Bike Master Plan Chapter 1: Introduction

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Colorado Springs has an impressive number of elements of an ideal bicycling environment: year-round bicycling weather, striking mountain views, a network of urban and soft-surface trails, extensive single-track options, a large number of bicycling-related organizations, and a supportive city government. Historically, bicycling in the city has been focused on recreation and competition. As Olympic City USA, Colorado Springs is home to the U.S. Olympic Committee, USA Cycling, the Colorado Springs Olympic Training Center, and the future U.S. Olympic Museum. Numerous bicycling-related businesses call Colorado Springs home. Colorado’s second largest city is also a Silver-level Bicycle Friendly Community according to the League of American Bicyclists, reflecting its enthusiasm and support for bicycling.

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Why Plan for Bikes?

Though there is a favorable landscape for biking and an enthusiastic recreational focus, relatively few people bike for transportation in Colorado Springs. The bikeway network has large gaps, both in coverage and in types of facilities. An automated bike share system—self-service bicycle rentals reserved at a kiosk or through a phone app—is planned for 2018, which could be a game-changer for how bicycling is perceived and used in the city by residents and tourists alike.

Changes are needed to respond to these factors and make bicycling a safe and convenient way to access everyday destinations, and to make it easy for the City to add on-street facilities such as separated bike lanes.

A core responsibility of government is to make it easy for people to get where they need to go. For decades Colorado Springs excelled at this task, for the people who got around in a car. Not everyone gets around in a car, however; some people choose to walk, bike, or bus, and some people are too old, too young, or medically incapable to drive safely or legally. Some people lack the means to own a reliable car, or no longer have a license. There is increasing recognition that government should make it easy for all people to get around, whether they are walking, biking, taking a bus, or driving. This is reflected in investments the City of Colorado Springs is making in its missing sidewalk program, Mountain Metro Transit, and on-street bikeway improvements.

COS Bikes! lays the foundation for the city to unlock its bicycling potential by creating a more inviting environment so that biking is an enjoyable, dependable, and safe travel option for everyone. This Plan provides a roadmap for success and strategies to strengthen the city’s support of bicycling, build a connected on-street bikeway network, and increase the number of people bicycling safely.

Who Are We Planning For?

Inviting New Riders

COS Bikes! envisions a Colorado Springs where bicycling is a viable, everyday transportation option for a broad segment of the population. While robust data on existing bicycle volumes or mode share is not currently available, U.S. Census data tells us that biking accounted for 0.7 percent of how people got to work in 2014. This very low ridership is not entirely unique to Colorado Springs; it is a reality across much of the country.

While there will always be people who are not interested or physically able to bike, there are many others who do not currently ride because they feel unsafe. This category of potential riders is referred to as the Interested but Concerned, reflecting their interest in bicycling, as well as concerns about safety and comfort when interacting with motor vehicle traffic. Most people in the U.S. have little tolerance for bicycling with motor vehicle traffic unless volumes and speeds are very low. Research from other cities has shown that this Interested but Concerned group accounts for as much as 60 percent of the adult population.

Thousands of Colorado Springs residents want a more bike friendly city and would bike regularly if they felt safe. This plan was developed with these riders in mind, as planning and designing for the Interested but Concerned rider makes bicycling better and safer for everyone, and is Colorado Springs’ best chance at increasing bicycle ridership and improving safety for bicyclists.

Serving Existing Riders

There are many people in Colorado Springs who travel by bicycle – those who ride for recreation or pleasure, those who ride to work, to the store, to restaurants or cafes, to school or to visit friends. Some people choose to ride for convenience, some for pleasure or exercise, some because driving is not a choice for them. Some people ride trikes, recumbent bikes, and electric-assist bikes. COS Bikes! includes actions to make bicycling better for all, including existing riders.

Enthusiastic Colorado Springs bicyclists can help the community recognize the importance of bike programs and infrastructure.

Why Now?

Recent Momentum and Successes

Over time, the City has demonstrated a commitment to improve and expand its bicycling environment. Several key events or initiatives mark a particularly positive change for bicycling in the City:

  • Planning for an automated bike share system that is expected to launch in 2018;
  • The beginning of a major update to the City’s comprehensive planA comprehensive plan is a guiding document that provides a framework for city policies and priorities regarding the physical development of the city. It is a long-range vision of what we want our city to become and is a tool for making decisions about how that vision should be achieved. It outlines strategic steps to make the vision a reality and provides targeted and strategic planning of the physical development of the city., PlanCOS;
  • Completion of the Experience Downtown Master PlanA plan for the development of a portion of the city that contains proposed land uses, a generalized transportation system, and the relationship of the area included in the plan to surrounding property., a master plan to strengthen and improve downtown, the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments Regional Non-motorized Plan, which established regional corridors of focus, and the Park System Master Plan, which emphasized the closure of trail gaps.
  • Confirmation of the City’s Silver Bicycle Friendly Community status by the League of American Bicyclists;
  • Nearly three decades of an excise tax on every new bike sold has funded bicycle projects throughout the city;
  • The voter-approved extension to the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority’s capital funding through 2024; and
  • Expansion of the City’s internal capacity to complete bicycle projects including a dedicated bike planner and increased bike counting.

These efforts led to on-the-ground results: over the past two years, the City added 10 miles of on-street bike facilities in Colorado Springs, closing gaps in the existing bikeway network. Important trail crossings and connections were also added. COS Bikes! builds on these important efforts and capitalizes on the positive momentum for better bicycling.

What Needs to be Done?

Promote a Stronger Bicycle Identity

Today, biking in Colorado Springs is primarily regarded as a recreational activity. There are many bicycle organizations, programs, and events in the city that focus on children and people who already bike for recreation or sport. While both groups are important to reach, the greatest potential for increased ridership is amongst the broader Colorado Springs population, for whom bicycling is not a popular way to get around.

Additional efforts are needed to expand the existing bicycle community and reach those who are interested in bicycling, but do not bike today. These efforts will also help normalize bicycling in Colorado Springs, building support for future bicycling projects and fostering mutual respect among all road users.

Build a Better On-Street Bike Network

The city needs a comprehensive, connected, and high comfort bicycle network. Over half of the currently designated bike lane network and close to three-fourths of paved shoulders are on minor or principal arterials, streets with speeds and traffic volumes that are unlikely to appeal to a broad group of bicyclists, even with a bike lane.

The existing bicycle network is not fully connected. Beyond some of the trails, there are few long distance facilities and few continuous routes that connect neighborhoods. This limited connectivity is a barrier to attracting more bicycle riders, especially those wanting to ride for transportation/utility. In addition, the disconnected network is partly due to land use patterns and barriers posed by railroads, arterials, and Interstate 25. Bicycling today is a challenge because of the expansive city footprint with dispersed land uses.

The greatest opportunity for developing a connected network of comfortable bicycle facilities is by supplementing the trail network—the backbone of the city’s high comfort bicycle network—with facilities in the street right-of-way such as bike boulevards, bike lanes, separated bike lanes, and side paths (see Appendix B). This is a cost effective approach that allows for direct connections to destinations.

Ultimately, a full network of trails and on-street facilities will ensure that Colorado Springs residents will be able to access the whole city by bike; seamlessly biking to work, stores, trails, City services, parks, community centers, and other destinations. The recommendations in COS Bikes! support the need for better access to the trail networks via on-street facilities.

Design More Bicycle Friendly Streets

Street design and bicycle facility selection have a direct impact on safety and comfort. As demonstrated by public comments, crash analysis, and a comparison with national practices, the City’s existing street design standards do not result in comfortable streets for bicycling. Bicycle friendly street design standards will enable planners and engineers to more consistently provide comfortable bicycle facilities on all street types—considering which bicycle facility types are appropriate for which types of streets. In addition, the City needs other policies that support biking, such as a maintenance policy for trails and on-street facilities.

How We Developed the Plan

COS Bikes! is the culmination of more than a year of public and stakeholder engagement focused on Colorado Springs residents, community stakeholders, and City agencies. Their input shaped the recommendations. Highlights of the outreach are discussed in this section, and a full summary is included in Appendix C.

COS Bikes! Goals

The following goals were used to develop the COS Bikes! recommendations. The Plan goals were developed collaboratively be the City, stakeholders, and public over the course of several meetings, workshops, and events.

Theme  Goal
Safety Create a safe bicycling environment for people of all ages and bicycling abilities by implementing appropriate, state-of-the-art infrastructure on-street and off-street, including intersections and connections, and bolstering safety related programs. As a City agency, embrace a safe systems approach and use it to approach all street projects. Over the longterm, eliminate bicycle-related fatalities across the city.
Viability Prioritize funding for bicycle infrastructure. Strategically phase infrastructure improvements to reflect realistic constraints and build momentum for the long-term vision.
Integration Create a connected and cohesive network of low-stress and comfortable bicycle facilities linking key destinations and modes of travel. Create a culture of bicycling where everyday people ride, where riding is fun, and bicycling is an accepted form of transportation.
Accessibility Create a community where bicycling is for all types of trips and includes people of all ages, races, incomes, and bicycling ability. Create conveniently-accessed bicycle facilities that are easy and clear to use.
Ridership Increase the portion of the population that regularly rides a bicycle for recreation and/ or transportation. Increase ridership so that by 2030, 10 percent of trips downtown are made by bike and that over time, biking for all purposes and to all destinations increases.

Information Gathering and Visioning

Visioning Workshop

During the data collection and information gathering phase of the project, a visioning workshop was held with a group of internal (City and partner agencies) and external stakeholders, including representatives from the U.S. Olympic Training Center, Downtown Partnership, Colorado College, Kids on Bikes, and United States Air Force Academy, among others. Participants identified common themes for biking in Colorado Springs, describing it currently as recreational, stressful, disconnected, and unsafe. In the future, however, people want biking to be safe, inclusive, integrated, convenient, and fun.

Stakeholders emphasized their desire for a Plan that is forward-thinking, to build political will and create a safe and connected network that is embraced by people of all ages and abilities. Input gathered during the visioning workshop directly informed the Plan’s vision statement and goals.

Online Survey

An online survey open to Colorado Springs residents between July and October 2016 provided a nuanced understanding of attitudes and preferences related to bicycling. The survey results showed that more than half of the 813 total respondents ride throughout the year and almost half reported riding three or more days per week. Eleven percent of respondents ride daily.

Respondents cited interactions with drivers, high traffic volume and speed, and a lack of safe routes as the strongest deterrents to bicycling. Such responses informed the Plan’s program, policy, and network recommendations.

Community Events

To gather input from a broad Colorado Springs audience, the project team engaged with residents at community events. The input from these conversations informed the vision and goals for COS Bikes! For example, at the 2016 Legacy Loop Trailhead Expo event, over 50 people shared their visions for bicycling in the city. The common theme from their feedback is that people want a city that is connected, convenient, and accessible. At the 2016 Deerfield Hills Neighborhood Block Party, a community event with food, music, and entertainment, dozens of children told stories about bike riding and asked for biking to be fun, safe, and happy.

Initial Recommendations

Public Open House

More than 250 people came to the May 2017 open house to learn about the project and provide ideas for improving bicycling in Colorado Springs. The team solicited input on corridors to incorporate into the Vision Network, and received feedback on potential program and policy recommendations.

Participants were given six voting dots to choose the programs and policies that would most improve the culture of biking in the city. Overwhelming support was shown for improved signage to improve orientation, bicycle route identification, and destination recognition (i.e., wayfinding), bicyclist and motorist education, creating a policy for street reconfigurations, and identifying geographic priorities across the city for Bike Master Plan implementation. Comments from the public emphasized the importance of education, trail access, wayfinding, and connectivity.

Along with the open house, the City received project feedback via email and the project website.

Draft Plan

In November 2017, the City made the Draft COS Bikes! Plan available online for public review and comment. Between then and December 2017, the Draft Plan was presented to the Active Transportation Advisory Committee (ATAC) and the Citizen Transport Advisory Board (CTAB). The City reviewed all comments received (which are summarized in Appendix D) to produce COS Bikes!

Internal Stakeholder Coordination

The Plan process was guided by a Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) representing City departments, the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments (PPACG), El Paso County, and the Active Transportation Advisory Committee (ATAC). The TAC met four times during the course of the project and provided valuable direction for the plan development process by: 

  • Providing a detailed understanding of bicycling in Colorado Springs;
  • Aligning this Plan with other City efforts;
  • Defining project goals and objectives;
  • Guiding the development of the Vision Network;
  • Identifying street design challenges and opportunities;
  • Offering ideas for new and improved bicycle-related programs and policies; and
  • Ensuring the Plan is implementable.


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