The best routes to get downtown by bicycle


TdF

There’s a lot going on downtown during the summer. Carpooling to Old Town can be a smart way to go. But for some events, like New West Fest, parking spots are in very short supply. At times like that you’ll definitely want to travel by bike or bus instead (or both!).

If you’re an occasional cyclist, you might not have a good route in mind that will get you, and your kids, safely and comfortably into the downtown area. So I’m going to outline a few suggested routes to travel.

Fort Collins is longer than it is wide, so the most important routes to know head north-south. Three key bike-friendly ways to travel in the north-south direction are the Mason Trail, the Remington Bikeway, and the Power Trail. (I’ll give some tips for each one below.) In order to reach one of these three, you’ll most likely need a good east-west route that will connect up with one of these. I’ll include some suggestions for connecting routes as well.


The Mason Trail

The Mason Trail is the red/orange line at center. At the north end the dotted line shows where the trail has ended and Mason Street completes the route to downtown. (Other bike routes are shown in yellow. Some aren't completed yet.)

The Mason Trail is the red/orange line at center. At the north end the dotted line shows where the trail has ended and Mason Street completes the route to downtown. (Other bike routes are shown in yellow. Some aren’t completed yet.)

Because the Mason Trail parallels the MAX line, it’s probably received the most attention in the newspaper, so it’s the route you might be most familiar with. It’s a comfortable trail that connects Laurel just north of campus to the Fossil Creek Trail on the south end of town. But the comfort level drops off once you’re on Mason north of Laurel. (Recent restriping of the lanes has made it a bit better, but there’s still a lot of work to be done on Mason Street.) And the intersections including and between Prospect and Harmony can be frustrating (when it takes forever to get a crossing light) and sometimes dangerous (there have been multiple accidents between bikes and cars at the Harmony crossing).

I have traveled this route many times and, as long as you’re alert at intersections (even when you have the crossing signal) you’ll be fine. There are a few concerns once you hit Mason Street, but they’re not insurmountable. You can read more about them in this Pedal Fort Collins post: Tomorrow’s Mason Street.

But if you’re traveling with kids, you might want to try traveling along the Remington Bikeway instead. Or, if you feel comfortable on the trail portion of Mason but not the street section, there are two good options. You can turn east onto the Spring Creek Trail, cross under College, then take Remington north. Or stay on the Mason Trail until you reach campus, then watch for signs that point toward the University Center for the Arts (the old Fort Collins High School building, by the flower gardens). If you pass the new parking structure, you’ve gone too far. Once you pop out at the flower gardens, carefully cross Remington and continue north.


The Remington Bikeway

The Remington Bikeway

The Remington Bikeway

The Remington Bikeway is not just on Remington street. It includes a series of streets that approach downtown from both the north and south. It uses side streets to safely and comfortably get cyclists through the center of town. Despite the fact that it is made up entirely of surface streets (no bike trails), I feel much more comfortable riding through these quiet neighborhoods than I do on the Mason trail where the intersections seem more hectic and busy. And once you reach the downtown area, Remington is far and away the more comfortable street between it and Mason.

Remington’s main fault is that it’s made up of a bunch of different streets. Unlike the Mason Trail which is pretty much a straight line, Remington has more turns, more connections, and more ways to get lost. (If you get lost easily, take Mason. If you’re good at watching for road signs, you’ll do fine on Remington.)

Also, be aware that at the intersection of Laurel and Remington is one of the smallest little roundabouts you’ve ever seen. When you reach that point you can either exit the bike lane and take the sidewalk. Or, if you choose to stay in the street, then be sure to ride in the center of the lane while you’re in the roundabout. This will keep cars from coming up on your left side, then turning right to exit the roundabout and running you over.

 

 

 

Some of the signs are smaller and easy to miss if you're not watching for them.

Some of the signs are smaller and easy to miss if you’re not watching for them.

Many signs include information on nearby bikeways or trails as well as public parks, schools, and other places of interest.

Many signs include information on nearby bikeways or trails as well as public parks, schools, and other places of interest.

 

If you live north of Old Town, Remington trail might also be the best route for you. The northernmost end of this bikeway is at the intersection of Willox and Redwood, near the Redwing Marsh Natural Area.

If you’d like to learn more about the Remington Bikeway, check out this Pedal Fort Collins article: The Remington Bikeway. And if you’d like to know more about traveling through a roundabout safely while you’re on a bike, check out How to Travel Through a Roundabout.


 The Power Trail

The Power Trail is shown here in red/orange.

The Power Trail is shown here in red/orange.

The last main north-south route that I’m recommending is the Power Trail, mostly because it’s easily accessible for many folks on the southeast side of town. It ends at EPIC, so you’ll want to either head west on Stuart, or travel a bit further until you hit the Spring Creek Trail. Either way, watch for signs indicating when to turn right/north to follow the Remington Trail.


Dunbar & Centre

 

The Dunbar Bikeway

The Dunbar Bikeway

The Centre Bikeway

The Centre Bikeway

There are two more north-south bikeways that you could use, but I don’t think signs have been put up along these routes yet, which means that unless you take a map with you that outlines the route, you might lose your way. (Believe me, I’ve tried it. I made it north, but I think I spent more time off the bikeway than on it.) Here are some maps if you’d like to give it a go.

 

 

 

 

 


 East-West Options

The best east-west options are trails. The Poudre Trail travels from the northwest to the southeast and is very comfortable. The Spring Creek Trail travels from the Southwest to the northeast and is also quite a lovely ride. If you’re able to hit either of these, then Yahoo! If you need a few other ideas, though, I’d recommend the Swallow Bikeway.

The Swallow Bikeway

The Swallow Bikeway – It does have signs and it’s a very comfortable ride. (With the exception of the bit between Mason and College. Neither of those crossings are particularly fun.)

The Pitkin Bikeway

The Pitkin Bikeway – There’s also the Pitkin Bikeway. There are still some improvements that need to be made along this route, but most of it is pretty comfortable to ride.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Cross train and trolley tracks at a right angle.

If you’re heading downtown from the west and you take Laporte to Mountain, be careful on the trolley tracks. As best as possible, try to swerve a little to the left right before you hit them, then turn right so that you cross them at a right angle.

Don’t forget to bring a sturdy U-lock with you when you head downtown. Even though Fort Collins is still a pretty safe town, bike thefts are certainly not unheard of. And be sure to bring a water bottle along. It’s important to stay hydrated while you’re out and about on your bicycle. Most downtown events include water stations where you can refill your bottle before your return trip home.

Most of all, have fun not only at the downtown event, but enjoy the ride there and back again!


All maps are from the Fort Collins Bicycle Wayfinding Network Master Plan. Some have been slightly altered to emphasize one route over another.


Meg is the author of PedalFortCollins.com, a local transportation blog that’s part of the Scoop Blog Network. She’s an active member of Bike Fort Collins and the Fort Collins Coalition for Infrastructure and she is frequently involved in transportation and urban planning events hosted by the City of Fort Collins. You can reach her at meg@pedalfortcollins.com.