During the 12 years that I’ve resided in Colorado, certain things just keep getting better. The liquor stores have had to add shelves to the “brewed in Colorado” section, bud is as easy to buy as said beer, and now, a formal commitment to making Colorado the most bike-friendly state has been issued from the state capital.
“Our goal is to make Colorado the best state for biking in the country which will help fuel our robust economic growth and tourism industry, move us toward a cleaner environment and advance our goal of being the healthiest state in the nation,” he said. Hickenlooper is the first governor to make an appearance at the trade show, and his timing couldn’t have been better.
A plan that puts equal focus on the health of Colorado’s economy and the health of its citizens may prove to be the best one yet. Despite ranking among the “fittest” states in the country, Colorado has also consistently ranked high on a shadowier subject: childhood obesity. About $10 million of the proposed budget will go toward sustaining and growing the state’s Safe Routes to School program, administered by the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT).
The plan also calls for $60 million to develop bike and pedestrian infrastructure, using CDOT and federal Transportation Alternatives Program and Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program funds.
An additional $30 million will come from Great Outdoors Colorado’s new push for trail connectivity with grants that develop bike and pedestrian infrastructure.
Biking’s boost to the Colorado economy has been making waves for years. According to a 2000 CDOT study, the total annual economic benefit of bicycling in the state was more than $1 billion. This included revenue from summertime cycling tourists at the state’s ski resorts of nearly $200 million. Now, that number is likely much higher, given that folks in Colorado are building bikes, running bike-related businesses, and, we’re hosting world-class races and events all over the state. In 2014 alone, the USA Pro Challenge brought an estimated $130 million in economic impact to the state.
Colorado’s soil is fertile with individuals and groups dedicated to making riding bikes safe and accessible to everyone. PeopleforBikes, Colorado Pedals Project, Bicycle Colorado, and Great Outdoors Colorado will soon become household names as they collaborate in the quest to best appropriate the 100 million dollars that Hick has pledged towards this two-wheeled vision.
Cyclists of all ages know: riding a bike makes you feel good, inside and out. Not only will Colorado’s pledge to making streets and trails safer and more plentiful shave a few inches from our collective waistline and add pennies to the state’s piggy bank; most importantly, the “healthiest” state in the nation might just become the happiest, as well.