December Letter from the Executive Director – Looking Back and Planning Ahead


First of all, I want to apologize for missing our November newsletter.

As we mentioned in the newsletter, in October we said a fond farewell to our events/volunteers/marketing/communications/development/membership/advocacy/Bike Share genius Kelly McDonnell.  Kelly was truly the heart of Bike Fort Collins over the past few years. Especially since I stepped in, with an ambitious vision that included a lot more events, a broader focus, and an upfront acknowledgement that it was gonna be a lot of work for everyone.

Kelly McDonnell

Sadly for us, but fortunately for Kelly and for the city of Boise, Boise Bicycle Project stole her away from the Choice City to lead their development efforts. It’s hard to express how thrilled we are for Kelly and how profoundly we feel her loss. Missing the monthly newsletter deadlines is just the tip of the iceberg.

I’ve come to really enjoy sorting through the events and news of the month and trying to turn them into something useful to advance Bike Fort Collins’ goals and agenda. And I enjoy the feedback, and the reminder that it isn’t about promoting bikes, but about asking ourselves, and our supporters, and our community at large “how can bikes – and active transportation in general – support social, economic, and environmental sustainability in Northern Colorado?”

I started at BFC in late October of 2015. This past year has been an exercise in living outside my comfort zone. Even before joining BFC, I had a strong sense that transportation – and the way we build our cities and neighborhoods to facilitate transportation – has a profound impact on the character of our cities and the quality of our lives. Beyond just inspiring more active lifestyles, walkable and bikeable and transit oriented cities are economically vibrant cities. They are cities that put people first. Cities that concern themselves with the challenge of making it easier and safer for more kids to bike and walk to school are cities that raise generations of healthier, more community minded neighbors (and better drivers, too). Cities that make it easier to live actively make it easier for our families to age in place. A city is not healthy and safe and inclusive until it is healthy and safe and inclusive of everyone from age 8 to age 80, of every level of physical ability.

Fort Collins is in the early stages of an inevitable transition from Big Town to Small City, and with that transition comes anxiety and uncertainty. Our current practices and policies for how we build and move around are showing signs of strain: an affordability crisis, air quality problems, congestion, a surge in traffic fatalities in the county, and growing concerns about displacement and social segregation. This growth also comes with an opportunity to shape the values and character of our community for generations to come. And if history teaches us anything, we know it’s much more fruitful to plan for the future than to pine for the past.

In 2016, Bike Fort Collins continued its pioneering Safe Routes to School partnership with the City of Fort Collins, working with thousands of Poudre Schools students to encourage safe riding.

We made the leap from our old Bike Library into the world of Bike Share. After a strong inaugural year, we look forward to expanding the program and making it even more useful for local residents and guests.

We expanded our Bike Friendly Business Network to include social mixers and are asking questions like: how can we leverage the commitment and interest businesses have shown into policy and culture changes that support active transportation?

We launched the NoCo Bike Show – a monthly live talk show that brings bike riders of all varieties together to hear stories about people using bikes to transform Northern Colorado, from race stories, to new city projects, to tips on mountain biking while pregnant, and so much more.

We resurrected the legendary One Speed Open, took over as promoters of the Ride of Silence, created the Ride With Pride in conjunction with NoCo Pride, and hosted a bunch of fun social and informational events including our Pour Brothers Community Nights, Dinner & Bikes with Elly Blue of Bikenomics, The Wind in Our Hair women’s cycling documentary screening and filmmaker Q&A, Bikes & Biz Mixers, and a Wolverine Farm Pub Talk.

On the advocacy front, we were heavily influential during the 2017-2018 city budget process. Thanks to the efforts of BFC and our partners, the city continues to inch towards a more sustainable, equitable, and safer transportation system.   Funded enhancements for the next two years include Pedestrian/ADA enhancements, a Sunday Transfort pilot, the FC Bikes Low Stress Network, “All Kids Deserve Safe Routes,”  and the protected bike lane pilot among others.

We’ve also made significant inroads with Larimer County in our continued commitment to making safety and public health top priorities for future growth and current high activity areas for recreational cyclists.

Thanks to BFC’s Bike Friendly Business Development program, Fort Collins still leads the country in Bike Friendly Businesses, with 53 as of this post. Our business partnerships are critical to reaching our goals of getting more people on bikes, creating safer streets and neighborhoods, and supporting an inclusive, diverse bike culture that hears and represents the interests of an inclusive, diverse Northern Colorado.

Whats in store?

The great challenge of bike advocacy in a bike-friendly community like Fort Collins is the importance of challenging our notions of “bike culture” and who is served and, more importantly, who it leaves behind. Our platinum status as a bike-friendly city is a tremendous achievement, but it obscures deep disparities in access and mobility that our current growth trend will widen unless we prioritize equity and inclusion. As you’ve probably heard me say, if you heard me speak this year: no number of bike lanes will make our streets and neighborhoods safer and and more bike/ped friendly if our workforce can’t afford to live here and must drive further and further to get here.

In the near future we’ll be sharing details of a new BFC partnership that is near and dear to my heart. This partnership will allow us to make sure Fort Collins’ platinum bike-friendliness extends to everyone. All of our great programs and rides will keep growing, but we will regularly ask ourselves, and expect our members and partners to also ask us, themselves, and each other: how are our work, our programs, our events narrowing disparities in neighborhood safety, health, and opportunity?

We’ll keep working with the city and the county to introduce policies that steer us toward safe and sustainable streets and neighborhoods. We’ll keep working with our partners in business, human services, transportation, and clean energy to develop a coalition committed to economic, social, and environmental sustainability and justice. And we’ll keep working with our state and federal legislators to craft laws that respond to the threats to safe streets, and reward individuals, businesses, and cities for supporting sustainable transportation.

When possible, we will continue to prioritize keeping our programs and events free to attend, ride, read, so that they benefit the whole of the community.

In the meantime, the end of the year means it’s time to earnestly and humbly ask for your support and your feedback.

In this month’s newsletter you’ll find a link to a survey where you can let us know what your priorities are going forward.   What would you like to see us prioritize in 2017 and beyond?

You’ll also find a donation link. We run a pretty lean ship at BFC. This allows us to operate independently and speak freely. It allows us to respond quickly to new opportunities and challenges. But we still need your help. If you’re weighing your year-end giving options, know that BFC will stretch your contribution a long way. A contribution to BFC supports safety, health, climate change action, social sustainability, and economic vitality of NoCo. Your gift will go straight to programming and our hardworking staff who are committed to a vision of a safer, active Northern Colorado for everyone.

This has been an incredibly challenging and satisfying year for me and a big year for Bike Fort Collins. We’re so excited to keep moving forward and hope you’ll stay tuned as we have some big announcements coming up.