Durango named ‘Bicycle Friendly’

Durango pedaled off into the sunset last Thursday, when a surprise announcement came at the first-ever Durango Bike Summit. The League of American Bicyclists has awarded the city a prestigious Bicycle Friendly Community designation.

With the help of Trails 2000, a local task force formed last fall with intent of pursuing the designation and getting the community more involved. Bicycle Friendly Communities are ranked by four levels: bronze, silver, gold and platinum. In Colorado, only five cities had earned the honor – Fort Collins (silver), Denver (bronze), Steamboat Springs (bronze), Boulder (gold), and Longmont (bronze.)

The task force set its sights on a bronze designation for starts and kicked off a concerted community effort that culminated in the May 8 Bike Summit. Durango resident Mary Oswald, who launched the quest for Bicycle Friendly, commented, “We see the summit as an opportunity for everyone to come together and not rehash old problems but come up with solutions to making Durango safer and more accessible for bicycles. We are going in open for ideas, brainstorming and problem-solving.”

At the well-attended summit, the League of American Bicyclists called with good news. Durango had been awarded a “silver” Bicycle Friendly Community designation.

“It’s great because it recognized where we’re already at in terms of trail networks and connections,” said Mary Monroe, Trails 2000 executive director. “It also gives us direction on what we can do to make Durango more bicycle friendly in the future.”

The League of American Bicyclists awarded the honor based on the “five E’s,” engineering, encouragement, enforcement, education and evaluation. At least three of the qualifications are necessary for a designation, and the League is looking for “communities that have made impressive, measurable efforts to integrate bicyclists into the community.” A total of 11 communities, ranging from Durango and Colorado Springs to Sitka, Alaska, and Charlotte, N.C., made the cut in the most recent round.

Andy Clarke, president of the League, commented, “This round brings into focus both the geographic and demographic diversity of designated communities. These are all cities that are realizing the potential of bicycling to address the challenges of climate change, traffic congestion, rising obesity rates and soaring fuel prices.”

With the designation, Durango joins Bicycle Friendly communities across 31 states. The League stressed that the designation is difficult to earn and important to renew. As evidence, 212 communities have applied since the program’s inception in 2003, but only 84 have qualified for a bronze or higher designation.

Fort Lewis Cycling claims second

Fort Lewis College’s powerhouse cycling team came up a little short in last weekend’s Collegiate Road National Championships in Fort Collins. Archrival Lees McRae College, in North Carolina, edged out the local squad to claim the top spot among Division I schools.

The local team tackled three different events at the May 9-11 Nationals. The Team Time Trial event, where both the FLC men’s and women’s teams were defending champions, was held May 9 on a 20-kilometer course. The Road Race took place May 10 and featured many steep climbs. The weekend of racing was rounded out with the criterium in downtown Fort Collins on a flat, eight-turn, technical course.

After the final finish line, Fort Lewis turned in a second place in the women’s team time trial, and Amy Dombroski brought home fifth place in the Division I Women’s Overall. However, the foremost goal for the local team during Nationals was to have as many racers in the top 20 as possible, which brings points to the overall team omnium competition. The high point for the local squawkers came when the Fort Lewis men took second in the team standings just behind Lees McRae.

It was a familiar fight. For the past several contests, Division I collegiate cycling has been a battle between Fort Lewis and Lees McRae. Fort Lewis took the top spot at the mountain bike national championships in Lees Mcrae’s home state last October. Lees McRae came back and claimed the cyclocross title, just edging out the Fort Lewis team. This road championship means that Lees McRae holds bragging rights, for now.

Taste of Durango goes compostable

Durangoans will enjoy a greener Taste of Durango, when the downtown event returns this Sun., May 18. New Ice Inc., a locally based company that is developing a new class of compostable food service trays, has selected the Taste of Durango to preview its new earth-friendly product line.

The food service trays, with an embossed “compostable” on the bottom, are being made available to all Taste of Durango restaurant participants. Festival organizers will also providing specially marked trash bins for compostable materials. The trays have the look and feel of traditional plastic-based trays but are actually biodegradable and compostable.

Manufactured in Durango by New Ice, they are made from various starches on a custom-designed molding machine. The trays take the place of harmful plastics and Styrofoam and can be discarded with food scraps and will decompose in a few months.

“We’ve been quietly working on these trays for six years, so we decided that the Taste of Durango would be a great way to let everyone know what we’ve been up to,” said Giles Instone, New Ice founder. “We’re really looking forward to seeing our food service trays in use and at the same time minimize the festival’s environmental impact.”

New Ice Inc. is based in Durango but also has offices in the United Kingdom and Australia. The company has worked to develop a variety of biodegradable and compostable food container products over the past six years and expects to release products for purchase soon.

Local racer takes Nevada Passage

Durango again stood atop the podium last week. Local cyclist and adventure racer Lisa Lieb, along with her racing partner Tom Lyons, of Reno, took top honors in the 2008 Land Rover G4 Challenge Nevada Passage. The adventure race is a multi-sport challenge over four days and 1,000 miles, including mountain bike, kayaking, running and off-road driving stages.

While Lieb and Lyons did not take honors in the “winching competition,” the pair won the kayak and mountain bike stages and placed second in the trail run and communications stages. Land Rover, the title sponsor, hailed them as “charismatic and charming in the face of adversity, and steady everywhere else leading to the overall victory.”

Lieb said that she enjoyed her time in Nevada, noting, “This was just an unbelievable experience. It was a week worth of constant over-stimulation, and I’m totally exhausted but in a good way.”

With the victory over the 10 other teams, Lieb and Lyons move on to the international selection event at Eastnor Castle in Herefordshire, UK. The competition is set for early 2009. At the UK event, one male and one female competitor will be selected to represent the United States against teams from 17 other countries in the three-week Land Rover G4 Challenge finals in Asia mid-2009.

– Will Sands