VAIL — Vail joined a short list of less than 20 Colorado communities recognized as bicycle-friendly towns by the League of American Bicyclists, raising its ranking from a bronze to silver biking area.
That’s a high honor for a small town in the second-ranked bike-friendly state. Vail was among only 12 other Colorado towns ranked with a silver status or higher. The Vail Town Council will receive the award in a presentation today at its weekly town council meeting.
According to the League of American Bicyclists, the Bicycle Friendly Community program provides a way for communities to evaluate their quality of life, sustainability and transportation networks, while allowing them to benchmark their progress toward improving their bicycle-friendliness. There are 291 such communities in 48 states across America, including 19 in Colorado.
Vail was promoted this year from a bronze ranking. The label is good through 2017 and is due, in part, to the town’s extensive recreation path system and mountain biking network, as well as the community’s longstanding enthusiasm for biking. Vail is host to major events such as the Triple Bypass charity ride, and the area is home to a couple stages of the USA Pro Challenge. There are also the Vail Rec District’s popular mountain bike town series and a number of smaller events and races that keep the trails and roads full of cyclists.
Colorado communities that earned a platinum ranking, the highest recognition include Fort Collins and Boulder, as well as platinum bike friendly business New Belgium Brewing. Among mountain communities, Vail is edged out only by Steamboat Springs, Breckenridge, Durango and Crested Butte, all with gold rankings.
Bigger shoulders, more trails to come
The town of Vail’s Gregg Barrie said the recognition is also in large part due to the road improvements Vail has made over the last few years. The Frontage Road has gotten widened shoulders over six miles, and there are plans for another 3.5 miles (from Dobson Park to the edge of Lionshead) and all of the North Frontage Road. After that, the Colorado Department of Transportation plans to overlay the entire road, creating a smooth surface.
“This was a big investment on the town’s part to improve safety and usability for residents and guests,” Barrie said. “The presence of the USA Pro Challenge and other biking events also contributed to the recognition.”
The town is already looking to improve its status next time around. Eagle County’s ECO Trails program is already working on a plan to expand the county’s bicycle facilities with new separated paths and widened bike lanes. The town of Vail hopes to make the roads safer for both cyclists and drivers with road markings that indicate popular bikeways.
Also, the Vail Valley Mountain Bike Association is working towards a world-class, off-road trail system in the coming years that would put the Vail Valley on the map as a mountain biking destination. The U.S. Forest Service’s recreation master plan, made in 1989, is just about completed, and officials will soon be looking to future of trails in the area.
“However, the recognition goes beyond facilities to include attitudes and enthusiasm about biking,” Barrie said.
Besides supporting bike events, Barrie said the town also hopes to encourage people to ride instead of drive, with efforts that include providing bike valets at town events. The municipality could also do a better job of partnering with other bike organizations in town. It undoubtedly takes a good amount of planning, collaboration and manpower to create a world-class biking community, but Barrie said it’s a priority for Vail.
“Some places like Boulder have groups of employees dedicated only to bike issues,” he said. “We don’t have a staff just for that yet, but we try to incorporate it into our other projects.”
Assistant Managing Editor Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2927 and firstname.lastname@example.org.