Yes, People Bike in the Winter, and Denver’s Bike Lanes Should Reflect That

Photo: David Sachs
Photo: David Sachs

This week is Winter Bike Week, with a whole bunch of events organized by BikeDenver.

You should check out BikeDenver’s website for the full list, but here are some highlights:

The events aren’t just for fun, says BikeDenver Executive Director James Waddell, but to show people that biking makes a whole lot of sense in the colder months — and to send a signal to city decision makers that bike lanes and trails are not seasonal amenities.

“It’s a public way to remind people that you can bike year round, that it’s possible, and it’s not just for the three percent hardcore riders,” Waddell said. Especially in Denver, where the average temperature during winter months is a mild 47 degrees (and as we know, usually sunny).

BikeDenver also wants to send the city the message that streets should be ready for the many people who already ride year-round for utilitarian reasons, not just for recreation.

This phenomenon is known in some circles as “transportation.”

“We’ve got to start transitioning from this mindset of people on bikes riding for a summertime, recreational activity, to the mindset that it’s a mode of transportation,” said Carina Gaz, BikeDenver director of engagement. “By hosting Winter Bike Week, we hope to elevate the voices of the winter cyclists who are out there already… and demonstrate to our city leaders that people are biking in the winter, and we need to figure out how to make that safe.”

This winter, Denver Public Works is using special equipment to plow protected bike lanes for the first time, and there has been a noticeable improvement. Still, the department needs to do a lot more to keep bike lanes as passable as roads for cars. Just look at the icy Broadway bike lane and the 11th Avenue bike lanes, which are not only missing stripes, but have been covered by glaciers for much of the winter.

“If we can present the case that these facilities [Denver Public Works] has been building are in fact needed year round, then hopefully it gives them more legitimacy in that whole budget crunching conversation,” Waddell said.