Wednesday, May 14, 2008

"Freewheelin" to bring bikes to DemCon08

As a possible delegate or blogger to the big Dem convention in Denver this August, I've been receiving a slew of e-mails from the host committee. Some of these e-mails contain crucial info, others are notices of press conferences, "green" initiatives, contracts with major vendors/sponsors, etc.

Yesterday I received one about a "greening effort" press conference set for today at the Colorado Convention Center for this project:

The Denver 2008 Convention Host Committee, along with representatives from Humana and Bikes Belong have joined to bring 1,000 bikes to Denver for people to use during the week of the Democratic National Convention. Freewheelin is a national bike-sharing program developed by Humana and bike industry leaders like Bikes Belong to encourage healthy living and environmental sustainability. The 1,000 bikes can be used free of charge by anyone looking for an alternative to automobiles while the convention is in town.

Denver is an excellent cycling city. This was true in the 1980s, when I lived there. I rode the South Platte River and Cherry Creek bikepaths, as well as the Highline Canal Trail. While there wasn't as many bike lanes as there are now, I still felt fairly safe riding the streets. Denverites are used to bicycle commuters and don't seem to intentionally go out of their way to run them off the road. Denverites have lots of options for non-auto transportation. Car is still king, but the crown is slipping a bit as gas creeps up to $4 a gallon (diesel's already above $4).

When I lived in Denver's Platte Park neighborhood, I walked to work at the Gates Rubber Company, just five blocks away (now falling to the wrecker's ball). My family and I walked to the library and parks and shops and restaurants along South Pearl Street. If we still lived there still, we could catch the light rail trains a few blocks away that could take us downtown or out to the Tech Center.

Cheyenne is no slouch when it comes to cycling. We boast an incredible Greenway, and voters just approved a major extension. There are bike lanes on some of the major streets, and more and more of us seem to be commuting when the wind is not peeling the skin off our faces and the snow is not forming icicles on our noses. Until I blew out a knee two years ago, I commuted to work by bike four months of the year. Now that the surgeons have fixed me up, I'm back commuting this spring and summer.

We still lack a bona fide public transportation system. We have buses, but their routes and hours are limited. During the summer, there's a downtown circulator bus. Maybe once a week we should all ride the bus, just so the city can boast to federal funders that ridership is growing and we need more buses and longer hours and more frequent service.

It's tough to pry Wyomingites out of their cars and trucks. But higher gas prices has people pondering alternatives.

This summer in Denver, I may grab one of those Freewheelin bikes and cruise around town. One complaint: Did the Dems have to bring Humana in on this? It is one of the biggest of the health care conglomerates, and their concern is always the bottom line. Do we really need Humana's money this badly?

No comments: