[Bike Fort Collins Blog welcomes Sylvia Cranmer, long time cycling community leader and current chair of the Bicycle Advocacy Committee]
One of the great things about Fort Collins is that it offers opportunities for us average folks to have an impact and make a difference in our community. Fort Collins is on the crossroads of being a large town/small city, which keeps things cozy and manageable in terms of local involvement. Bicyclists in Fort Collins are realizing that they have a voice and can impact the decisions that make this place a safer and more enjoyable place to get around by bike. One group in particular has been influential in identifying problematic areas for bicyclists, and making suggestions to City staff for specific improvements to enhance our local bicycling experience. Bike Fort Collins (BFC) spearheaded the local RAT Rides, which are monthly group rides that bring bicyclists together to Ride Around Town (RAT) to identify and proactively promote improved riding conditions on Fort Collins streets and trails.
RAT Rides started a few years ago with members of BFC and likeminded local infrastructure enthusiasts. Occasionally members of city staff, consultants working with city staff, and even elected officials have joined the rides. According to BFC President Bruce Henderson, the first RAT ride developed out of various discussions regarding the Mason Corridor, and the riding conditions along that route. Various advocates in the bicycling community then proposed other areas they thought needed attention, and the concept blossomed and spread throughout town.
RAT Rides take place year-round, however, the schedules and routes change a bit at different times of the year. For example, during the street maintenance season (spring/summer/early fall), the monthly ride routes are planned according to the City’s street maintenance schedule. According to Henderson, “If we know there is
work planned for Shields next month, we’ll include that stretch of Shields in our next route. If they are doing asphalt overlays, it’s much easier for us to convince them to make a change in the bike lane striping at that point.”
Most rides have a common starting and ending destination, usually a pub or brewery where the group can debrief immediately following the ride. “These are advocacy rides – we are collecting comments on conditions during the ride that can be summarized afterwards. We do occasionally stop during the ride to talk and capture a few notes,” add Henderson. It’s also a great excuse for people to get out on the roads for an easy paced fun ride in a larger group, which typically makes everyone feel safer even on busier roads such as Riverside, Prospect or Horsetooth. The ride leader then formally documents the ride and sends the summary to whoever has jurisdiction over that particular area.
Interested in joining RAT Rides? During the summer the group meets on the second Thursday each month at 6:00 p.m.. The rides typically last 1 – 1 1/2 hours, averaging 10-12 mph – covering 10 miles or less. For more information, follow BFC on Facebook and watch for monthly ride announcements; sign up for the BFC newsletter by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org; or request to be added to the RAT Ride email list through email@example.com.
(Sylvia Cranmer is Chair of the City’s Bicycle Advisory Committee and a member of Bike Fort Collins.)