Whenever Estes Park residents get together and the conversation gravitates to the major issues facing the community, inevitably the same key issues float to the surface — housing, traffic, cost of living, parking and childcare. These are all difficult problems with no easy solution. They require tradeoffs and compromise and sometimes the solutions are expensive. Let’s look at just two of these issues: parking and traffic.
The Town is working hard on both parking and traffic. The solutions aren’t easy and aren’t without controversy. Projects such as the Downtown Loop, the Visitor Center Parking Structure, and possibly paid parking in the Downtown area, have either been implemented or are in the planning stages. None of these are cheap or easy to implement. As with most wicked problems, there is no one solution, but there is one option that is fairly inexpensive, easy to implement, has little or no lead time and is good for you — bicycles.
Communities all over the country and the world are seeing how encouraging and enabling bicycling as a viable transportation option can make a noticeable difference. With the growth of pedal assist e-bikes, bicycling is a viable option for more and more people.
I ride a bike to work most days year-round. I don’t consider myself a hardcore cyclist, and I do ride an e-bike, which is really helpful in flattening out all the hills in town. In the summer, I can get around just as fast, if not faster, than driving. Parking is never an issue (although we could use more bike racks in town). For the space that I use to park my car when I drive, we could park more than 10 bicycles. Considering that surface parking costs about $3,000 per space and structured parking can cost $30,000 per space, just a fraction of us riding bikes can save all of us tens of thousands of dollars. Bikes take up less space on the road, can help with traffic congestion and don’t pollute the air.
For cycling to be a viable transportation alternative, there needs to be cooperation between cyclists and drivers. Drivers: please understand that bikes have the same right to the road as you do. In Colorado, the law requires drivers to share the road and give a 3-foot buffer to bicycles. Understand that sometimes bikes do have to veer into the traffic lane to avoid debris or pot holes that are on the side of the road. Bicycles are supposed to follow the same traffic rules as cars, including using left turn lanes. I’ve been yelled at by a driver because I was in a left turn lane, where I was supposed to be. Please be careful when parallel parking and then opening your driver’s door. Cyclists have been severely injured or even killed by being “doored” by a driver and hitting the door or being bounced out into traffic. Be patient — where shoulders are narrow, slow down and wait until there is room to safely go around the cyclist or until the cyclist has room to pull further to the right. Rather than getting frustrated and angry at cyclist, remember every bike on the road reduces traffic for you and is one more parking space at your destination.
Cyclists: remember you are considered a vehicle and you need to follow the same rules of the road as a car. Don’t “salmon.” Salmoning is going against the stream on the road or a bike path. Ride with the flow of traffic. Yes, you have a right to the road, but be courteous to drivers and try to stay as far to the right as possible, preferably on the paved shoulder or bike lane, if it’s there. Never intentionally impede traffic unnecessarily. Don’t be a “ninja”. A bike ninja wears dark clothes and has no lights on their bike at night. If you ride at night, use a headlight, flashing taillight and wear reflective clothing. Just because you can see the cars, doesn’t mean they can see you. Red lights do not come with asterisks that say “*bicycles excepted.” Follow all the traffic rules, including using turn lanes and stopping at red lights. Remember there are two types of cyclists; those who wear a helmet and organ donors. As the old saying goes, “Whether the pitcher hits the stone or the stone hits the pitcher, it’s going to be bad for the pitcher.” You have much more to lose than the car that hits you.
By becoming a Bike Friendly community, we have one more tool in our toolbox to help reduce traffic, address parking shortages and reduce impact on the environment, while improving our health as well.Tags: editorial frank lancaster