Durango added another spoke to its spinning wheel of bicycle accomplishments Monday when the city was upgraded from a silver to a gold-level Bicycle Friendly Community by the League of American Bicyclists.
Durango is among only 19 of the 214 Bicycle Friendly Communities to be rated at gold or higher. Colorado is well-represented – Breckenridge, Fort Collins and Steamboat Springs are also gold cities while Boulder is rated in the top category at platinum.
“We are thrilled,” said Mary Oswald, chairwoman of the Durango Bicycle Friendly Committee.
City officials appreciated the timing of the announcement because Durango will host the start of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge in August when 20,000 to 25,0000 visitors and 150 media representatives are expected.
To accommodate the crowds and “encourage a festival-like atmosphere,” the City Council on Tuesday will consider temporarily suspending regulations on vending, parking, signage and vacation rentals.
Durango’s status as a host city boosted its score with the League of American Bicyclists, said Bill Nesper, its vice president of programs.
Cities are judged according to the five E’s: events, education, enforcement, encouragement of people riding bicycles, engineering or infrastructure, and the evaluation of data, such as the number of traffic accidents.
According to the U.S. Census, 7 percent of all Durango workers commute by bicycle, which is 11 times more than the national average of 0.6 percent, demonstrated that Durango has a culture of cycling, Nesper said.
“It’s impressive what’s Durango is doing,” Nesper said. “We think it should be recognized.”
Nesper liked that the local schools teach classes on cycling, but suggested that Durango could do more in the way of adult education so more people feel more comfortable about riding with the regular flow of traffic.
Nesper also praised Durango for “taking off-road biking to another level. The amount of opportunities for mountain biking is incredible.”
But he noted that only half of the city’s arterial streets have bike lanes. Platinum-level bicycle communities like Portland, Ore., and Boulder have 75 to 90 percent of their arterial roads with bike lanes.
Oswald, the chairwoman of the city’s Bicycle Friendly Committee, agreed with the need for more bike lanes.
“I think the biggest reason for conflict between motorists and cyclists has to do with the fact that more and more people are using the same small area of road,” said Oswald.