Rejoice, American cyclists! You have a strong ally in Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper. At Interbike, the largest annual bicycle trade event in North America, Hickenlooper announced a plan to spend more than $100 million over the next four years to improve Colorado’s cycling infrastructure. This declaration of financial and political support will greatly benefit the citizens of Colorado and may inspire other policymakers to make similarly bold moves.
Speaking at this year’s Interbike in Las Vegas, Hickenlooper urged those present to “steal [Colorado’s] ideas” and encourage other state lawmakers to make similar investments in infrastructure. Hickenlooper hopes to lead by example and envisions Colorado becoming “the best state for biking.” “Biking can be such a positive force, and I think being the best biking state is going to fuel economic growth and tourism,” said Hickenlooper. “It’s going to lead us toward a cleaner environment, and it’s going to help us be the healthiest state in America.” The governor cites Denmark as a country that “creates bicycle-friendly communities and infrastructure that far outweigh the costs,” said Hickenlooper. “Denmark clearly shows the benefits of making these long-term investments within narrow, achievable plans.”
Although greater infrastructure spending is essential, changes in regulation and bureaucracy have an equally powerful impact on biking. The appointment of pro-biking Shailen Bhatt as new executive director of Colorado Department of Transportation has shaken up an agency that previously did little for the cause. “Where CDOT has been an obstacle in the past, either deliberately or accidentally, we have a good chance of them being a facilitator,” says Ken Gart, Colorado’s bike czar. “I think that culture change is by far the most powerful thing here.” States struggling to get things done should take note.
Hickenlooper acknowledges his initiative is as much about the funding as it is about a shift in state priorities. Bike lanes, proper signage, and a general consideration of the needs of cycling enthusiasts “are going to be the norm, not the exception, in Colorado’s transportation network for the future,” said the governor. If Colorado’s ideas catch fire in other statehouses, respect for cyclists and reflected policy may become the norm around the country.
Images via Colorado.com