Celebrating 'Bike to Work Day' every day
Durango commuters praise the pedal

Sidebar: No more excuses

Photo by Todd Newcomer

Many Durangoans are taking a break from the daily rush and making the trip from home to work by bicycle. A number of local residents go even further, advocating for bicycle commuting by riding their bikes not just between home and office but just about everywhere they go. They do this not because they have to, but because they choose to.

John Shaw, of Smiley Building fame, estimates that he rides a modest 3,000 miles to and from work each year. On top of this, Shaw says he hammers out five to six 40-plus mile fitness rides per week. Around town, Shaw can be seen riding a vintage 1950s cruiser decorated with purple fenders and a huge carry-all basket, and powered by a star-spangled chain ring. The bike is one of his favorites in his vast collection of two-wheeled travelers. Shaw not only rides to work every day, he has worked to make cycling a more feasible option for local commuters.

Last year, Shaw hosted the first annual “Bike to Work Day,” an idea sparked by a meeting with Durango Public Works Director Jack Rogers, who has worked to make Durango more bike friendly and develop a long term plan for bicycle commuting. One idea led to another, and “Bike to Work Day” was born. To alleviate any confusion, Shaw and Rogers decide to team up with Colorado’s “Bike to Work Day,” which is held June 25. After a mere two months of planning, more than 300 Durangoans peddled downtown on one of the smokiest days of the Missionary Ridge Fire. However, Shaw sheepishly admits that because of the encroaching fire and impending evacuation, he actually drove to work on “Bike to Work Day.” However, he quickly added that, for the record, he drives to work no more than five times per year.

For this year’s event, Shaw said he hopes to see twice the turn out and offers these suggestions to ease people into the idea of cycle commuting. “Ride to work on a nice days,” he says. “Just a few days a week or even a few days a month can make a huge difference on a larger scope.”

Going the distance

Listed below is a handy breakdown of some of Durango’s commuting routes and their distances, times and caloric burn. The data was collected riding the Giant Prodigy commuter bike, and the calorie calculator was based on a 5’6” 140-pound woman.

- 32nd Street to Ninth Street via the Animas River Trail:

Distance: 2.2 miles

Time: 9 minutes, 30 seconds

Calories Burned: 84

-Ninth Street to Fort Lewis College via College Drive:

Distance: 2.4 miles

Time: 15 minutes, 30 seconds

Calories Burned: 127

-Four Corners River Sports to 9th Street put-in via Animas River Trail:

Distance: 2.5 miles

Time: 11 minutes, 6 seconds

Calories Burned: 101

*Four Corners River Sports has an Xtracycle at the shop that is free to the public to use to shuttle kayaks to and from the put in/take out

-32nd Street to Bodo Park

Distance: 4.7 miles

Time: 21 minutes, 30 seconds

Calories Burned: 181

Kevin Hall, Durango’s Parks, Open Space and Trails development manager, says the city would like to see the Animas River Trail expand to meet the needs of all nonmotorized vehicle traffic. The trail spans 4.5 miles, and 5.5 miles of new development is planned for the next two years.

Russell Zimmerman, owner of Durango Cyclery, moved to Durango frustrated with the fast-paced life of San Diego, where he commuted by bike 20 miles each way. Grabbing a lollipop from his Craftsman toolbox candy drawer, Zimmerman explains why he is so passionate about commuting by bike. “When you commute by car, returning home from work you are still at the office,” he says. “Riding your bike gives your mind an opportunity to catch up with your body.”

As for suggestions for the neophyte bicycle commuter, Zimmerman offers these tips: “If you are going to be out at night, having a flashing light is a good idea. Drivers can’t always see you when you are riding your bike.You need to be alert, wear a helmet and reflective and bright clothing.”

John Bailey, a wrench at Mountain Bike Specialists, has chosen a bike as his only source of transportation, and after whipping out a calculator, he figures that last year alone, he commuted 5,000 miles and climbed more than 500,000 feet in elevation. Bailey says there are many reasons one could come up with to not commute by bike, but in a town as small and centrally located as Durango, there is no excuse. In a slap of sarcasm, he confesses that “his hair gets messed up when he rides to work.”

Bailey has retrofitted a Burley Trailer for his carry-all needs and added that a trailer is a great way for people with kids to bond with them by towing them. As another insight, he says that fenders are great for riding in the rain, which he says “will eventually happen.”

All of Durango’s bicycle commuters agree that they are fortunate to live in a community where they have the option to pedal to work. And they advocate cycling not only for fitness, but as a lifestyle change that will help improve Durango’s air quality and remedy growing traffic build-up. For his part, Shaw looks forward to the day when bicycles outnumber automobiles on Durango’s roads. “It will be great when an event like ‘Bike to Work Day’ is totally old school,” he says. “People will say, ‘Hey Remember when we had to have Bike to Work Day?’”









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