City looking to be 'bicycle friendly'

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The city of Steamboat Springs is looking at how it can turn itself into a bicycle-friendly community.

City Council President Paul Strong proposed the idea of creating a plan to receive a "bicycle-friendly community" designation by the League of American Bicyclists. Part of the plan could include adding bike lanes to roadways, making sure there are plenty of bike racks on buses and across town and encouraging businesses to add changing areas for their employees who bike to work.

"It is not something we are going to accomplish in the next year or two years," Strong said. "I would hope it would happen somewhere in the near future, in five years for example, to have done enough things to be certified as a bicycle-friendly community."

Almost 50 cities in the country are designated as bicycle-friendly communities. Boulder is among four communities identified in the top tier of bicycle friendliness. Denver, Fort Collins and Longmont are the other Colorado communities recognized.

According to the League of American Bicyclists Web site, several factors are considered in determining what cities are bicycle friendly. They include the physical environment for biking, education programs to encourage drivers to share the road, promotions to persuade people to ride their bikes, enforcement of traffic laws and future plans to improve conditions.

"The city is very aware of biking as a mode of recreation, but not so much as a mode of transportation," Strong said.

Although the city has the Yampa River Core Trail for pedestrian and bikers, it is not an ideal place to commute to work on bikes, Strong said.

With the area's geographic constraints and with U.S. Highway 40 as the only way through the city, the city could have trouble setting up bike lanes, Strong said. Many bike commuters try to get off the arterial roads, Strong said, which do not run east to west through the city.

When the city and residents worked toward updating the Steamboat Springs Area Community Plan, having alternative modes of transportation was a key finding to the plan. But Strong said little was written about how to encourage those alternative modes of transportation.

A plan to become a bicycle-friendly community would help implement that goal, Strong said. The city is looking to form a committee of city staff members and bicyclists to work on the plan.

The city also should keep bicycle compatibility in mind when working on the West of Steamboat Springs Area Plan, Strong said

"We need to plan for bike lanes and encourage alternative modes of transportation," Strong said.

--To reach Christine Metz call 871-4229 or e-mail cmetz@steamboatpilot.com

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