Sustainable means Affordable


Over the last couple of months, in my “Letter from the ED” I’ve leaned pretty heavily on a couple of surprising statistics about the relationship between public safety and city planning.

The first, in my September letter, was a traffic fatality study by the National Safety Council that connected the sharp increase in traffic fatalities in the US over the past few years with an increase in the total miles traveled by private vehicles (VMT).  The study concluded that the primary culprits in increasing VMT (and therefore in the fatality rate) are a) inadequate public transit options and b) lack of affordable housing near job centers, forcing  more and more of the workforce to live further from jobs.

The second, even more troubling report, was in my letter from October, stated bluntly that rural Americans are more likely to die a violent death than urbanites.  Why?  because traffic crashes are a greater public safety threat than violent crime- by a significant amount, it turns out.

Let’s add to that another interesting and probably surprising fact about housing.  An article from CityLab in 2013 that relies heavily on EPA studies concluded that conventional building in an urban transit oriented setting is more sustainable than green building in low density suburban settings.  Green sprawl is still sprawl, in other words.

Transportation accounts for nearly a third of greenhouse gas emissions and that number is growing steadily, aligned, like traffic safety, with VMT.  It’s also true that the cost of owning and maintaining private vehicles is a disproportionate burden on low income residents even before you factor in the fact that affordability increasingly requires longer commutes.

As a city and a region, our commitment to affordable housing is paltry.  And without a serious course correction, we are facing an unsustainable future of increased sprawl,  pollution, congestion, and social segregation.

With this in mind, it seems to me imperative to support any effort to create neighborhoods that integrate affordable housing, especially those that do so in a way that encourages more responsible, medium density land use and provide incentives and proximity to sustainable transportation networks.

The Fort Collins Housing Authority has been the driving force for affordable housing in Fort Collins.  Serving thousands of residents by offering housing choice vouchers, public housing, individual rooms, and affordable housing projects.  The proposed Village at Horsetooth is one such affordable housing project.

At a recent public hearing, the Horsetooth project faced vocal opposition from a small group of neighbors citing unfounded concerns about property values and, most egregiously and deplorably, decrying the supposedly negative impact of poor kids on neighborhood schools.  Students “from non-professional households (in a classroom) bring… down the expectations of excellence,” according to one neighbor.

We believe, strongly, that there is no path to a people-first, age-friendly, bike-safe future for Fort Collins that does not include a strong commitment to affordable, inclusive, transit oriented neighborhoods, and we believe that the Village on Horsetooth  advances this goal admirably.  To that end, we will be in attendance at the project’s Planning & Zoning hearing on October 13th at 6PM at City Hall, to support this and all efforts at building a sustainable, inclusive and affordable future.

If you’re interested in joining us, below are some specific talking points provided by the FCHA. If you have questions or concerns, drop me a note at   If you are unable to join us but want to show your support, send your letter to

I hope to see you Thursday.

Chris J Johnson

Executive Director

Bike Fort Collins

The Purpose & Need for this Project

  • Affordable housing is a significant issue in our community.
  • There is an acute need for more affordable rentals.  Long term rentals are scarce and affordable options are extremely limited.
  • The damage and destruction of homes caused by recent years of fires and floods, combined with an already strained rental market and high home prices, has caused serious problems for the Fort Collins area.
  • The Village on Horsetooth will address this critical need with 96 new units of affordable rental housing.


Well-Planned Community

  • This housing community fits well with the City’s plans, policies and zoning regulations.
  • It includes a combination of 1, 2, 3 and 4 bedroom apartments with a large community green space with walking paths, clubhouse, playground, and an enclosed dog run.
  • It is the first community in Fort Collins to be designed in conjunction with the Safe Routes to Schools program.


  • The LMN Zoning allows for multi-family housing, and the proposed 12 units/acre development complies with the density standards.
  • The site is located within a healthy and stable neighborhood with schools, parks, retail, and services nearby.
  • Regular bus service is less than one block away.

Building Design

  • This is a high quality project that fits in well with the surrounding area.
  • Building scale, height, and density are compatible with the neighborhood.
  • The architecture reflects a traditional community with attractive amenities and features.

Affordable Housing for Lower-Income Residents

  • The Village on Horsetooth will provide mixed-income, affordable housing.
  • 100% of the units will be affordable to residents earning 60% of AMI ($46,920 for a 4-person household) or less.

Community Process

  • FCHA has exceeded the City’s requirements for community involvement.
  • FCHA reached out to neighbors well beyond the required notification area of 800 feet, electing to extend notification to nearly 3,000 feet for all meetings. This area included over 1,000 properties.
  • FCHA hosted a Neighborhood Meeting early in the process to gather feedback for the site layout and design.
  • They held a second meeting after incorporating community feedback into the design. FCHA made more than 12 revisions to the development based on neighborhood input.
  • The process has been transparent, inclusive and successful.


Fort Collins Housing Authority

  • FCHA will create a high-quality community, manage a well-run property, and keep their promise of supporting strong, safe neighborhoods.
  • FCHA is a responsible and reputable property owner and manager.
  • They manage more than 1,000 housing units in Fort Collins and have won awards for their excellence in design and sustainability.


October Letter from the ED – We Bike, We Walk, We Vote


townhall2015I first got directly involved with Bike Fort Collins a little over a year ago, when, after a series of senseless, heartbreaking deaths of Northern Colorado cyclists on local roads, BFC reached out to me to help lead an emergency bike safety town hall.  In attendance were council members, traffic engineers, county road engineers, state patrol, the sheriff’s office, state senators and over 200 concerned bike riders of all backgrounds. It was heartening to see so many people, especially influential civic leaders, empowered to make changes and taking this challenge seriously.

Subsequently, I came aboard to lead BFC and make sure that we followed through on the promise of that town hall. That we continued to rally every stakeholder in NoCo to prioritize what I called at the time a public health and safety crisis.

From my first day, I was honored to be entrusted with a chance to lead this critical charge. And from my first day, I knew that sooner or later, the day would come when I would find myself arranging a vigil ride and ghost bike dedication for another Northern Colorado cyclist.

September 20th, 2016

Jason Holden

Berthoud resident Jason Holden was descending CR 8E near Carter Lake when it appears he was clipped by a passing SUV. It knocked him off of his bike and into oncoming traffic.  He was struck and killed by a driver who stopped and called the police. The SUV left the scene and is still being sought by investigators.

On October 1st, with Jason’s friends and family, Bike Fort Collins organized another vigil, and another ghost bike dedication, for another cyclist killed on Larimer County roads.

Two weeks removed from this tragedy, there are still more questions than answers. But what we do know sounds disturbingly familiar.




Jason Holden Ghost Bike Dedication, October 1 CR 8E near Carter Lake

Like Steve Studt, Ernesto Weidenbrug, and Cesar Palermo, Jason Holden appears to have been riding within his legal rights.

Like Ernesto Weidenbrug, the driver fled the scene, leaving Jason to die. Ernesto’s killer did eventually turn herself in, while Jason’s killer hasn’t been found as of this writing.

Like Steve Studt, Jason was killed by a driver who tried to pass under unsafe circumstances. Studt’s killer passed on a bridge with inadequate visibility. When an oncoming car came into view, the driver swerved back into Studt’s lane, knocking him off of his bike and running him over. Jason’s killer passed him on a fast narrow downhill stretch.

Knowing that stretch well, it seems likely to me that Jason was traveling at or near the speed limit. Knowing that he was a skilled, experienced cyclist, it’s likely he was positioned defensively in the lane, to keep a driver from trying to unsafely squeeze past him. Apparently, it wasn’t enough.













Is it alarmist to call traffic violence a crisis?

I don’t think so. Nationally, 35,000 people were killed in traffic violence in 2015 (a 7.2 percent increase).  Projections for 2016 are significantly worse.


For comparison, the national murder rate was 15,000 in 2015 (the lowest rate since 1966).

According to Larimer County’s own traffic safety reports, our roads see twice as many annual fatalities as the state and national averages. And according to the Larimer County Coroner’s Office, 2015 saw 39 traffic related fatalities (one quarter of all accidental deaths), compared to 7 homicides.

This disparity leads to a statistic that some people will find shocking:  Rural Americans are considerably more likely to die a violent death than urbanites.

Indeed, in our misguided fear of urban crime and pollution, too many Americans have gravitated towards very low density rural communities, which require tremendous infrastructure, generate tremendous pollution, and exact a very heavy toll on public health and safety. As a result, too much of our public spending goes into subsidizing and preserving comfort and convenience for an already resource-intensive cohort. And safety and mobility for ALL people in Larimer County takes a backseat to speed and efficiency of automobile drivers.

Now What?

It should be clear then that the challenge here, that the real obstacle to safer, healthier streets and neighborhoods, is bigger than helmets and bike lanes. We, all of us, need to admit that traffic violence is a singular threat to health and safety in Northern Colorado. Token education campaigns and better signage and pointing fingers at impaired or distracted drivers or rude cyclists isn’t going to turn the tides without a top to bottom appreciation of our collective accountability for this crisis, and our role in solving it. This is a crisis that deserves a reappraisal of our budget and policy priorities, not just for transportation, but for land use and zoning, public health, development and law enforcement priorities and training. This is a crisis that demands we ask: how can we expect drivers to respect vulnerable users when our roads don’t?


In Larimer County

There are many questions about what needs to change at the city, county and state levels. Bike Fort Collins has our priorities.  We want to hear yours, and we want to hear from our elected leaders too. Over the next month, between now and election day, we need your help.  What transportation, safety, development, law enforcement,  and infrastructure related questions do you want to pose to candidates for the Larimer County Board of Commissioners?  Click HERE to add your questions to our list.


transfort-postcard-2In Fort Collins

If you live in Fort Collins, there is still time to engage with your city council member on the importance of supporting budget offers that promote sustainable transportation. Bike Fort Collins is asking council to fund 3 offers that are currently in danger of not being funded:

67:11 – Sunday Transfort Service would help Fort Collins keep pace with peer cities in providing year round, affordable mobility to all residents.

3.12 – FC Walks would create a staff position in the city transportation planning department to promote programs and planning that encourages and enables pedestrian access and safety.

3.22 FC Bikes Enhancement would allow FC Bikes to continue to offer its current lever of programming as some grant funding expires.  Among FC Bikes great programs are Bike to Work Day, the Bike Ambassador Program, Open Streets, Bike Friendly Driver program and more. In Fort Collins, bike crash numbers have dropped over the past two years, FC Bikes great programming and education clearly contributes to that trend an deserves ongoing support.

If you’d like to ask your council member to support these offers, write them by November 1 at (be sure to include your street address) and let them know you support sustainable transportation.


In Loveland

CanDo Loveland and the Citizens Task Force for Biking and Walking strongly believe the City of Loveland should include the following priorities and infrastructure in its upcoming budget:
  • Add more bike racks and designated bike parking throughout town
  • Add a recreational path along BNSF, as identified in the bike and pedestrian master plan
  • Add more wayfinding throughout town (along recreational paths, to downtown, to identify popular and safe bike routes)
  • Widen and improve N. Boyd Lake, as identified in the bike and pedestrian master plan
  • Link downtown through a connection at Fairgrounds Park
  • Add a connection from the north side of town into downtown
  • A dedicated staff member for implementation and coordination of bike and pedestrian infrastructure and projects within the City of Loveland, such as a bike and pedestrian coordinator
Implementation of the City of Loveland bike and pedestrian master plan is integral to the safety of all users of the transportation network in Loveland. CTF has focused on increasing safety through engineering, infrastructure improvements and coordination of projects, as shown through the prioritization of projects and policies that are listed above.
Please contact your Loveland City Council member and urge them to support bike and pedestrian capital improvement projects as part of the 2017 Budget.
Don’t know who your Council member is?
  1. Find your City Council member here by typing in your address, hitting “Submit”, and then clicking “Create Report”.
  2. Create an email using the language (in red) between the asterisks above and anything else you would like to add. Click here for additional information and resources.
  3. Send it to your City Councilmember!

If you need further assistance, contact Kelly Haworth.

In Closing

Growth and affordability concerns make the future of Northern Colorado uncertain. We have a spectrum of outcomes.  On one hand is a compounding of sprawl and its attendant health and safety threats, along with congestion and pollution and consumption of natural areas and resources and social segregation.

On the other hand we have an opportunity to change the way we plan and build communities and cities and regions that put people first, that build complete streets, that use land responsibly, that invest in shared and sustainable mobility to curb our costly and deadly dependence on private automobiles. In short, we can build a region whose form and policies and governance prioritize safety and community over speed and convenience, and where that commitment sets an example to guide our growth.

If you’ve read this far, I imagine its because you agree that something has to change. That, like me, you’re looking forward to putting ghost bikes and vigil rides behind us. I don’t think we can honestly say that as a region, we’re on that course. But together, with one voice, we can demand that change.

Lets start now.

Chris J. Johnson

Executive Director

Bike Fort Collins