BikeDenver Offers Free Membership to Grow Army of “Angelic Troublemakers”

Instead of having to bike in traffic on Brighton Boulevard, soon you'll be able to ride in a great bike lane, thanks in part to BikeDenver. Photo: BikeDenver
Instead of having to bike in traffic on Brighton Boulevard, soon you'll be able to ride in a great bike lane, thanks in part to BikeDenver. Photo: BikeDenver

Those bike lanes around the city? They don’t appear out of the ether. They take money and planning by the Department of Public Works. Yeah, they may not be perfect, but if we’re going to build safer bike lanes, we’ll need our elected officials to buck up and show some political courage. And that means we need strong grassroots advocacy from organizations like BikeDenver.

BikeDenver’s staff and members are constantly making their case to city planners, engineers, and electeds — advocating for more and better bike infrastructure. In an effort to grow its base and strengthen its voice, BikeDenver will no longer require people to pay to join. A membership used to start at $25, but there’s an option to join up for free (memberships still exist at the $50 and $150 level for people who want to support the organization financially).

“If you want to join us for free, come on in,” says Executive Director James Waddell. “If you want to join us for $150, come on in. However you come on in, come on in. We’re the Ellis Island of advocacy.”

Waddell imagines an army of “angelic troublemakers” who speak up at public meetings and tell Mayor Michael Hancock, City Council members, and Denver Public Works that city streets need to work for people on bikes. He hopes BikeDenver can double its membership and increase its effectiveness by focusing more on advocacy and less on events, like providing bike parking at events.

Grassroots advocacy can make or break a bike project.

Take the Stout Street bike lane, which was supposed to be parking-protected for its whole length, until a few loud residents complained and Denver Public Works watered it down. What if a larger contingent of people had spoken in favor of it?

BikeDenver wants as many voices as possible to speak up for better bicycling. Staffers will “skill up” volunteers with training that helps them talk to decision makers effectively and keep them updated on public meetings and other happenings.

“We want to remind everybody that we’re an advocacy and community-building organization, first and foremost,” Waddell says. “We want more advocates. We have a lot of people who have signed up to be on our Facebook group, we have an email list, but we just want to go a little bit further than that. We want people to say, ‘Hey, I’m an advocate, what do you need?'”

If you want to make Denver more bikeable but weren’t quite sure where to start, here’s a good first step: Go ahead and join BikeDenver.

  • James Davis

    This is a great idea. One thing that BikeDenver can do to increase the advocacy capacity of groups of concerned citizens is create a calendar of important public meetings that need support. This may entail working with Denver Public Works to issue public notices on meetings well in advance.

    • garbanzito

      good idea

      ideally, Denver would create an RSS feed and/or subscribable calendar — i’ve tried several times to talk to folks at the city about upgrading the low-tech mailing registration for registered neighborhood organizations (RNOs), but i get the impression that moving that part of city services into this century is a no-no because “it might cost something, or a staff member might have to learn something new”

  • yaakovwatkins

    Most people have no trouble with better cycling opportunities but trashing our traffic patterns for a small number of people doesn’t make sense. And before any of you cycling advocates get started on me, demonizing people who, for good and sufficient reasons, are not going to be cycling, merely creates antagonism.

    • Seb K

      You just said the word ‘traffic’ . Who causes traffic ?!!! CARS !!!

      • yaakovwatkins

        Traffic is people moving, either with a vehicle, on on foot. You can have traffic in a mall, you can have bicycle traffic or motor vehicle traffic.

    • Brian Schroder

      please list good and sufficient reasons, thanks

      • yaakovwatkins

        Some are personal, some are medical, some relate to the fact that I am usually carrying something that doesn’t fit on a bike, and some relate to the fact that I loathe getting precipitated on.

    • LevelHead

      Yaakov,
      For me the issue comes down to the fact that as we get denser we can’t continue to move people by personal car. It’s just an issue of space. Creating bike lanes makes it safe enough so people can bike which helps reduce car traffic – something I also abhor, which is a large part of the reason I bike. Traffic is a frustrating fact of life if you want to live in a city though and need to drive for whatever reason.

      I’m guessing you won’t like this idea, but it does solve the issue of precipitation!

      cheers,

      • yaakovwatkins

        Bikes are not all weather vehicles. It’s like relying on wind for electricity generation. Podrides look okay, Golf carts could work also.

        • Brian Schroder

          I ride in all conditions. I have snow tires or studded tires if I need to. No matter how cold, rainy, snowy or anything besides lightening you can prepare and go outside with the correct gear. And I would assume the same when riding in a car you would still have to step outside of the vehicle in rain, snow, or ice at some point.

          • yaakovwatkins

            Good for you. You are unusual and you apparently don’t need to carry much with you.

    • Anthony

      Ooh! Can I play?
      “Most people have no trouble with better driving opportunities, but doing so at the expense of disproportionately killing people who walk or bike doesn’t make sense. And before any of you driving advocates get started on me, demonizing people, who for good and sufficient reasons, are not going to be driving, merely creates antagonism.”
      As a point of reference, 34% of the population either can’t or doesn’t drive. 66% of Denverites have a bike and use it at least occasionally. Making biking [and walking] safe is not a conversation about “a small number of people.”

      • yaakovwatkins

        Do you have a source for your bike ownership statistic and your 34% statistic?

        • Anthony

          The 66% figure was presented at Bicycle Colorado’s event on Monday from the Denveright survey results (I don’t see them online to link to yet). The 34% is the total population minus the sum of under 16 years old, 10% of aged 65-75, 20% of 75+, those with incapacitating disabilities, and those who bike/walk/transit regularly to work as reported to the US Census bureau (I took 5-year ACS data ending in 2014 the last time I checked this).

          • yaakovwatkins

            The composition of the 34% seems like a pretty random compilation of groups. And I would need some explanation of where the 66% comes from before I believed it.

          • Anthony

            What compilation of groups would you recommend? It is admittedly my own devices, but my rational for each is this:

            – I used Census data. That’s the most complete info we have.

            – Under 16 cannot possess a driver’s license, therefore they’re excluded.

            – I don’t know of any studies that accurately identify the number of people who stop driving as they age, but as physical or cognitive abilities decline, a reduction and eventual cessation of driving occurs. I thought 10% and 20% would be reasonable estimations, but if you want to take that 1.5% of the population out of this equation, that’s fine. Those who are aging do drive much less, however, so it’s worth noting in any event they are less reliant on their cars as they age. https://deepblue.lib.umich.edu/bitstream/handle/2027.42/1244/91238.0001.001.pdf;sequence=2

            – I said incapacitating disabilities before. The three categories that I used to make that up are cognitive, visual, and ambulatory disabilities. The total percent of the population aged 17 to 65 is 5.2%, so I took half that number to try to be conservative in identifying non drivers to account for varying degrees of disability among those groups.

            These groups make up the “can’t” drive segment of my number.

            – People who bike/walk/transit regularly are self-reporting and fit the description of “doesn’t” drive.

            If you want to give an error bar of +/- 5% to account for my assumptions, that’s fine, but 29% of the population vs. 34% doesn’t significantly hinder my argument that it’s not a small number of people. But I can assure you, the subset is not
            “random.” I also didn’t double-count; I applied the contributing factors such as “walk/bike/transit” and disabilities only to those between the ages of 16 and 65 because I’ve already accounted for the non-drivers of the older and younger age groups.

            As for the 66% number, as I said before it’s from the Denveright survey. If you’re unfamiliar with Denveright, it’s the city’s Comprehensive Plan they’re developing, and the survey is of thousands of Denverites on a myriad of topics from where do you live, what do you like about your neighborhood, do you own a car, do you use a bike, etc. The visioning survey results have been released publically, but transportation doesn’t appear to be on the website yet. It was presented by city officials at Monday’s Mobility Summit event (see attached photo provided by one of the presenters). https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/d1d3188e66c35a01145da0f54f13bd395bf35cd9406f0df4ddcd96c80b4534bf.jpg
            Here’s a link to the comp plan website: https://www.denvergov.org/content/denvergov/en/denveright.html
            Hope this helps clear things up!

          • yaakovwatkins

            Thank you for answering. I answered the survey. And I will use me to explain why I don’t accept your conclusions.

            My wife and I typically walk 5-6 days a week in Crestmore neighborhood where there are no sidewalks. So we walk in the street. After walking I come home and use the car for errands and to get places that I have to go to. It is over two miles to my chosen grocery store. My schedule is such that I can’t walk between obligations because it is too far. We visit Boulder typically once a week and never take the bus because it takes too long.

            We never take the bus because it is never convenient.
            The physical issues I have that preclude the use of a bicycle are not disabilities. I can walk just fine but a bicycle is out.

            Lots of people have what I call “invisible disabilities”. They are physical impairments that preclude certain activities but not others. I owned a bicycle for 6 years that nobody used.

            This May will be the 62nd National Bike to Work day. But according to the Census Bureau, only .6%.(6 out of a 1000) bike to work. It doesn’t seem that the publicity effort has been successful. Do you know why?

          • Anthony

            There are a lot of factors, some of which you mention in your own experiences (weather, physical ability, personal preference) that preclude people from biking to work. Distance between locations, fear/safety issues, and difficulty navigating are some other common ones. As an example, one of the bike facilities in the city I work as a transportation planner put shared lane markings on a four lane, 35-mph arterial road with 15,000 cars a day before I got there. That’s the type of environment people have been expected to bike on in the past and the fact of the matter is, people don’t want to ride a bike in that type of environment.
            I will share this, though:
            In 2000, Portland had a 1.5% (I’m not at my desk anymore and can’t pull the exact figure… mid 1%) bike commute rate. Over the next 13 years they invested $65 million in cycling infrastructure and their bike commute rate is approaching 7% now. This was important because over the same time frame they had an about 10% increase in traffic crossing the five Willamette River bridges into downtown, but automobile traffic stayed steady – the rest was picked up by bike and transit users. Without being able to shift those new users to other modes, the entrance to the Downtown core would be in gridlock today. Amsterdam in the 1970’s had a similar mode split as many American cities, and now (again, going off memory, so I apologize for the lack of specificity) between 50% and 66% of all trips are taken by bike. They invested in safe, dedicated bike infrastructure that people felt comfortable going 8-10 mph in, and now cycling is the majority mode (which leaves the automobile-dedicated space on the road available for those who actually need it). Both these cities have worse weather than we do here. Both these cities have figured out how to carry/deliver groceries, appliances, packages and the like by bike.

            I don’t think anyone here is saying everyone must ride a bike to commute or run errands. I’m not trying to convince you personally to do so. What I would like to work toward are three key aspects:
            1) Make cycling safe so people aren’t dangerously or uncomfortably mixing with automobile traffic or pedestrian traffic. The status quo doesn’t work for any of the mode users.
            2) Understand that we have no more space to add motor vehicle capacity in our urban areas. It’s a little counter-intuitive, but say we dedicate 50% of automobile capacity (one lane each direction of a four lane road, hypothetically) to bikes or transit. Say each lane of traffic currently carries 1500 cars per hour, if you take a lane away you’re not going to get 3000 cars per hour in the other lane. Because of the enhanced transit or cycling infrastructure, you’re going to shift say 1000 people from a car to another mode, and the second lane still used for automobiles doesn’t really notice the difference between 1500 and 2000 cars. This is extremely simplistic, obviously, but the point is we’re not working in a zero sum environment. Each trade off has rewards and disadvantages. The disadvantages aren’t as apocolypyic as many detractors make them out to be, but the benefits aren’t always as high (or as immediate) as the supporters claim they will be.
            3) Right now every neighborhood meeting I go to has people fearful of traffic. Some people are afraid of height, but the overwhelming concerns I hear from people are an increase of traffic or more difficulty parking because of a new development. If the infrastructure were in place to the extent the new traffic wouldn’t automatically be turned into automobile traffic, which in turn can support some new development which would in turn support a greater selection of services (such as grocery stores, for example) within walking or easy cycling distance, which would mean more of your neighbors having the ability to use those modes leaving the roads and parking lots clear for you to use.

            Bikes are one part of the transportation equation, and one that’s been neglected for about a century. If we really want to bring balance back into the transportation equation like leadership claims, we have to actually start investing our finances and right-of-way toward meeting that balance so the entire network can actually run as efficiently as possible.

            (Please excuse any typo’s. This was written on my phone as I ride the A-line to the airport).

          • yaakovwatkins

            I don’t see it. You can cherrypick cities where things worked, but over 60 years, we would see more than 7% in an ideal city like Portland.

            Denver can’t even get sidewalks in relatively rich neighborhoods.. Right now in Denver, we mix bicycles, skateboards and pedestrians on the same place. That discourages pedestrians.

            We also don’t see bicyclists behaving responsibly. I have worked in street construction and have see cyclists going through workzones where vehicles weren’t allowed, and they have done it at 30 miles and hour.

            I have seen the same arguments for bikes for 50 years and it hasn’t worked.

          • Anthony

            I’m really sorry you see it that way. Those cities aren’t cherry-picked, they’re the sample size that didn’t have high cycling rates then made investments and saw the results. We can talk about New York City, Minneapolis, and Seattle also as cities who have made more recent investments and are seeing the gains.
            Just to be fair, do you support investment in automobile capacity? If you do, I’d recommend against arguing that cyclist (mis)behavior disqualifies investment in improving the safety and accessibility in that mode because motorists break the law just as often. That’s not a modal issue, it’s a human behavior issue.

            In any event, I wish you the best from here on out. Have a good night!

          • yaakovwatkins

            The cities listed are cherrypicked. They are cramped cities with no room to expand. Denver is not. It has to compete with Louisville. New York does not have to compete with small cities around it because it has features, e.g. the UN, the NYSE, that give it an advantage. Denver doesn’t.

            I would rather see improvements in carrying capacity for pedestrians and golf carts.

  • Washergrampa

    It’d be helpful for Bike Denver to have some very specific advocacy priorities for people to support. In the past it seems like their agenda has been driven by reactions to DPW projects/priorities more than grassroots ideas from the public. So many current projects are geographically centered around downtown and improve existing unprotected lanes (which is nice) at the expense of more difficult projects throughout the City (which sucks).

  • Walter Crunch

    That was some amazing bike advocating with the new i70 ditch. Not a bike lane or bike highway in sight. Inspiring!

    • TakeFive

      I think they were afraid that people would get stuck at the bottom and have to get towed out. How much is it now-a-days to get your biked towed?

  • Walter Crunch

    Also, their website sucks. Take a cue from. Bike Portland.org or even street films.

  • Brian Schroder

    It’s true more people, and more people riding bicycles will help. Every day I get out to ride people ask me the how and the why of it and some get to thinking of doing it themselves.

  • Brian Schroder

    I remember the good old days… bike peeps would just get together clog up the streets with a huge ride and cause general mayhem out there.

  • TakeFive

    Priceless: “We’re the Ellis Island of advocacy.”

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