A day to celebrate biking, an activity that benefits everyone

Next Wednesday, June 26 is Colorado Bike to Work Day – a day to encourage commuters to discover the many benefits of two-wheeled travel, as well as to celebrate biking and bike-friendly communities.

There’s plenty to celebrate here in Garfield County. Our weather is great for cycling, we have an excellent network of bike paths and routes, the scenery is awesome, and there’s a vibrant and supportive bike culture. That culture was on full display last month during Carbondale’s Bonedale Bike Week, when riders of all shapes and sizes participated in fun activities designed to fuel stoke about spokes.

On June 26 the celebration goes countywide, as Garfield Clean Energy, Garfield County Libraries, RFTA, bicycle advocacy groups and a swath of local businesses team up to host BikeThere!, a series of family-friendly mini-events in each of our communities. Building on Bike to Work Day, BikeThere! encourages everyone to bike wherever they can. While we may not all be able to bike to work, there are many other types of everyday trips and errands where we can trade four wheels for two.

By Dave Reed
This column was originally published in the June 19, 2024 edition of the Glenwood Springs Post Independent.

If you don't usually bike, try pedaling somewhere on June 26, and then stop by one of the BikeThere! stations to grab some refreshments and swag, get tips on bike safety and maintenance, and enter to win great prizes (including a top-notch e-bike). Stations will be operating from 3 to 6 p.m. at each of the Garfield County Libraries.

For morning commuters, Glenwood Springs Bicycle Advocates will have stations at the west end of 8th Street and at the River Trail at 23rd Street (both 7 to 8:30 a.m.), while RFTA will do the same along the Rio Grande Trail across from the Carbondale Park and Ride (8 to 10 a.m.).

Why encourage biking? Because it makes life better for everyone – bike riders, motorists and pedestrians alike.

You probably don’t need me to tell you that we have a growing problem of traffic congestion in our area. Biking is one antidote to congestion. When you hop on your bike instead of getting behind the wheel, you’re taking a vehicle off the road. If every commuter cycled one day a week instead of driving, it would reduce rush hour traffic by 20 percent.

As an added benefit, reducing the number of cars on the road makes us all safer and healthier. Vehicles cause about 800 traffic deaths per year in our state, and their emissions contribute to many more cases of asthma, lung disease and other conditions. Bicycle Colorado estimates that just a 10 percent increase in bicycling could prevent 30-40 deaths and save more than $250 million annually in health care costs.

Biking is a feasible alternative to driving in many cases. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, nearly 60 percent of household motor vehicle trips are six miles or less – a bikeable distance for many. And now e-bikes make biking even more accessible, enabling people to travel greater distances, tote more cargo, ride at different fitness levels, and set aside worries about arriving sweaty at their destination.

E-bikes are an especially attractive option in Colorado, since the state now offers a $450 point-of-sale discount on e-bikes at participating retailers. The two local bike shops that are participating in the program – Basalt Bikes in Carbondale and Bear Trail Bikes in Rifle – both report that the discount has spurred a strong boost in sales.

Garfield County communities have made great strides in making it easier and safer to travel by bike. The Roaring Fork’s Rio Grande Trail, the partially completed LoVa Trail in the Colorado River Valley and municipal bike paths in several towns are increasingly serving as travel corridors as well as recreational amenities. The towns of New Castle and Carbondale are strategically improving bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, and the City of Rifle will soon start examining ways to upgrade its bike and walking routes and intersections with federal Safe Streets for All funding.

Encouraging biking and redesigning our communities for biking create a virtuous circle. More bike riders generate demand for more bike-friendly features, making biking an even more attractive alternative to driving, which in turn takes more cars off the road (and, incidentally, saves money on road expansion and maintenance). That’s a lot of wins.

The best part of biking is that it’s fun! Reducing congestion, improving air quality and saving money are all important benefits of biking, but it also happens to be an enjoyable activity that the whole family can participate in. So bike to work if you can, do errands by bike when it makes sense - but any opportunity to bike, whether for business or pleasure, is worth seizing.