Start: Denver, CO
Finish: Denver, CO
Weather: Sunny, 90 degrees
Bike Time: 3.5 hours
Distance to date: 56
Denver is a cyclist’s paradise. The city has over 850 miles of paved bicycle trails, a network of designated bicycle routes marked along city streets, a system of bicycle share locations throughout the city, and bicycle racks on city buses and trains. Bicyclists are everywhere; business men with briefcases, fitness junkies, Hispanics in custodian uniforms, blue-haired grandmothers, and moms with their kids in tow. The network builds upon itself. Since riding is convenient and safe, more people ride, and the more people ride, the more the automobile drivers are
aware of, and respectful of, cyclists. After only two days, I feel
more comfortable riding around Denver than I do in Cambridge, and much more comfortable than I do in Boston.
I wondered whether this network made a dent in our overall energy consumption. According to the Bicycle Resolution of the US Conference of Mayors, the average bicycle commuter saves $1825 per year in auto related costs, reduces their annual carbon emissions by 128 pounds, conserves 145 gallons of gasoline and avoids 50 hours of gridlock. Currently bicycle commuting makes up less than 1% of all commutes, but if we could nudge that number up by only ½ a percent, the US could save 462 million gallons of gasoline.
There is, of course, another upside to bicycle commuting, which is personal fitness. Colorado boasts the lowest obesity rate in
America (19.8% according to a 2011 Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Study, versus a whopping 34.4% for top ranked Mississippi). Colorado is now the only state with less than 20% obesity. Bicycling helps contribute to that good rating, though it is hardly a number worth cheering about. Twenty years ago no state had an obesity rate over 15%. We are getting fat faster than we are getting fit.
Still, Denver’s bike friendly ways are a welcome alternative to driving in cars. Today I cycled along the path that runs north/south along the South Platte River. Denver has had an unusually wet summer and the Platte is flowing strong, with dozens of small waterfalls. The trail runs through residential, urban, industrial and pastoral districts. It is both functional and beautiful. The trail is well marked, smoothly paved, and ducks under cross streets. It is wonderful on a 90 degree day to dip into an underpass, catch some shade, and get a cool breeze off the roaring river. In two locations there was construction
and the bike path had well signed, dedicated detours which sent the message to me that in Denver, bikes are equal to cars.
It is a message that resonates strong with me.
South Platte River Bike Trail – Denver, CO