The sun rises over the Rocky Mountains behind her when Sally Preston pushes off on her Trek Navigator toward her office on the Anschutz Medical Campus. As she pedals, she remembers her days, as a student, cycling to dental school at Harvard University. Fifteen minutes later, Preston arrives at the CU School of Dental Medicine, once again commuting by bike to school but now as a faculty member.
Meanwhile, across town, Bruce Janson cycles north on the Cherry Creek Trail. Professor and assistant dean in the Department of Civil Engineering, Janson bike-commutes from his home in the “Wash Park” neighborhood to CU Denver four to five days a week from April to October. Almost his entire ride is on the designated bike path along the creek, which drops him off downtown right at the Denver Campus.
Situated in the bike-friendly Denver metro area, our two campuses are inspiring more and more individuals—like Preston and Janson—to bike-commute to classrooms, offices and laboratories.
A Place for Bicycles on the Road
John Brinton, a PhD student in the Colorado School of Public Health, bike-commutes to the Anschutz Medical Campus every weekday. He starts just west of Denver’s City Park, takes Montview Boulevard over the Aurora city line and then follows the 17th Avenue “sharrows” (bike graphics and arrows painted on the street, which remind motorists to share the roadway with cyclists) right into campus.
“The best thing about the Denver area is the willingness of the city to designate and maintain bicycle routes in the city,” Brinton said. “Designated routes make me feel like there is a place for bicycles on the road.”
Zac Coventry, an IGERT PhD Fellow who rides his bike to the Denver Campus 12 months of the year, is grateful that the city’s bikeways are maintained throughout the winter.
According to its website, the City of Denver has more than 100 miles of multi-use trails, 96 miles of bike lanes, 41 miles of sharrows and almost 400 miles of signed bike routes. Preston, who bike-commutes from Stapleton to her job as director of the School of Dental Medicine’s Emergency Clinic, has traveled the world with her urban planner husband, researching biking and walking trails.
“The Platte River Greenway is one of the earliest and most successful urban bike trails worldwide,” she said. “Wherever [my husband and I] go in the bicycling world, everyone wants to know about the urban trails in Denver. They are unsurpassed, in my opinion.”
Less Lycra, More Business Suits
Krista Nordback moved to Colorado in 1996 with visions of cycling in her head. Now a PhD student in the College of Engineering and Applied Science Center for Sustainable Infrastructure Systems, she just finished her dissertation on bicyclist safety in cities. A resident of Boulder, Nordback uses a combination of her bike, the bus and Denver B-Cycle to get to her office on the Denver Campus.
“I know many other grad students who bike to campus, too,” she said.
One of them is Andrew Duvall, an assistant professor of research and recent PhD grad in the Department of Health and Behavioral Sciences. He’s researching the health, economic and environmental effects of B-Cycle and utilizes the light rail and bicycling to commute to the Denver Campus from his home in Littleton.
“I am out on the street nearly every day and have seen a transition among the general makeup of bicyclists over time,” Duvall said. “The number of lycra-clad riders has probably risen in the past three or four years, but not nearly as quickly as the growth in the number of people in business or casual clothes.”
From bike-commuting students and faculty members
- Get a helmet, fenders, lights, a rack and panniers or baskets.
- Develop a system for keeping all of your bike stuff organized and easily accessible for daily commuting convenience.
- Don’t ride on the sidewalk—it’s illegal in most places, and you’re more likely to be hit by a motorist.
- Ride defensively and carefully, and when possible, follow Denver’s designated bike lanes, paths and routes.
Bike-friendly Culture and Climate
“I think the best thing about Denver’s bicycling culture is the positive energy and an emerging sense of inclusiveness,” said Duvall, who serves as vice chair of the Mayor’s Bicycle Advisory Committee. “In more than five years of studying and working on the Denver Campus, I have only driven there a handful of times.”
Coventry said Denver’s bike-friendly features were a selling point for him when he moved here from Texas.
“I decided that I wanted to go to graduate school in an area that esteems sustainable living and environmental stewardship,” Coventry said. “Denver’s bike culture was certainly part of that decision.”
And then there’s the climate: With 300 days of sunshine a year and minimal rainy days, biking is truly a year-round commuting option here.
“I’ve biked out east, inhaling bugs and dripping with humidity,” said Janson, who moved to Denver from Pennsylvania. “In Colorado, I barely break a sweat.”
Sunny skies, plentiful bikeways, friendly fellow cyclists—is this bike heaven? No, it’s Denver, Colorado.