How can we get people like me to ride more?
Hang out with bicycling advocates for any amount of time, and you’re sure to hear the term “the 60 percent.”
It refers to a study done by the Portland Department of Transportation that shows about 60 percent of Portlanders are interested and curious about riding their bikes for fun and transportation, but are concerned about sharing the road with automobiles. That data has been extrapolated into a battle cry of sorts for people working on bicycling issues across the country.
I don’t consider myself a bicyclist, but I ride my hybrid bike with my daughter, a 7th grader, around my neighborhood when it’s warm and clear. I have the cutest blue Hawaiian helmet, and you’ll rarely find me wearing more lycra than padded shorts tucked under a t-shirt.
I’m a 60 percenter—interested in riding my bike beyond my neighborhood, but definitely uncomfortable in riding on the roads near my home in Aurora. How do we get people like me to ride for transportation, if only to the grocery store or the park?
We have to make it easy.
Welcome to suburbia
When we moved to Aurora, I was happy that it looked like I could get on the Highline Trail or Cherry Creek path via a 2-mile route, and to the grocery store and the Nine Mile light rail station in a mile. I got spoiled living in southeast Denver, literally across the street from the Cherry Creek path.
But I soon discovered that the streets I have to ride to get to those places have 35 mph speed limits (but drivers go 45+) with no bike lane or any kind of shared facility. Riding on Peoria Street south toward Parker Road and on Yale Avenue west toward Havana Street require traveling through busy intersections with short lights. The intersection of Parker Road and Peoria is the worst, where I have to share the road with four lanes and cross eight lanes of traffic to get to the RTD station.
(This photo shows my riding position and a typical amount of morning traffic.)
In other words: not easy. And kind of scary.
Aurora has some great bike routes and paths. City council, the mayor and city staff are all in support of building infrastructure to support biking and walking for transportation and fun. The issue: gaps. My neighborhood has bike lanes, but they don’t take me anywhere. Some paths dead-end. Others spill you out onto the very streets you’re trying to avoid.
I live in a black hole of bike facilities—nary a bike friendly road or trail in sight to take me any direction but north. (On this map, the dark green lines are bike paths. My routes to the Cherry Creek path, the grocery store and the light rail are blue))
Bicycling should not require bravery
That’s my favorite quote from the Portland report, because when I’ve asked friends and neighbors why they don’t ride their bikes more, the most common answer is it’s not easy and kind of scary—especially when you’re riding with your kids.
Easy means safe, connected routes that people can use to get places and have fun. Until I started working here, I thought there was nothing I could do to change anything. I had no clue where to start.
Change is on the horizon
Since the roads are owned by the City of Aurora, I got great advice from Scott Christopher, our outreach director, and Ted Heyd, our regional policy director, about how to go about advocating for bike lanes on those routes by starting with the city transportation planner.
Armed with the how-to, I put a call to my city planner on my personal to-do list. Then I ran into Tim Engholtz from Bicycle Aurora at the Colorado Bicycle Summit in February.
He told me that the City of Aurora has allocated $100,000 toward bicycle improvements on streets and paths … including bike lanes on both Yale and Peoria. $100,000 isn’t a lot of money in the scheme of things (even striping for bike lanes is expensive), but it’s a great show of faith from my city council and mayor in giving people an easier way to walk or ride in Aurora.
I’m not sure when the projects will be completed, but I’m so happy that in the near future I’ll have a designated place to ride on the road.
And, I believe that change will make it easier for me to ride my bike where I want to go. Me and the rest of the 60 percent.