Photo Report from Boulder
I'm not a big fan of "top ten" designations, but I just returned from my first visit to Boulder, Colorado, and since it sits at the top of sundry best biking/most livable/most healthy lists, it's easy to see why the city is so proud of its frequent appearance in these kinds of rankings.
Recently, the League of American Bicyclists (LAB) recently honored Boulder with its coveted Platinum bike status making it only the third U.S. city to achieve that status (the others being Davis, California and Portland, Orgeon - please click on them to see our Streetfilms) The honor is well-deserved, bicycling in Boulder is wonderful.
Boulder "gets it" big time - bicycling is important to its residents. So is a healthy walking and green living environment. But please note: this is not a car-free utopia - the vast majority of residents own cars. The difference here is there are many safe and convenient options available (transit, walk, bike, etc.) and its denizens can choose the way they want to go. Inter-modal transportation is highly encouraged, there are many types of bus passes available, and the city is constantly looking to the next way to improve their streets.
We'll have at least three Streetfilms coming out of Boulder, but for those who can't wait, I wanted to give you a taste of some of the visuals to come:
Boulder's four block-long Pearl Street, a pedestrian mall always brimming with action, color and conversation. It's the heart of the city.
I became obsessed with documenting the three block long, quarter-mile, contra-flow bike lane that runs downtown. I'm told I am not the only fanatic to fall in love with it. There's a future Streetfilm on it as it's the best of its kind I've seen in my travels.
Here is bike superhero Sue Prant, Director of Boulder's Walk and Bike Month (and also the sister of Brooklyn's own Jeff Prant!) Sue was my personal tour guide, showing me what felt like nearly every block of the city and without her indefatigable help and connections, I would not have half the great footage I ended up getting. Here, Sue is outside Community Cycles at the end of a very long day for us where we shot eight(!) interviews.
As if her beyond-the-call-of-duty assistance wasn't enough, Sue (along with the wonderful folks at GO Boulder) arranged a showing of Streetfilms. About 100 people showed up to watch, graciously hosted by local bike shop Full Cycle. Here are a few fans who stuck around to the very end to hear me finish my babbling anecdotes.
The bus system in Boulder is unique. The routes have fun names (JUMP, BOUND, SKIP, HOP, STAMPEDE, DASH, BOLT) and are easily identified by the exterior wraps which have been designed by different artists. They all have bike racks on the front of the buses and have room under the bus to add more!
One other thing about the routes: the community has a huge say in the creation of the bus routes, where they go, what they look like and what amenities they offer. Check back, much more to come in a future Streetfilm underway.
Tim Blumenthal, Executive Director of Bikes Belong, talked with us about the wonderful world of Boulder and the 1,000 bikes they brought to the Democratic & Republican Conventions for people to ride around. Tim reports the bike-sharing foray was hugely successful, and in the end they only failed to get back eight or ten of the bikes. Here he poses with one bike which was specifically engraved for Barack Obama and will be auctioned off in the near future.
Here's a small miracle you won't see many places which speaks to Boulder's forward thinking: bike accessibility in a busy retail area with large big box stores. Yes, those are colored, textured bike lanes running thru the 29th Street mall, which features dozens of stores in an outdoor setting that had a human feel to it...well at least when compared to similar places here in the Northeast. I took this very early Sunday morning which is why it looks like tumbleweeds should be rolling thru any moment.
There are buckets of great stories in Boulder. Meet the folks from Pedal to Properties a full service real estate company who lead group house tours by bike! They provide the handsome cruisers and helmets to their potential clients whom, they report, just love the service. Great you say, right? But it gets better - when they aren't using the bikes they store them at local hotels where they allow guests to use them for free to cruise around town. Yes, that's right for FREE!
Okay, I just had to include this photo. Riding by, I surprised this group of parents who were enthusiastically entertaining a gaggle of tykes enjoying public seating.
There are myriad programs around town to get kids walking and biking to school. I got to join a walking school bus to the Bear Creek Elementary School where it was a joy to see kids chatting and bonding in the morning alfresco. Principal Kent Cruger has instituted a personal challenge to his students and so far 160 out of 380 kids have perfect alternative-mode attendance - as does the principal himself who changed his commuting ways and leaves the car at home now.
True to our Streefilms mission of trying to bring you our stories using only foot, bike or mass transit - and wanting a nice visual of the Rockies and downtown Boulder from above - I hiked over 1,000 feet in that thinner-than-NYC-air to the top of Mount Sanitas with my gear. Yes, all for you Streetfilms fans.