RIFLE — JoAnna Quick lives in Silt, but it takes her about an hour to commute 9 miles to her job at the Garfield Public Library in Rifle.
That’s because, during the warm-weather months, Quick rides her bike to work every day.
Quick is one of Garfield County residents who regularly bike to work. Though it’s not possible to know how many residents bike to work, a few hundred is a fair estimate. The RFTA commuter bike lot in Carbondale, which holds 85 bikes, often overflows, and the bus system transported 608 riders’ bikes in August 2013.
The Colorado Department of Transportation has named June “Bike Month” and Wednesday as “Bike to Work Day,” hoping to encourage even more people to ditch their cars for at least a day and hop on their bikes.
Quick has been riding her bike to work for several years and said it takes her two hours to make the 18-mile round trip from her home in Silt to Rifle and back. If she takes “the Gap” route, riding to Harvey Gap, Rifle Gap and then down into Rifle, it takes 2 1/2 hours each way.
“When I was a kid, a bike was the only way to get around,” Quick said. “ When I was in my 20s, I worked too much. But I got this bike as a gift, and the exercise from biking is amazing. This year I made a pact to myself that if it’s nice outside, I’m on it.”
CDOT says Colorado is a premier bicycling state — ranked sixth in the nation for bicycle friendliness by The League of American Bicyclists — and Bike Month is a way to join a nationwide effort to encourage cycling novices and enthusiasts alike to experience the fun and freedom of riding a bike to work, to school, on errands or for recreation.
Quick said she typically bikes to work from as soon as the end of March until as late as November.
But Colorado weather can change quickly, so Quick makes backup plans for someone to call for a ride.
“And then I’ll usually take ’em to dinner,” she said with a laugh.
Wayne Edgeton, the assistant recreation director for the city of Rifle, lives only four blocks from Rifle City Hall and said he’s been riding his bike everywhere since he was about 19.
“I lost my license a couple of times, and I was forced to figure out transportation. Then when I lived in Grand Junction going to Mesa State (College), I rode my bike to school every day,” Edgeton said. “But the best part about biking is being outside and the exercise. You can greet people out walking on the street, and it’s also environmentally correct. “
Edgeton said he rides his bike rain, shine or snow because city roads are usually well plowed.
Both Quick and Edgeton said that biking is a bonus over driving because of the money saved on gas and car repairs.
“It’s really very inexpensive once you get the bike,” Quick said. “I probably spend about $100 every few years.”
Edgeton said he uses his car instead to take trips on his free time.
“My justification is that I don’t drive my car during the week, so I can go places on the weekend,” he said.
And of course, there are the health benefits.
“People who get in the habit of riding their bikes to work are getting additional exercise and reducing their carbon footprint,” said Dana Wood, LiveWell coordinator for Garfield County.
But safety is the foremost key in successful biking and should always be on the forefront of a biker’s mind while sharing the road with motorists.
“I have to watch the vehicles more and be more aware of them than they are of me,” Quick said.
Bikers in the Roaring Fork Valley towns are lucky to have easy access to the Rio Grande Trail so they don’t have to ride on highways, though caution is needed at intersections.
Of course bikers should always wear a helmet and be sure to replace a helmet if it’s been involved in an accident. Other safety precautions include taking water and a food source and notifying someone of where you are going and calling them when you arrive.
“And I always carry credentials with me — I don’t rely on my phone,” Quick said. “I also attach my emergency contact numbers to my bike so if I’m separated from it, they know who it belongs to and who to contact.”
For beginning riders, Quick suggests starting out slowly, but still pushing yourself a little bit every time you ride.
So put away the excuses and use Bike To Work Day as a way to jump start a regime of riding your bike on a regular basis.
It will save you money and boost your health. And if that’s not enough, it’ll make you look better, too.
Quick exudes a youthful, healthy appearance of someone maybe in their late 20s.
“I’m 42,” she said with a laugh. “But I don’t drink heavily, I don’t smoke or do drugs, and I ride my bike all the time.”