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A calmer commute

Matt Zalaznick

That’s what hundreds of valley workers did Wednesday morning, abandoning their gas-guzzling cars and hopping on their bicycles for Eagle County’s second annual Bike to Work Day.

“It’s a great way to squeeze some training in, instead of sitting in a car for an hour every day,” says cyclist Adam Palmer, who frequently commutes by road bike the 30 miles from Eagle to Vail.

Cyclists Wednesday said the benefits of commuting by bike are many:

– It doesn’t pollute.

– You get more exercise.

– You arrive at work in a better mood.

“I’m much more awake and I can handle work a lot better,” said Mike Griffin, who often rides his bike from Eagle-Vail to work in Vail Village. “I feel guilty every time I drive to work.”

A batch of valley bike shops set up breakfast and snack stations to feed and fraternize with the droves who rode their bikes to work Wednesday.

One of the most popular spots was Dowd Junction, where a crew from Pedal Power in Eagle-Vail set out a bicyclists’ buffet that included bagels and fresh-made pancakes.

“This is kind a trial,” said Dave Lever, who was commuting from Edwards to work in Minturn on his bike for the first time. “It’s real nice when the weather’s good. There’s fresh air, no stopping and no going 75 down the freeway. It’s just a casual pace.”

A peaceful ride to work also gives one more time to sort out the day, said Charlie Evans, who rode from Vail to Edwards and back Wednesday.

“I highly recommend riding to work,” Evans said. “It gives you time to think about things and reflect what you’ve go to do, before and after work.”

The Kind Cyclist set out scones, donuts and Starbucks Coffee, among other treats, at its station in Edwards. Vail Bike Services set up shop in Lionshead and Mountain Pedaler fed cyclists who started out way downvalley in Eagle.

One stretch of the ride a lettle less than idyllic, perhaps, is through Dowd Junction. But Eagle County Regional Transit’s trails department has ambitious plans for a bike trail to connect Avon to Dowd Junction.

The trail would run north of the Eagle River through Eagle-Vail, cross the river near the River Run apartments and then link up with the trail that crosses back over the river and leads into Vail.

Traffic in Dowd Junction makes it a treacherous stretch for cyclists, said Fred Haslee, a Minturn town councilman and member of the ECO Trails Board.

“Nobody drives 30 mph through here,” Haslee said. “This is not a pretty sight. A bike path through here would be absolutely wonderful.”

Claire Thayer, who commutes a few days a week from West Vail to her job in Avon, agreed that Dowd Junction is a tight stretch, especially when she rides with friends.

“I don’t mind riding on the road, but it would be nice to be able to talk when you’re riding through Dowd Junction,” Thayer said. “I should ride every day. I have no excuses, though it’s a little tough coming home. It’s about a 1,000-foot vertical climb from Vail to Avon.”

Biking to work is worth a little extra effort, added Thayer’s friend, Laura Dove, who also rode from West Vail to Avon Wednesday.

“It’s colder in the morning and when you get to work you have to change your clothes,” Dove said. “But once you do it, you realize it’s a really good way to start the day.”

And people who think riding to work is too much of a hassle should just hop on their bikes and give it a try, said Diane Milligan, who rode with her husband John from Lake Creek Village to Vail.

“People think it’s too much trouble, but you find out it’s not,” she said. “It’s a lot of fun, and it’s a good way to get exercise early in the day.”

Commuting by bike is relaxing while driving only increases stress, she said.

“You don’t get any exercise in the car. You get mentally frustrated,” she said. “Biking is mentally relaxing.”

John Milligan says he rarely rides to work, but a bike ride wakes a worker up a lot better than a cup a coffee.

“It’s a lot more fun, a lot more invigorating,” he said. “You get to work and you’re ready to go.”

Other riders, like Matt Gennett, who rode from Edwards to work in Vail Wednesday, advocated alternative means of getting to work aside from bikes.

“Never a pogo stick, but I have skateboarded to work when I’ve been dog-sitting in Vail,” Gennett said.

Commuting by bicycle benefits everyone in the valley, Gennett said.

“Even though it’s a pretty good distance, I try to ride every day I can,” Gennett said. “It’s a beautiful ride from Edwards. There are some good climbs.”

Many riders took detours on their way to work Wednesday. John Curutchet, who lives and works in Avon, said he rode all the way to Dowd Junction.

“I bike to work everyday. Today I’m just joining in the fun and taking the long way around,” Curutchet said. “I just prefer to be on a bike, getting some fresh air and being out of the car.”

There may have been a few converts made Wednesday.

“I never ride to work,” said Jean Flaherty, who lives in Minturn and works in Eagle-Vail. “It takes a little more energy in the morning to get ready, but I should do it once a week. Just save some gas money.”


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