Friday, September 30, 2011
Steamboat Springs The question came late Friday after the beer taps had been wetted in The Steamboat Grand hallway but before official business of the second annual Steamboat Springs Bike Summit was complete. An audience member started taking advantage, not contentious but curious, of a panel of local and regional cycling and business gurus who were fielding questions to wrap up a day of speeches and idea sessions concerning the future of bicycling in Steamboat Springs and across the country.
“Is Bike Town USA a self-assigned term that has put the cart before the horse?”
Many on the panel responded and several others chimed in from the audience, some with deep ties to the initiative and some who’d known about it for less than a day.
The consensus: No, but there’s plenty of work to be done.
Friday’s summit focused plenty on what had been accomplished in the past year, but what drew attendees’ interest most was what plans are next. It was all laid out in the event’s program, which included a list of mostly checked-off goals from 2011 and a clean slate of ideas for the next several years.
Top on the to-do list is signage, and riders likely won’t have to wait until 2012 to see some of those improvements implemented. Janet Hruby, with the city of Steamboat Springs, said the first signs have been ordered and should be installed on the Yampa River Core Trail in the coming weeks.
The signs will be only the first part. Also in the works are new maps at Core Trail kiosks, mileage markers and a few signs with arrows to point the way to downtown or the library, for instance.
“Hopefully we’ll have signs in the kiosk that say how far away it is and how long it takes to walk,” Hruby said. “For next spring, City Council approved funding to do a way-finding program through the rest of town. That’s huge.”
The next wave of signs could be ready by spring and could prove especially helpful to visitors, helping a rider find his or her way from Steamboat Ski Area to downtown or from the Core Trail to Spring Creek Trail.
The goals read like a wish list for local riders and will increase substantially the efforts that have gone into the Bike Town USA Initiative. An extension of the Core Trail from Haymaker Golf Course to Steamboat II is included on that wish list. Mountain bike trails catering to beginners are on the list , along with a skills and jump park and uniform bike racks across the city.
Steamboat was promoted from a silver status Bicycle Friendly Community to gold last month. Alissa Simcox, with the League of American Cyclists, was one of Friday’s first speakers, and she pointed to the Safe Routes to School program and complete street initiatives — designed to help incorporate cyclist and pedestrian needs into street design — as the reasons why.
She said there were several things Steamboat could do better. Some, such as signage, already had made the list. Others were fresh ideas such as more integration of cycling into already-existing events, “bike boxes” painted onto roads at red-light intersections to give bikes a place to stop and more education to improve relationships between bikers and drivers.
“We have the ball rolling on the education part,” Hruby said. “We have been asking how we can better educate and enforce bikers and drivers. Cars not giving three feet to pass, bikes riding on the wrong side of the road and bikes not stopping are the three biggest conflict points. For spring, we’ve talked about an education campaign and about some kind of sting to make riders aware, then ticketing them the next season.”
Speakers from across the state and country and from biking hotbeds like Boulder and Fort Collins agreed: None of that means Steamboat’s not already a great place for a bike ride.
“This is a vision, but Steamboat is already uniquely qualified like virtually no other community,” Bike Town USA member Grant Fenton said. “We have a real community, we have cross-country mountain bike riding and we have great road rides, hundreds of miles of roads in this wide-open valley. The ski area is investing heavily in the gravity stuff, and Yampa Street is great to go down on a cruiser bike on a Sunday afternoon.
“This is not a bunch of marketing. This is real.”
To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253 or email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com