By Charles Pekow –
Small town status can bring some advantages when it comes to becoming a bicycle friendly community (BFC). Glenwood Springs, a city in western Colorado with an official population of less than 10,000, won silver status as a BFC in the spring round of awards given by the League of American Bicyclists (LAB). Only one other city in the Mountain West got a BFC designation this round (Orem, UT; more about it below.)
Glenwood Springs, Colorado
Glenwood Springs scored with LAB's reviewers because of its bike ambassador program started last year with a new local bicycle advocacy group, Glenwood Springs Bicycle Advocates. They stationed volunteers at key intersections. Volunteers in bright yellow vests help riders find their way around town, tell people how to ride safely and so forth, explains Tanya Allen, Glenwood Springs transportation manager.
The city started the collaboration last year when it realized that a major construction project was going to block roads downtown. “To keep traffic flowing through downtown, we needed to get 30 percent of cars off the road. Bicycling was seen as a big contributor,” Allen explains. The advocates asked the city how they could help. The bike group also was able to point out some quick fixes, such as adjusting curbs and adding signage to make it easier to get around town by bike,” Allen recalls.
The volunteers “reported back to us on how many people they saw and what kind of signage they needed,” she added. “We are now building on the partnership to continue the momentum.”
“In a smaller town, the education and encouragement can be easier because you have a smaller crowd and can reach a higher volume of the population,” explains Amelia Neptune, LAB's bicycle friendly America director. Placing volunteers at a key intersection, “you can probably reach a higher percentage of commuters than you can in a big city…It might be easier to make connections between local advocacy groups, volunteers and local businesses where you have a more tight-knit community.”
Also, in a small town, more people might be able to bike to work. The bicycle commuting rate in town totals 2.63 percent, better than a lot of places, Neptune says.
LAB was also impressed by Glenwood Springs' trail connections, including the Glenwood Canyon Trail managed by the Colorado Department of Transportation connecting the town to Glenwood Canyon; and the Rio Grande Trail, connecting to Aspen; Neptune says. LAB also liked the city's bike-ped bridge over the Colorado River that opened last year.
But if Glenwood Springs wants to score higher, it needs to create a bicycle advisory committee and come up with a “Vision Zero-type road safety comprehensive plan,” Neptune says. Allen says she hasn't seen the recommendations yet.”We have a transportation committee with a couple of bicycle advocates but we don't have a standalone committee that deals with bike and pedestrian issues. Some of our neighboring communities have and we can see that in the future.”
And the city expects to open more bike trails in the next year or two, she adds.
Orem, meanwhile, won bronze status. It impressed LAB with events such as its “Roll with the Mayor and Cruise with the Council bike ride. In 2015, the city passed a transportation master plan “that did a good job of prioritizing biking and walking,” Neptune explains. LAB also liked the fact that city buses allow bikers to bring their bikes in the cabin and rack them vertically.
If Orem wants to score higher, it should create an official bicycle advisory committee and increase staff time for cycling, such as by designating a bike program manager. Neptune acknowledges that creating a position “can be hard for smaller communities. It doesn't have to be full time but we want to see more staff time dedicated for bicycling.” Orem is also working on bike connections with neighboring towns, and LAB will want to see how they work.
For more, see: bikeleague.org/community