GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado - Julie Albrecht spends a lot of time on the Rio Grande Trail during her daily bicycle commutes between Carbondale, where she lives, and her job in downtown Glenwood Springs.
So, one day on the way into work she made up a little song about the benefits of her routine. It goes like this:
"Every day a little holiday
Biking into work
Yeah, that's the way
Good for body, mind and for the soul
Bicycle with me
Come on, let's roll."
"I just like riding along and meeting all sorts of new people out there," said Albrecht, who works in the public information office at Colorado Mountain College's Central Services building at Eighth and Grand.
"I realized I was getting in a little vacation every day on my way to and from work," she said.
Albrecht began regularly biking to work in 2009 when the final segment of the paved path linking Carbondale and Glenwood Springs was completed. The valleywide Rio Grande Trail stretches all the way from Aspen to Glenwood Springs on the former railroad corridor.
Once the snow flies in the winter, she still manages to ride her bike to work about once a week, she said.
"I did take a fall once on the ice, so I have to be careful," said Albrecht, who typically rides the bus on the days she doesn't bike to work.
One of her co-workers at CMC, Ken Keister, said he and Albrecht represent the "two extremes" of bicycle commuters.
Albrecht is content to take her time and leisurely enjoy her daily journey to and from work on her refurbished Univega bike.
"I'm just going to work, and having fun doing it," she said.
Keister, on the other hand, is a bit more serious about his cycling. He has participated in numerous endurance races, and has a fleet of "five or six" different bikes that he uses.
His daily work commutes downtown from his home in Glenwood Park are just a small supplement to his regular training.
"My song is, 'on your left!,'" Keister joked, referring to the warning that faster cyclists are supposed to give before passing slower-moving bikes or pedestrians.
Keister said he would often commute to work while living on the east coast a few years ago. But he found it a lot more enjoyable doing so in Glenwood Springs.
"Here, I just want to be on my bike as much as possible," he said.
When construction began this spring on the combined Glenwood Springs library and CMC parking garage at Eighth and Cooper, taking CMC's dedicated parking lot off line for up to a year, college employees were encouraged to find other alternatives in the meantime.
Keister, who works as a budget and finance analyst for CMC, just kept on doing what he had already been in the habit of doing for some time - commuting by bike.
Sponsors of the Downtown Parking Perks program started encouraging others to do the same.
The incentive program was instituted when dual construction started on the library and the new city parking garage project at Ninth and Cooper, which resulted in a temporary loss of public parking in that area as well.
The "Perks" program encourages employees of downtown businesses to use the available all-day parking lots located a couple of blocks removed from downtown. It also encourages anyone who can to bike to work or use the bus instead of driving.
"I do notice a lot more people riding to work these days," Keister said. "You can pick them out because they're the ones with the courier bags or backpacks."
At last count, there were nearly as many bicycle registrations as there were vehicles registered in the Perks program. The program offers random cash equivalent prizes, in the form of tokens for downtown business purchases, to those who get "caught" parking in one of the designated parking lots or bike racks.
"We were happy to see so many people register their bikes," said Rosa Silver, transportation manager for the city of Glenwood Springs. "I have seen a lot more bikes locked up at the various bike racks around downtown."
At a recent "instant gratification" give-away, where sponsors randomly award registered participants at one of the city parking lots, several bicyclists showed up for a chance to win as well, Silver said.
"It's a great program to try to get people to cooperate during the construction," she said. "It's basically free money, and it frees up the street parking for tourists and people doing business downtown."
Taz Brown and her 4-year-old Australian shepherd, Knobby, have become a familiar sight around town as Brown pedals her way to work at Sunlight Ski and Bike Shop with her dog riding on the back of the bike.
"It's a great way to get to and from work, and it's also about being green and saving some money," Brown said. "For me, it's also sort of an escape. I lived in suburbia long enough, it just became a way to get away and have some independence."
Brown, who works as a bike mechanic at Sunlight, has been an avid tour cyclist and bike commuter most of her life. She started riding in to work via the back roads of Virginia and continued when she moved to Glenwood Springs six years ago.
"I moved out here because I needed a bigger playground," she said.
The Surly extra-cycle long bike Brown uses as her commuter vehicle is equipped with a cargo platform over the back wheel.
Knobby used to ride in a trailer behind the bike when she was younger. But one day, as Brown set out from her home near Mountain Market in south Glenwood, she called to Knobby to run alongside her.
"I said, 'Let's go,' and the next thing I know, she jumps up on the back of the bike," Brown said. "I hadn't really thought of trying that, but she seemed to like it."
Knobby had learned how to keep her balance while riding on Brown's paddle board on the river. So, it didn't take long for her to get used to riding on the back of the bike.
"It's great in the winter, because she doesn't get as messy with all the slush," Brown said. "It's actually safer and easier for both of us."
"There's really no bike that you can't commute on, it's just depends on what's comfortable for people," Brown said.
"This is my favorite, because I can carry anything on it," she said of her extra-cycle. "I even take the recycling from the shop over to the recycle center on it. It's kind of like a pickup truck on two wheels."
Keister occasionally rides in to work on a single-speed bike, which he equips in the winter with studded snow tires for his regular commutes.
His mountain bike is reserved for after work and weekends, though.
"That's my time away from work," Keister said. "I want to keep it separate."
There are many ways people can modify their commute to get around the downtown parking situation, Keister said.
He said he's talked to friends who park their car on the south or west end of town, then bike from there into downtown.
"There are lots of ways to do it," he said.