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How Advocates Helped Durango Go Gold
By Lindsay Plante, BFA Communications intern
For many communities advocacy plays a central role in becoming more bicycle friendly. From the beginning push to continuing motivation, advocacy groups can provide specialized insight needed for creative solutions and are dedicated to seeing the positive development of their communities.
In Durango, Colo., an advocacy partnership has been at the helm of the community’s progress, and initiated the city’s involvement with the Bicycle Friendly America program.
"Mary Oswald (now of Bicycle Friendly Durango) came running over to me at the Farmer's Market in 2007 and said, 'I have a great idea!' and we worked together, with the infrastructure of Trails 2000, to form a working group called Bicycle Friendly Durango.
Trails 2000 was able to help [Durango’s BFC progress] thanks to the passion in the community for all of the things BFC stands for. Most successful nonprofits are based on a strong mission that resonates with their members and the community and we have a 3-pronged mission: 1) to build and maintain trails 2) to educate trail users and 3) to encourage connectivity on the roads, paths and trails.
The BFC is a perfect fit.
The culture of cycling in Durango may have started in 1896 with the Durango Wheel Club, but in 1990 Durango hosted the World Mountain Bike Championships and several Durangoans won gold. It was a 'coming out' of sorts for the strong biking culture that existed. Ned Overend, Juli Furtado, Daryl Price, Greg Herbold, Ruthie Mathes and others all called Durango home. Their dedication and passion to our community put Durango on the map.
Since then, community members have responded by continuing to live here and insuring our future success. Our community builds and maintains our trail network with over 3,500 hours of trailwork each and every season. DEVO, the mountain bike junior development program, has more than 300 kids enrolled — and they are the future.
Challenges have come up, mostly based on people just thinking about the here and now and not understanding that long-range plans require long-range thinking. A bike path takes 10-20 years to complete and you have to take advantage of funding sources as they come along. The best way for communities to overcome the challenges is to set out with a vision in the beginning: 'Okay, this is where we want to go and we can hang in there.' But, people come and go, leaders come and go, and we tend to think we were all here first.
On the subject of challenges and long range planning, we learned that retro accommodation of bike infrastructure is a bigger project than accommodating that infrastructure initially. Fortunately, as we come up with creative solutions to accommodate this infrastructure within existing transportation development, the community value on that infrastructure is so clear that bicycle friendly and multi-modal infrastructure is now integral with new development.
Our community certainly sees the many reasons cycling is important. It is an economic driver for tourism. One local realtor says 30% of his sales are based on where the trails are located. It is absolutely important for health and well-being. There are so many statistics about how bike-friendly communities are just more friendly communities in general: they care about the greater community.
Now that we've achieved Gold, Bicycle Friendly Durango is going to work hard to continue that forward momentum. Cycling advocacy will need to work together with city leaders to create that movement. There is no way to be effective in this BFC process without collaboration. Although, we are talking about Trails 2000 right now, it was truly the Bicycle Friendly Durango crew of Mary Oswald, Jenny Wrenn and others who made this absolutely a reality. I really want to thank our BFD crew for their hard work.
The idea of 'connecting' can only happen through these connections and collaborations."