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RAMBLIN' MAN: Colorado Springs bike culture doesn't include commuters

May 10, 2014 Updated: May 10, 2014 at 3:10 pm
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Fewer Colorado Springs residents commute via bicycle than in other front-range cities. (The Gazette/Jerilee Bennett)

It's the time of year to dust off your skimpy bike shorts and pray they fit.

Snap on that helmet. Scrounge around for those knee and elbow pads.

And the gloves, the gloves, where are the gloves?

It's happening all over Colorado as the temperatures climb and the sun rolls up from the eastern plains and fades behind the Rockies. (You might have a couple of days to find those gloves - winter is expected to return briefly Sunday and Monday.)

Colorado is third nationally for the percentage of commuters who bike to work, according to a report by Alliance for Biking & Walking.

The report measured all 50 states and 52 of the most populated cities, which included Denver and Colorado Springs. It also measured 17 small and midsized cities, including Fort Collins and Boulder.

All of the cities ranked in Colorado, except, notably, Colorado Springs, were higher than the national average in terms of the share of commuters who bike or walk to work.

The national average for bike commuters in cities was 1 percent and for walkers it was 5 percent.

In Colorado Springs, the rate was 0.7 percent for bicycle commuters and 3 percent for walkers.

The Springs is getting a free ride on the legs of more pedestrian-oriented cultures elsewhere in Colorado.

The pedestrian culture was much stronger in Boulder, at 10.2 percent biking and 9.3 percent walking. Fort Collins came in at 6.3 percent biking and 3.3 percent walking.

Denver bicycling commuters were 2.2 percent of the commuter mix and walkers were 4.1 percent, according to the report.

"The Springs is probably the best city along the Front Range for mountain biking," said Tim Halfpop, manager of Old Town Bike Shop on South Tejon Street. "But we're the worst for road riding and getting around town."

Why does Colorado Springs lag?

Part of it can be explained by population and demographics, Halfpop said.

Boulder and Fort Collins are smaller than the Springs, and both have major colleges.

"The percentage of students to overall population is quite a bit more than here, and they tend to ride bikes around and the cities have put in bike path systems," he said. "And it doesn't take 20 minutes to get across town in either of those cities."

But then there's Denver. It's bigger than the Springs. There's no major university.

And yet, said Halfpop, "They have a pretty awesome bike path system.

"A lot of it is in the mindset of the voting public in that town. They voted for light rail, they have a good bike system, they are more committed in general to alternative systems than Colorado Springs."

Colorado Springs, he added, is a car-based society.

The other problem, he added, is that the bike paths in Colorado Springs aren't connected. "If we had all the proposed trails intact that are out there, we would have a pretty good system, but none of them are connected," he said.

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