Last week, Gov. John Hickenlooper announced a $100 million plan to make Colorado “the best state for biking”. What might that mean for our area?
Several Durango tourism leaders attended the Governors Tourism Conference this past week in Crested Butte, where the entire choir makes it living promoting tourism. The governor delivered an upbeat report on the economy, detailed a few initiatives, and closed by saying “tourism is the front door to economic development.”
I believe that he believes that.
Several times he referred to “Colorado the Beautiful” citing our 54 fourteeners, our national parks, scenic highways, and numerous attractions. Everyone shared his enthusiasm for Colorado’s marketable opportunities. It’s truly a pleasure and a privilege to be in the tourism business in Colorado, a place that consistently ranks as one of the world’s top aspirational destinations.
Colorado becoming the nation’s most bicycle friendly state won’t come cheap. The project is a four-year initiative dubbed the Colorado Pedals Project. Some $30 million will purportedly come from Great Outdoors Colorado or GOCO as we know it. Many of the recreational assets we enjoy locally were partially funded by GOCO grants. Another $60 million is to come from the Colorado Department of Transportation with participation from the federal Transportation Alternatives Program. The last $10 million is again from CDOT to further the existing Colorado Safe Routes to School, a program Durango has benefitted from.
The goal is not a bicycle in every garage, and a bike lane on every highway. Nor is it aimed exclusively at residents or tourists. According to Tim Blumenthal, president of People for Bikes, “the objective is to make bicycling an easier and more appealing choice for Coloradans and tourists.”
It was clear to me that much of this program is aimed at urban areas along the Front Range, where the population continues to grow along with traffic congestion. I see the Colorado Pedals Project as complementary to the ongoing expansion of light rail. (In 2016, one can take light rail from Downtown Denver to Denver International Airport, 23 miles in 35 minutes).
For us in rural folk, I see the program raising awareness, and expanding our vision, about what most makes cycling an attractive transportation option and tourist attraction: connectivity. (For example, a goal is to build a cycling route to Rocky Mountain National Park).
Durango already is a bike-friendly community. We have made great strides in multi-modal programs and trail development. In addition we have an engaged citizenry, several bicycle organizations, and high-profile bicycle events.
I hope the program can expand cycling mobility in a broader sense. Not just more MAMILS (Middle Age Men In Lycra), but locals commuting to work in regular attire, friends riding to a lake or festival, visitors on bicycle tours to our wineries or breweries. That’s what I’m talking about.
firstname.lastname@example.org. Bob Kunkel is executive director of the Durango Area Tourism Office.