Strategic county bike plan rolling toward wheel trail improvements

“One of the things we’ve found is that people aren’t riding linear,” Winn said. “They just want (paths) to work and be connected.”

AURORA | Currently getting around Aurora and the rest of Arapahoe County by bicycle or on foot may mean divergent paths, missing sidewalks or absent trails all together. But a proposal aims to remedy those transportation difficulties with a master plan that includes all municipalities and unicorporated parts in the 800-square miles of Arapahoe County.

Arapahoe County Open Spaces submitted its final Arapahoe County Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan for public comment after 18 months of data gathering, planning and public outreach.

The plan outlines a multitude of goals, policies and measures that identify a network of low-stress bicycling facilities. Projects included in the plan consist of joining trails together, creating regional routes, putting plans in place for future development and coordinating partnerships between municipalities.

Among the biggest barriers that hinder more use of a bicycle and pedestrian network are man-made, namely streets.

“These streets, including I-25, US 285, and Arapahoe Road, were designed solely for the efficient movement of vehicles and are either off limits or highly uncomfortable to cyclists and pedestrians,” according to the draft bike plan. “Crossing these wide, high-speed, and heavily-used roads also presents a challenge for non-motorized travel, resulting in a fragmented network of lower stress facilities lacking adequate connections.”

More than 500 individual projects are in the On-Street Bike and Trail Network portion of the plan. Another 100 projects are proposed to complete missing sidewalks, according to the proposal.

“The overarching goal is to connect what we have to what will be planned in the future and what’s missing,” said Ray Winn, the plan’s project manager.

Public comment on the final draft of the plan is open until Aug. 16, and so far there has been a lot of public support and excitement for the proposed projects in the plan, according to Winn.

“One of the things we’ve found is that people aren’t riding linear,” Winn said. “They just want (paths) to work and be connected.”

Aurora already has a bike and pedestrian master plan, so the Arapahoe projects are meant to bring together plans that do exist with potential and future needs.

“Many of these projects solidify all the work that (Aurora) has done,” Winn said. “We used a lot of data and analysis to come to the conclusion.”

A master plan is a requirement for an integrated trail system, said Tom Tobiassen of Bicycle Aurora.

“A master plan becomes somewhat of a legal document developers and builders can use when they’re doing their land-planning,” Tobiassen said. Tobiassen is a former RTD board member and currently seeking a seat on the Aurora City Council. “It’ll ensure there is consistency.”

Along with having a more integrated county-wide plan, expanding and planning for future bike and pedestrian development can positively impact the economy.

In 2016, walking and biking trails contributed $1.6 billion to Colorado’s economy via a laundry list of sources, according to one report on the economic benefits of biking and walking across the state. Statewide, trails also resulted in a benefit of $511 million from reduced mortality rates.

“A bike friendly city is important for a lot of young people,” Tobiassen said, adding that implementing more trails and offering more bicycle-friendly infrastructure is an important amenity to consider when planning the future of a growing community. 

When he was serving as an Aurora planning commissioner from 2004 to 2009, Tobiassen said he had bike projects in mind because he was so involved in the bike community, but not many other people did. So few planning projects came to fruition.

The Arapahoe County Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan was welcome news for Tobiassen and his group.

“I think it’s great,” he said. “When I first saw it was happening I was thrilled.”

Tobiassen also believes the plan is an indication the region is heading toward a more bike-friendly culture. 

Public comments can be made at www.arapahoebikeped.com until Aug. 16. The plan will be recommended for adoption by the Arapahoe County Planning Commission and the Board of County Commissioners.