Bicycle commuting one way to honor the eco-ethics of Earth Day, every day in Garfield County
They’re out there.
Maybe not every single day, but on as many days as time and the weather allows, bicycle commuters are on the paved paths and dirt trails of Glenwood Springs.
It has a lot to do with doing what they can to lessen their carbon footprint, not just on Earth Day but as often as possible year round.
There are fringe benefits, too.
“I ride every day, or at least every day that I don’t have a car errand that I need to run,” said Watkins Fulk-Gray, one of several city of Glenwood Springs workers who bike to work on a regular basis.
He regularly commutes by bike from his house near 27th Street to City Hall.
“I do it to help reduce carbon emissions, but also because I’m kind of on the road rage side of things when I’m driving,” Fulk-Gray admitted. “I also just feel like I have more energy after riding to work … and, honestly, it’s just as fast to bike around Glenwood as it is to drive.”
The bike-to-work movement gathered some major momentum in Glenwood Springs during the late summer and fall of 2017 when the Grand Avenue Bridge construction detour was in place.
While interest faded some after the new bridge was completed, it seemed to pick up again during the pandemic.
And, with the increasing popularity of electric-pedal-assist, or e-bikes, bicycle commuting around town or even between towns in the Roaring Fork Valley has become a culture all its own.
City of Glenwood Springs transit planner Linda DuPriest said she has been commuting to work by bike since the 1980s.
“In the different cities where I’ve lived and worked, I did it for exercise and just because it made sense to me,” she said. “It just feels right, and especially since I have been working to plan bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure for 25 or 30 years now.”
Glenwood Springs has what DuPriest calls a “good skeleton” for bicycle commuting, with the Rio Grande Trail running through the middle of town and good connections on the Midland Avenue side of the Roaring Fork River and out to West Glenwood.
“But we also do have some critical safety gaps in our bike network that we’re working on,” she said. “We acknowledge that those things sometimes will discourage people.”
DuPriest identifies three different types of people when it comes to bike commuting.
There are the “strong and fearless” who will commute through any kinds of conditions, no matter what.
There are the “no way, no how” types who will likely never give it a try.
“And then you have the 50% or 60% in the middle — those are the ones that we would like to convert,” DuPriest said.
Benefits of bikes
Two other Glenwood Springs Community Development Department workers, Emery Ellingson and Carlos Peugnet, are also regular bicycle commuters.
Ellingson rides the Rio Grande all the way to Glenwood from his home in Carbondale at least once or twice a week, he said.
“It’s just a really good start to your day, and it’s a beautiful ride,” he said. “I like having that separation between the time when I’m at work, and when I’m at home. It does take more time, but I’ve found that separation is important for me. I just feel more relaxed when I get to work and again when I get back home.”
Peugnet rides either his e-bike or his scooter to City Hall from his home in West Glenwood most days.
“I am concerned about our carbon footprint,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if we have 6 inches of snow on the path, I have a fat bike that is designed just for that.”
Peugnet agreed he feels more energized at the beginning and end of the day when he bikes in to work.
“You have the opportunity to look around and really enjoy the beautiful place that we live in, and it costs me nothing compared to my truck, which gets about 12-13 miles per gallon,” he said.
On the days he does decide to ride his scooter, he’s getting something around 130 miles per gallon.
“So, yeah, I’m conscious about the environment, but I’m also conscious about my wallet and not spending so much money on gas,” he said.
Several Colorado Mountain College employees also bike to work frequently. Among them are Jeffrey Buchman, who rides from Park West in south Glenwood to the CMC Central Services building downtown.
“As someone who is not a fan of mornings, bike commuting gives me the opportunity to get a bit of exercise before starting work, which helps me wake up before I get to the office,” Buchman said. “As an accountant, I also appreciate the money-saving aspect and reducing the wear on my car.”
Then there’s the reality of climate change that’s right before our eyes with decreasing winter snowpack, year-round wildfires and smoke-filled skies in the summer, he said.
“Bike commuting is an easy way to reduce your carbon footprint without drastically changing your routine, and thanks to the great bike trails available my commute on a bike is not noticeably longer than it takes to drive,” Buchman said.
Seth Anderson works with the Isaacson School at CMC’s Spring Valley campus. He lives about 4.5 miles from campus in Spring Valley, and said he rides his bike to campus most days.
“It’s the best commute in the world,” he said. “I get an hour a day to look at our beautiful Mount Sopris, herds of prancing deer and lumbering elks, and just to be outside and unplugged.
“My commute is likely the biggest savior of my mental health, and it’s not bad for my physical health, either.”
Though he admits it would be hard to convince most people who work at the campus but live on the valley floor to commute by bike, Anderson said he hopes to set a good example for his 5-year-old daughter.
“It’s important to help her understand how small change has a big impact, and that it can be quite a bit of fun at the same time,” he said.
Peugnet has a similar message when it comes to encouraging others to give bike commuting a try.
“You don’t have to be a world class athlete to get up on a bike and contribute,” he said, noting that a coworker was so impressed with his scooter that she bought one just like his.
“Now she’ll be contributing to reducing that carbon footprint,” Peugnet said. “And it just feels good to know you don’t have to be a kid to enjoy a bike.”
Colorado and National Bike to Work Day will be celebrated on June 22, with special events along the Rio Grande Trail and other points around Glenwood Springs and other valley towns sponsored by Glenwood Bicycle Advocates and Clean Energy Economy for the Region.
But that doesn’t mean you should wait until then to give biking to work a try.
Senior Reporter/Managing Editor John Stroud can be reached at 970-384-9160 or email@example.com.
Support Local Journalism
Support Local Journalism
Readers around Glenwood Springs and Garfield County make the Post Independent’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.
Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.
Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.