Two polite and well-intentioned people have responded with e-mails claiming that Denver actually has a bike planner. For evidence, my correspondents point to Denver's official Bicycle Program website that contains contact information for a "Bicycle Coordinator":
Is the site evidence that Denver has actually has an effective, functioning bike planner – someone who advocates for bikes as transportation, believes bikes belong on the road, and works to create safe roads for cyclists. In other words, a "real" bike planner?
Well, no. The site looks like a driver’s version of a bike program site.
What am I talking about? Well, begin with the photo on the home page:
Notice anything odd? How about this: None of the bikes are on the street. And it's not just this photo. I can’t find a photo on the entire site of a bike on a street. I’m not saying there aren’t any, but the message is clear: Bikes are for fun not for transportation. Or, bicycles belong on the sidewalk. Or, more succinctly: Stay Off The Road!
Cycling advocates advocate for cycling. They talk to people – as many people as possible and as much as possible. They try to get their message in the media. The whole ballgame is changing attitudes of both drivers and cyclists. An advocate seizes every opportunity, every hook, to get bicycling in Denver in the news.
So, what does the website tell us about how Denver’s Bike Program uses the media? Check out this list of press releases:
"Press Releases" on the Denver Bicycle Program site.
The most recent press release is nearly three years old. It's dated 2004. And here's the headline:
Denver’s Geographic Information Systems Department (DenverGIS) Receives Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI) awards
Catchy, huh? Not only is it nearly incomprehensible, it doesn't mention bikes.
Of course, if someone is constantly sending out press releases an occasional stinker should be forgiven. But that principle shouldn't apply to a website that lists only two press releases in the last three and half years. Moreover, the only other press release is a stinker, too. It opens with this paragraph:
ASTM Subcommittee F08.10 on Bicycles has developed standard vehicle identity numbers (VIN) for bicycles. Manufacturers who identify bicycles according to new ASTM F 2268, Standard Specification for Bicycle Serial Numbers, will provide consumers with bicycles that will be easier to track if stolen. ASTM will release the standard in July.
Be still my heart! Thank god the news is four years old or we'd all be working ourselves into a frenzy waiting for ASTM Subcommittee F08.10 to release ASTM F 2268. I know I would be. (Even in hindsight I am kicking myself for having missed this momentous event.)
An advocate also recognizes that it takes a lot of people and many groups to create change. The groups don't need to do everything in synch; beneath the surface, they can even be rivals. But they try to work together.
Colorado has several bike advocacy groups. Bicycle Colorado and Bike Denver have offices in downtown Denver, less than a mile from the City and County Building. Critical Mass assembles outside the Building's windows.
So to whom does the Bike Program link to? A single group: Adventure Cycling. Adventure Cycling is a national bicycle touring group with an office in Montana. Adventure Cycling does not do urban cycling advocacy; it maps long tours that typically span many states.
The website site does have a link to Denver's bike map (as well as to a 6-year old Bike Master Plan), and a bike map is undoubtedly a good thing. The trouble is, the map doesn't say anything about a bike planner. (The map does include information for in-line skating.)
The map lists lots of phone numbers for government entities, and even the local gas and electric company, but the bike planner's number is not in the listing. (Nor is there a number for a bike program.) Weird, huh? You’d think the city’s bike advocate would have his name all over the bloody thing.
Curiously, the only mention on the map of a bike program is this gem, buried in the text of the Mayor's greeting:
Denver’s bicycle program was created to further enhance our reputation as a "bicycle friendly" city and to make human-powered transportation more accessible. In 1993, the Mayor’s Bicycle Advisory Committee developed the original Bicycle Master Plan, which has been updated, and each June bicyclists attend fun community gatherings during Denver Bike Month.
Nice to know that Denver has "fun community gatherings" one month a year! I wonder whether cyclists attending these “fun community gatherings” dare to use roads? The Denver police have been trying to stamp out the monthly Critical Mass ride so I’m not quite sure they would react favorably to a “fun community gathering” involving bikes and streets. And the police have arrested Critical Mass riders who use sidewalks, so it's a puzzle how a group of cyclists could participate in a "fun community gathering." I suppose I'll need to wait until June to find out how these work. (The other achievement mentioned - the 1993 Bike Plan - was last updated in 2001.)
Worse, the map includes routes that take cyclists off the streets and onto sidewalks. This isn't surprising since getting cyclists off streets and onto sidewalks seems to be part of Denver's basic approach to cycling. To help cyclists use sidewalks, the map lists numbers to call if you find yourself riding on a sidewalk with a 3/4" bump or one that is dirty or even unshoveled.
I could go on.
Suffice to say that I don't see much on the "Bike Program" website indicating that Denver has a real bike planner. And that matches my experience on the road.