In the grand scheme of things I'm a relative newbie cyclist, but after 22 years off the saddle, I've circled back around to loving life on two wheels. In May of 2014 I was looking for a new "something" to train for — a physical activity of some sort — and everywhere I looked, there was excitement and challenge involving a bike.
As a kid, I started on three wheels: a Big Wheel whose yellow plastic seat would occasionally pinch my leg between it and the base (though that never deterred me from riding it). Then, an orange tricycle where I sat high above the sidewalk. And finally, my big girl bike: a blue-and-white hand-me-down two-wheeler with a banana seat, streamers coming out of the handlebars and a basket in the front.
That bike changed my whole life. My territory grew from a six-block radius to miles of unexplored Midwestern city land — and trails. All of a sudden my best friend and I could shop garage sales all over town for baby-doll clothes or ride to the playground on the other side of town and only have to stop playing 10 minutes before curfew because we could spin those pedals so much faster than we could run back home.
One recent weekend I was out riding through our community. I took Midland Trail's detour to the end of Manitou Springs, wound through the Garden of the Gods and grabbed Sinton Trail east, then took the Santa Fe Trail north to Woodmen Road and back home to downtown, for a total of 29 miles. I saw roadies, cruisers, mountain bikes, fatties, tandems — even a couple kiddos on strider bikes. Some riders were exercising, others commuting, some sightseeing and many recreating.
Bikes are the great equalizer.
Young or old, and every age in between, you can ride. Unemployed, underemployed, retired, business owner or heiress, you can find a bike and you can ride. And no matter your abilities, bikes can be adapted: recumbent, tricycles, hand-powered, electronic and more.
If in need, you can be gifted a bike from Bike Clinic Too. Kids can earn bikes through a program at Kids on Bikes. You can find new rides in every price range at the dozen local retail bike shops or used bikes at places like Mountain Equipment Recyclers, the Front Range Velo Swap page on Facebook or on Craigslist.
Bikes and cyclists (or bike riders, if you prefer) are not a special interest group. We are commuters, using two wheels because we want to save money on gas or make a positive impact on the environment or because we don't have a car or can't drive or can't make the bus schedule work. We are exercisers, because once you have the wheels, outside is free and the impact on one's body while cycling is so much easier on joints than hiking, running and other "free" sports. We are recreators, exploring with our friends or riding a trail with our multi-generational family. We are everyone. Everybody bikes, or can!
When we're talking in the community and with our city officials about infrastructure needs and making Colorado Springs a more bike- and pedestrian-friendly place to live, work and play, it's not because we think cyclists deserve special treatment. It's to make sure everyone has access to safe, easy, accessible transportation. When we talk about needing bike lanes, protected bike lanes or road diets, it's not because we're trying to eliminate vehicles from our city, it's because it's safer for everyone if traffic speeds are more reasonable in congested areas. It's safer if a 250-pound bicycle and person is separated from a 3,000-pound car by a buffer of sorts and if there's a designated lane for bike traffic, much like a designated sidewalk for pedestrians.
We all learned about sharing early on, probably about the same time we first learned to ride a bike. What I'm asking you, on behalf of the tens of thousands people who rode a bike here last year, is please "Share the Road" and if you have the desire, take the chance to learn about the wonder you can find on two wheels. Don't have a bike? Email me and we'll make a connection so you can try one out.
Find the 2017 We Cycle bike guide and Colorado Springs Bike Summit Program in the latest issue of the Independent.