Are you another Boulderite dismayed by American dependence on foreign oil? Do you wish we could live without the smog hanging over cities like Denver? It’s time to get on your bike and quit driving the problem. Boulder’s bike lanes and trails are some of the best in the country, yet the vast majority of the population still drives. If you have idly whined about pollution and half-wished you could do something about it, here’s a guide to help get you on your way to bicycle commuting.
First, you’ll need a bike, a lock, and a helmet. Decent bikes are as cheap as $50 on www.craigslist.com. Look for a mountain bike with no rust on the gears. You can find a lock for less than $10 at a number of stores, and if you’re not overly concerned about looking fashionable, you can buy a used bike helmet for $2 at several thrift stores such as Ares, Savers, and the Salvation Army.
Once you’ve got your bike, there’s nothing left but to roll up your pantlegs and hop on. Here’s a quick guide of the bike lanes and trails:
For East-West routes, the primary options are:
Jay Road – The shoulders along Jay are comfortably wide enough for a lot of bicyclists. Just east of Foothills, there’s an excellent connection to a beautiful bike trail running south.
Independence Road – Not much traffic, so riding on the side of the road is good. Independence Road connects several North-South bike trails.
Iris – A rather narrow bike lane along most of Iris. Iris turns into the Diagonal Highway, which many road bikers use for its access to Longmont, but the highway is currently undergoing a lot of construction, so the shoulders are often uncomfortably narrow. Very busy auto traffic.
Valmont – Some skinny bike lanes and sidewalk access.
Pearl Street Path – Pearl Street provides mostly just sidewalk riding, but the Pearl Street bike path runs mostly parallel to Pearl, and is an excellent route from about 19th all the way past Foothills going east.
Canyon – Most of canyon has only sidewalk access, but you can also make the challenging ascent up Four Mile Canyon up to Nederland if you’re strong of heart and lungs and your bike’s in excellent shape.
Boulder Creek Path – The champion of paths. Lots of bike/pedestrian/rollerblading traffic, so stay on the right side. The path runs straight through the middle of Boulder, mostly staying close to Arapahoe. It goes out of town to both the East and West, giving you perfect access to downtown Boulder, the bus station, and great hiking access (ex: the Red Rocks trail, from Settler’s Park).
Bear Creek Path – A nice, lightly used trail that winds around mostly parallel to Baseline.
Baseline – From Broadway to 55th, Baseline has fabulously wide bike lanes. Baseline ascends steep Flagstaff Mountain, and even though there is little room for bikers and cars together, lots of both make the trip. For a trip with fewer cars, go up early in the morning. Your brakes should be in excellent condition for the return trip back down the mountain.
Table Mesa – Skinny bike lanes and sidewalk access. A number of smaller side trails provide excellent opportunities for exploring shortcuts.
For North-South routes, the primary options include:
9th Street – Although this is the westernmost trail listed, there are numerous moutain-biking trails past this, some of which allow access to places such as Greenbriar.
Wonderland Lake Trail – In northern Boulder, this trail is scenic just for a ride, but it also provides a southeastern shortcut toward downtown Boulder.
Broadway – In northern Boulder, some road bikers use the right lane to go south, but once Broadway approaches Valmont, it’s probably time to get onto the sidewalks and slow down for busy traffic. Southern Broadway turns into Highway 93 and becomes bike-friendly as a way to commute out of town. Close to the University of Colorado, there is a myriad of bike paths that provide access to the campus and surrounding communities, and riding north-south along these paths is much better from Arapahoe all the way to Baseline.
28th Street/Hwy 36 – North Broadway turns into 28th street/Hwy 36, and many bikers commute along the nice shoulder north to Lyons. For the middle section of 28th, from Iris to Arapahoe, 30th street provides much better riding. South of Arapahoe, there are decent bike paths parallel to 28th that continue until Baseline. Bikes aren’t allowed on Hwy 36 south of Baseline.
30th Street – Good bike lanes, but a lot of traffic. From Baseline, 30th is a good street to bike all the way to Iris. If you’re going north past Iris, there are bike paths that wind along various neighborhoods.
Skunk Creek Greenway Trail – From the Boulder Creek Path, almost to Foothills, this is a scenic path winding north to Baseline.
Goose Lake Path – Another excellent bike path with little traffic starting from the Boulder Creek Path almost at 55th and running north, through some residential neighborhoods, all the way to Independence Road.
Foothills – Foothills itself offers only congested shoulders for hardy road bikers, but there is an excellent bike path running parallel to Foothills along its east side, from Colorado north all the way to the Diagonal Highway.
75th Street – There isn’t much of a shoulder to ride on, but a number of bikers use 75th if they’re travelling that far east.
If you’re travelling outside of Boulder or just get tired, you can always pay $1.25 and put your bike on the front of a city bus. This is also a great way to bike around Denver, Lafayette, Louisville, Longmont, and so on. A number of stores sell Boulder bike maps for $10 and up. These range from nearly illegible to very helpful.