Tom Ross: Black Beauty took me everywhere
August 29, 2011
Steamboat Springs — If Steamboat were Bike Town USA, we would all ride our bicycles to watch the biggest bike race to ever roll through Ski Town USA. Right?
I should be the last one to write a sanctimonious piece about the importance of bicycle commuting. I've done a miserable job in that department this summer. And I make no excuses.
Still, I was taken aback Friday afternoon when I walked down Yampa Street after the big USA Pro Cycling Challenge to retrieve my 47-year-old Schwinn two-speed from the bicycle corral in the parking lot at Ninth Street. Black Beauty was one of just seven bikes there.
As it turns out, I was just at the wrong bike corral.
My correspondents around town have assured me that strategically placed corrals at the other end of town were thronged with cycles of every description.
And that's the way it's supposed to be. If we're going to talk the talk, we've got to ride the bike.
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Frank and Andy Schleck, of Team Leopard-Trek, could probably tell us a thing or two about bicycle commuting. Their native Luxembourg, with substantially fewer people than the city of Denver proper, is one of those European countries like the Netherlands and Belgium that has a street grid that's more hospitable to bikes than automobiles.
It's only 52 miles from Luxembourg's French border to a corner of the grand duchy that protrudes into Belgium. And tour guides describe many narrow country lanes between the two borders.
Steamboat, on the other hand, has big, wide boulevards designed to let cars, pickups and longboards gather speed.
In the Netherlands, the standard commuting bike is a heavy cruiser with mud flaps, fenders and a chain ring enclosure that helps office workers like myself keep their khakis from getting ripped and dirty.
In Steamboat, many of us continue to think of a bicycle as something you take of your car rack after work so you can ride up a mountain and then drive home again.
Still, we've made bicycle commuting progress in the past couple of years.
Some say the bike route designations that were stenciled on many city streets this year are nothing more than window dressing. I disagree. I think they send a message that bicycles sharing the roads are to be expected. Now I just have to take the hint.
But I also shake my head numerous times over the summer at cyclists who don't obey the same traffic laws they adhere to closely when they drive their cars. And let's face it, most cyclists also own cars.
One of the most beneficial initiatives has been the Safe Routes to School effort intended to help parents feel more comfortable allowing their youngsters to ride their bikes to class.
It's a funny thing in Steamboat, even with free-to-rider bus service, that we tend to drive our children to and from soccer practice or ski practice or music lessons.
My mother might have spoiled me with home-cooked lunches every day, but she would never have driven me to swim team practice at 8 a.m. followed by a baseball game at 1:30 p.m.
That's what Black Beauty was for.
— To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com