Friday, May 17, 2013
By David Young, the Coloradoan
First Published May 13, 2013
Fort Collins has been climbing the ranks of “bicycle friendly” communities for 10 years now, but there’s still one more rung to go.
The city has been working toward becoming a platinum-level Bicycle Friendly Community ever since it reached the gold level, said Molly North, FC Bikes Program Specialist. To finally achieve it is a proud moment.
The League of American Bicyclists awarded Fort Collins the Platinum Bicycle Friendly Community status on Monday. It puts Fort Collins into the upper echelons of cities that embrace bicycles as a lifestyle.
Troutman Underpass on the Mason Trail, March 2013
Next up, the city is striving to reach the next level: diamond.
In the past five years, programs such as the bicycle library, bicycle ambassador program and bicycle infrastructure were key in reaching the next level, said North, who applied for the designation. She also credited both the city and the community for sustained commitment to cycling.
“Part of the spirit of this bike-friendly community program is that competition,” North said. “Really, competition against oneself.”
With bikes used as recreation as well as transportation, the city needs to get more people on bikes and further the programs in place if it wants to reach the diamond designation.
“We are not going to rest on our laurels,” North said. “We are not going to be ‘as is,’ but if not broken, we won’t fix it.”
Nicole Wynands, program manager of the Bicycle Friendly Community program with the League of American Bicyclists, said one of the big achievements that helped Fort Collins move to the next level was the Bike Ambassador Program, in which trained cyclists work with the community to advance safe cycling.
In addition, the infrastructure, such as an expansive 133 miles of off-street trails and 280 miles of bike lanes, contributed to the designation. Wynands also noted how CSU and businesses encourage cycling by offering bike parking.
More people ride bikes than walk in town — a rarity — as 6.6 percent ride and 3.3 percent walk, she noted.
The diamond designation is still in the works. In addition to an application, it would require a survey and some stricter requirements that accompany it. A diamond designation requires that ridership would need to be 15 percent and bike crashes would need to be limited to 50 per 10,000 daily commuters, with fewer than .02 fatalities, Wynands said.
Rick Price, Fort Collins Bike Co-op safe cycling coordinator, said the award is well deserved and the city has been working toward this moment for years. He gave much of the credit to City Council for its foresight in helping put Fort Collins on the map for biking.
Price has his eyes on the next level — diamond — noting that to reach it, there needs to be more education and policies that will help raise the next generation of cyclists.
Fort Collins achieved the status for its investment in bicycling promotion, education programs, infrastructure and pro-bicycling policies.
The Bicycle Friendly Community program evaluates quality of life, sustainability and transportation networks, providing benchmarks toward improving bicycle-friendliness. There are 259 Bicycle Friendly Communities in 47 states across America. But there are only four platinum cities in the country: Fort Collins; Boulder; Davis, Calif.; and Portland, Ore. There are five levels of the award — diamond, platinum, gold, silver and bronze. Fort Collins received a silver designation in 2003 and a gold designation in 2008. No city has reached the diamond level yet.
Moving forward, Dan Porter, cyclist and operator of local bike website yourgroupride.com, said he would like to see more races, such as the USA Pro Cycling Challenge, become standards for Fort Collins.
Coinciding with the award, FC Bikes new program manager, Tessa Greegor, started Monday. Greegor, 30, comes from Seattle, where, for the past five years, she has been the principal planner for the Cascade Bicycle Club, the largest bicycle advocacy organization in the country.
Greegor said the award reflects the level of commitment that the city has to cycling.
Coming into her first day on the job, she noted the framework is in place for bikes freeing her up to focus on updating the bike plan, expand the bike library and work on bike safety.
Greegor wants to help families and children feel safer when riding.