Back in 2018, one of the greatest music festivals I had ever experienced came to Denver. Velorama was a celebration of bicycle riding in the State of Colorado, and made riding a bike feel normal. From having a bike corral for bicycle parking, to several events inside including a bike relay with the founder of Great Divide Brian Dunn, it was a celebration to both the competitive nature and the fun of riding a bike.
For me personally, the highlight of the event was seeing Matt and Kim, and giving someone in the crowd a beer who was celebrating their birthday. However, the normalization of riding a bike was something that I noticed this particular event had the ability to do.
While there are several standing events and group rides that normalize riding a bicycle, most notably Denver Cruisers, the act of riding a bike is something that is completely foreign to most Denverites. Most recently, we celebrated a bicycling holiday when Winter Bike to Work Day came around this past Friday, as a reduced number of booths had events around central Denver near the Bannock Shared Street primarily and near the newly minted 23rd Avenue protected bike lane. However, these events are few and far between. The next Bike to Work Day event, COVID willing, will likely be in June. Between February and June, the biggest reminder that we have people that ride bikes in Denver will unfortunately be in regards to cyclists that are victims of car crashes and the occasional bike lane opening.
This is something we as a city absolutely need to work on.
While I agree that infrastructure needs to be improved before bicycling can become something that is popular and accepted in the city, activating people that could ride bikes is something that is invaluable as well. The model that I often think of as a vegetarian is meatless Mondays, a phenomenon practiced both by school systems and individuals that forgo meat once a week. Why not encourage a day without cars every week? Given that emissions from cars was one of the biggest drivers of pollution on the Front Range in 2021, wouldn’t it be a boon to reduce car usage and encourage other modes of transportation? Perhaps hosting more events like Winter Bike to Work Day and its cousin in the summertime would drive ridership up. When more riders exist in a system, it makes it so that there are significantly more stakeholders who would care about infrastructure, and fight to improve it. In a city like Denver that is at a crossroads when it comes to bike infrastructure, having more people fighting the good fight is absolutely invaluable, helping to build a more bike-able city for the masses.
Featured Image is of Matt and Kim at Velorama in 2018