By LILY WEISSGOLD ’20
Vice President of Outreach
On February 25, at 6 p.m. in the Pikes Peak Center, over 300 people packed into a room for the Gazette-run, community conversation “Battle of the Bike Lanes”. Despite the “Game of Thrones”-esque title, the conversation was civil, featuring a panel of five speakers for and against increasing bike lane infrastructure in Colorado Springs.
Members of the Colorado College Student Government Association Outreach Committee were just a few of many people voicing support for increasing multi-modal transportation in Colorado Springs. The supporters of bike lanes seemed to outnumber the nay-sayers 2:1, with many sporting shirts from Pike Ride with pink hearts that had bike lanes in them.
Panelists included Cory Sutela, the advocacy chair of Bike Colorado Springs; Edward Snyder, a representative of Restore our Roads; Tim Roberts, a planner from the Colorado Springs Traffic Engineering Department; Rick Villa, a representative of SaferCC.com; and Jill Gaebler, the president pro tem of the city council.
The argument is largely centered around the road narrowing that happened on Cascade Avenue in August of 2018. Snyder and Villa were opposed to the new bike lanes on Cascade Avenue, while the other three panelists supported the bike lane and advocated for more in the coming years.
Most of the questions centered around specific statistical facts regarding the roadways, trails, and bike lanes in the city. Somehow, there was even disagreement about the numbers with Sutela making the distinction between a roadway that is safe for biking, one which has a physical bike lane, and separate biking trails. There was also disagreement about the number of users of the bike lanes, with Snyder using the falling numbers of bicycle commuters in Seattle and San Francisco to prove his point. Gaebler spoke about Pittsburgh and their efforts to create a city-wide bike-accessible road network.
The conversation got heated when Snyder made a few unsubstantiated claims against the city and by extension, Gaebler and Roberts. He claimed that the city did not hold due public process before implementing the changes on Cascade Avenue.
This is untrue; there were four meetings in the fall of 2017 to solicit public feedback on proposed changes. He also claimed that Gaebler and the rest of city council refused to heed a report given by an anti-bike lane group some months ago, saying that they “went to lunch” instead of engaging with the opposition. Gaebler countered this claim, noting that she did not leave the room and that she made a point to talk to the presenters. These claims were wildly off topic and accusatory, though they were handled with grace in the rebuttal.
The CC student government is in strong support of increased bicycle infrastructure throughout our city, because it provides an accessible and alternative way to get around. Considering the 49 traffic deaths in Colorado Springs last year, making safer roads for everyone should be a priority for the years to come. Safer roads for everyone means safer roads for every kind of transportation.