Why Colorado’s Bike Czar Wants The State To Spend $100 Million On Cycling

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Photo: Denver Bike Paths, Cheery Creek, Public Art (HV)
A cyclist rides on the Cherry Creek bike path above a graffiti mural commissioned by the city of Denver near Confluence Park on Sunday, Oct. 4, 2015.

Bicycle commuting is up by 43 percent in Colorado over the past decade. That news, from the League of American Bicyclists, comes amid a pledge by Gov. John Hickenlooper to make the state the best place to bicycle in the nation.

To do that, it will cost $100 million and take the help of a familiar name in sporting goods: Ken Gart. He's the state’s bike czar, earning a salary of $1. It’s no easy task. Critics say the governor should focus on the state’s clogged roads and crumbling bridges.

Gart told Colorado Matters host Nathan Heffel the $100 million plan will have three main points of focus: getting kids on bikes, connecting trails across the state, and helping local communities improve their bike and pedestrian infrastructure. Click the audio player above to hear their conversation and read highlights below.

On concerns that money should fix car infrastructure first:

“I think that’s a valid concern. But if you look at it, the incremental cost in negligible and the impact is dramatic. A little bit of paint, a little bit of focus on widening the shoulders. And [Great Outdoors Colorado] is already doing this outdoor trail work, so I don’t really see it as one or the other. I think it will improve both. ...

“You can do a heck of a lot for bikes and pedestrians with a little money. Paint can have a big impact. One of the programs the governor announced the other day was Safe Routes To School … it’s about painting crosswalks and doing small things like that that can have a big impact. It’s about Bike Colorado being out teaching kids about bike safety, helmet use, and navigating the road. And that program will be expanded. I think that’s critical as we build and get kids more active.”

On reducing conflicts between cars and bikes:

“There absolutely will be challenges both ways. I’ve been trying to get on my bike more and bike to meetings and I’ve been surprised by the bad bike behavior as well as the bad car behavior. There’s work to be done on both sides. And as the roads are designed better, the communities are supporting bikes and pedestrians, they will be more compatibility.”

On the project’s timeline:

“You’ll start to see some impact immediately. But most of the impact will be over future years. ...

“I think the biggest short-term impact is working with local communities. A lot of the communities are wanting to do this work and I think you’ll see that a little bit more quickly since the governor stood up there and said this is important."