Bike to Work Day returns amid high gas prices, worsening air quality

Jessica Gibbs

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A cyclist rides through Douglas County.Jessica Gibbs

By Jessica Gibbs \ NewsBreak Denver

June 21, 2022

(Douglas County, Colo.) As gas prices surge and Colorado grapples with worsening air quality, the annual Bike to Work Day aims to make a comeback after the disruption caused by COVID-19, with an eye on saving people’s wallets and reducing air pollution.

Douglas County communities ask residents to consider “Shifting Gears” by opting to bike instead of driving on their commute to work.

On Bike to Work Day, June 22, participants can find several breakfast stations around Douglas County ready to give cyclists some morning fuel, and promote benefits of biking to work.

The Town of Parker’s event manager Brooke Spain said this year’s event returns to its pre-pandemic approach. Last year Bike to Work Day was moved to September because of the pandemic — typically held in June — and the town held a modified version of the event in 2020.

“It’s going to be pretty exciting to be back again,” she said.

Parker typically sees between 300 and 400 riders. The event is a way for people to get out in the community and for Parker to collaborate with the Denver Regional Council of Governments.

Bike to Work Day is hosted by the Denver Regional Council of Governments through its “Way to Go” program, in collaboration with seven transportation management associations in the region.

Traditionally, tens of thousands participate each year across nine counties. The council asks people to register so it can track how many cars it takes off the road that day. About 30,000 participants turned out for the 2019 Bike to Work Day event.

Way to Go program manager Nisha Mokshagundam said nearly 8,500 people had registered for this year’s event as of June 18 and organizers expect up to 12,000 participants by kickoff time. There will be 178 breakfast stations across the region.

“We are seeing some of our participation and station registration numbers climb back up,” Mokshagundam said.

There are many reasons to participate, she said. In addition to the health benefits of being more active, taking vehicles off the road leads to “significantly improved” air quality. Biking can also save riders money.

“Gas prices are going up, they are not going down in the foreseeable future,” she said.

The average gas price in Colorado was $4.91 for regular fuel as of June 18, according to AAA. One year ago, the average price was $3.28. In Douglas County, the average price was $4.82.

Air quality in the Front Range was moderate as of June 18, although smoke from large wildfires in Arizona and New Mexico has been visible in recent days throughout the state, and would continue to cause hazy skies in the days ahead of Bike to Work Day for portions of Colorado.

In April, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposed downgrading Denver from a “serious” to “severe” violator of air quality standards. That followed a reclassification in 2019, when the EPA moved the Denver metro and northern Front Range area from a “moderate” to “serious” violator.

To encourage people to participate and register for Bike to Work Day, the Way to Go program is offering “a whole suite” of prizes, including an electric bike worth $3,000. They hope the event can celebrate seasoned cyclists who routinely bike to their destination and encourage more people to give biking as transportation a try.

That’s good for air quality, and reducing traffic congestion, Mokshagundam said.

“I think the biggest takeaway is, Bike to Work Day is a drop in the bucket,” she said. ”It’s one day a year.”

Here’s a roundup of Bike to Work Day stations in Douglas County:

Parker

The Town of Parker is hosting a breakfast station from 6 to 9 a.m. at the Cherry Creek Trail under the E-470 overpass. The first 200 riders to arrive will receive a free t-shirt. Bagel Stop Cafe will hand out bagels and coffee, while Natural Grocers will offer nutrition bars and bananas. Elevation Cycles will have bike technicians at the event in case a cyclist needs minor repairs.

Castle Rock

Castle Rock’s Bike to Work Day festivities run from 7 to 9 a.m. in Festival Park, at 300 Second Street. The event includes breakfast, giveaways and prizes.

Lone Tree

Denver South, the City of Lone Tree and South Suburban Parks and Rec will co-host a breakfast station from 7 to 9:30 a.m. along Willow Creek Trail in Lone Tree. Cyclists can pick up grub, educational materials, beer coupons and waffles by Wafflerita.

Highlands Ranch

Electric Wheels of CO will hand out food, caffeinated beverages and water at their Bike to Work Day tent, running from 6:45 to 8:45 a.m. along Mary Carter Greenway Trail in northwest Douglas County.

Safety tips

The Bike to Work Day website, biketoworkday.co, offers tips for bikers and drivers to stay safe on Bike to Work Day.

Cyclists should stay alert during the ride. Wear a helmet and bright, reflective clothing. At night, use bike lights. Prepare for the ride. Make a route ahead of time, and remember if the route is long, passengers can take bikes on the bus and light rail.

Bikers should give audible signals when passing pedestrians. If crossing an intersection, make eye contact with other drivers and use hand signals when turning. Look up the biking ordinances in the communities a route passes through.

Drivers should also stay alert on the road, and be considerate of bikers. Follow the speed limit, signal turns and watch for a cyclist’s hand signals. Check for a cyclist before opening a car door to avoid hitting them.

“Remember that bicyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as motorists,” the event website says.

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Jessica Gibbs is a reporter based in the Denver metro area covering Denver and Douglas counties. She has worked in local newsrooms for more than six years as a general assignment and education reporter.

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