action

1) Send a message to your own or to all City Council members imploring them to reconsider at least a half-time position to be placed in the Transportation Planning office to help with the update of the bicycle transportation plan and to act as a liaison to the bike community to help as they assume roles as volunteers that SmartTrips has played in the past.

If YOU send a message and if YOU can get ONE friend to send a message, we'll get our message across.  Write it from the heart this time.
(This should make 400 messages this time.)

2) If one in ten of you can come to the meeting Wednesday at Council Chambers, 300 West LaPorte AND bring one friend a few of us will speak and try to convey the same message.   This would mean we'd have over 40 people at the City Council meeting.

Thanks for your efforts!
Rick Price on behalf of Bike Fort Collins

How did it turn out?  About thirty citizens turned out to express support for the Bicycle Coordinator's position.  Council began debate and Council Member Ben Manvel moved to allocate $44,000 for a half time position.  As the vote unfolded everyone move to support the motion, including all four who had voted against
it two weeks before. 

The rest is history, as they say. 

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Should we Train Fort Collins Police in the Principles of Vehicular Cycling?

First Published in the Fort Collins Coloradoan Feb. 7, 2011

My favorite story of the law and bicyclists in Fort Collins is of the time 1½ years ago, when a Fort Collins police officer stopped the then-National Collegiate Cycling champion and issued a warning for what the officer thought was an illegal left turn.

The national champion, experienced bicycle commuter and experienced bike handler was headed to work on North College Avenue, turning north from the right-most left turn lane on Cherry Street. The officer handed him a pre-printed form from The form explained how a cyclist should make a left turn by keeping to the far right, crossing with the light and repositioning himself on the far right side of the intersection to await the through light.

The officer didn't realize that the form he handed out mentioned two other legal left turn options available to the cyclist, one of which includes the use of the left turn lane, the choice of this expert cyclist.
The option identified by the police officer is the technique that we teach 12-year-olds, inexperienced cyclists or anyone in a busy intersection. At Cherry Street and College Avenue, there are two left-turn lanes, and experienced cyclists should use the right-most left-turn lane, which leads them right to the bike lane as they complete the turn.

Other oft-repeated anecdotes among cyclists are those involving officers responding to minor bike-car crashes in which the officer asks the cyclist, "Would you like me to file a report?" The correct answer to this question in all cases is, "Yes, absolutely." But this is a question that shouldn't even be asked in a bicycle community like ours.

Since 2007, the San Francisco Police Department has used a 10-minute training video to instruct police officers on the rights and responsibilities of bicyclists. Produced in cooperation with the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, the video informs officers that cyclists should avoid the "door zone" near parked cars and that cyclists should take and "own the lane" on narrow streets. The video further clarifies that bikes belong in traffic, not on the sidewalk. The film explains that officers are required to file an incident report when cyclists report aggression by a motorist or any time a bike-car crash results in injury or property damage. Officers should not dissuade a cyclist from making such a report.

Pueblo and Longmont have done, or are doing, similar trainings. League Cycling instructors in Fort Collins could conduct trainings with Fort Collins Police Services. It would take just 20 minutes to show officers the film, "Bikes Belong In Traffic - SFPD Training Video," available on, followed by a brief question and answer session. That should be enough to address recent revisions to Colorado Bicycle Law, dispel "safe" bicycling myths, explain what to expect from safe cyclists and identify dangerous bicycling behaviors in Fort Collins.

When can we start?