Steamboat Springs Wet, damp and cool, Thursday wasn’t a good day to ride a bike to school. It was, however, a fine day for reflecting on Steamboat Springs’ promotion in the Bicycle Friendly Community world.
The city earned Bicycle Friendly Community silver status in 2007 and this week got the bump up, joining 13 other cities with gold status.
“To be recognized as gold really makes us in a very elite group,” Routt County Riders board member Robin Craigen said. “It’s a tremendous boost for this town.”
The jump in designation comes after a large local push to shore up holes in the biking infrastructure. An application process pointed out those improvements and landed Steamboat its gold status.
The progress touted by local organizers led by Janet Hruby didn’t just revolve around downhill trail construction and big bike races. Instead, it focused on making cycling in and around the city easier and safer for riders of all ages and ability levels.
Among those improvements were complete street initiatives — designed to help incorporate cyclist and pedestrian needs into street design — the addition of bike lanes on roads in town and the Safe Routes to School program, which helps school children find safe ways to ride to school, at least when it’s not raining.
“It’s very rewarding, not personally but for my family,” Craigen said. “I have two young kids, and we ride to school with them when the weather lets us.”
He said he’s watched drivers and cyclists learn to adapt to one another since he moved to the community, and it’s changed how his family uses the roads.
Skills taught by the bustling Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club summer cycling program helped his 9-year-old daughter, Maddie, and 6-year-old son, Chili, learn to handle themselves on the windy roads near their home. The Safe Routes to School program and others, meanwhile, have afforded a level of safety that previously didn’t exist.
“It’s about giving your children that independence and having the confidence and skills for life,” Craigen said. “It’s all about making it safer and getting that comfort level. It’s a part of living in Steamboat.”
Steamboat joined a much more exclusive club by gaining gold certification. The recently released classifications included 33 silver-level cities. Two other Colorado cities, Breckenridge and Fort Collins, share gold status. Boulder is one of only three platinum-level cities, though local organizers would like to see that membership expanded, as well.
“A lot of the things that the Bike Town USA initiative and Routt County Riders have been working toward were those pieces that helped raise the designation from silver to gold,” said Betsy Nauman Cook, project coordinator with Bike Town USA. “Moving forward, one of the Bike Town USA initiative’s goals is to get up to platinum status.”