Commuting by bike gains speed in Boulder, Colo. - and elsewhere

In 1980 Dan Creedon decided to take up bicycling after 22 years away from the sport. The venture proved a success, because today you canspot him riding almost anywhere in this city of 80,000 nestled on the Rocky Mountains' eastern slope.

Mr. Creedon, who pedals two miles to his newspaper job and back daily, is just one of an ever-growing number nationwide who are bicycling to work, changing the complexion of transportation in some areas of the country. Bruce Wilkinson, deputy director of the Bicycle Federation in Washington, D.C., estimates that 1 1/2 million to 2 million people commute by bicycle nationwide, up some threefold from the mid-70s.

''We are constantly trying to encourage bicycling as an alternative to cars, '' says Sandy McCarthy, Boulder's bicycle coordinator and a transportation specialist. ''Boulder has had a bicycle plan since 1976, and I've heard there is one bicycle for every two people here - and I'd bet that's not so far from the truth.''

Boulder, which has been dubbed the cycling mecca of the country, has 43.4 miles of bike paths and the climate (much of the year) and topography to encourage bicycle commuting. It also is the site of the Coors International Bicycle Classic, America's premier international cycling competition. Even in bitter cold or the high snows you'll find a surprising number of cyclists on Boulder's streets.

''If this wasn't Boulder, I might not have started bicycling again,'' Creedon said. ''The first morning I went out at 6 a.m. because I was afraid I might fall off. It was like when Mom and Dad took the training wheels off your bike and pushed you down the street and said, 'You're on your own.' ''

Initially he rode just to get the exercise, but now, he says, he is hooked on the sport and finds it hard not to ride.

''I commute two miles to work, but I then take a five- to six-mile loop every day,'' Creedon said. ''I enjoy it. I'm losing myself and relaxing when I'm out there on my bike.''

Some companies and corporations are getting in on the bicycle craze by offering flextime and providing showers to make commuting by bicycle even more practical. Ball Brothers, an aerospace company in Boulder, for instance, installed showers five years ago and has plenty of bike racks for its 1,200 employees.

''Right now we probably have 30 to 50 people who bike to work, depending on the weather,'' said Steve Varlese, a member of Ball Brothers' informal bicycling club. ''In the summertime I bet we have three times that many. We've always had people riding to work, but it's really picked up in the last three years or so. And it's everybody, not just the young ones. One guy rides his old Schwinn clunker with a three-piece suit on.''

Mr. Varlese sometimes commutes 13 miles one way on his bicycle and knows a colleague who cycles from Littleton, a suburb of Denver, about 40 miles away. Workers often get together on lunch breaks and go for a 20-mile bike ride.

The City of Boulder, McCarthy said, has a special cage for commuters to keep their bikes, and there are extra bikes, helmets, and locks for any employees who wish to run errands on bicycles or take a recreational ride during their break.

Bicycling, of course, also has its disadvantages. Boulder police reported 112 accidents in 1982 and 113 in 1983 involving bicycles and automobiles.

Creedon's lone accident was last year when his bike slid on the ice in the parking lot of the newspaper where he works.

''I smashed up my glasses on the ice and wrecked my shoulder, but I got back on the bike,'' he said. ''You have to be aware of traffic regulations and in tune with the motorists. And, there's a lot of junk on the roads, but I think it's safer than running and much more than driving.''

Last May, Boulder was one of 10 cities to promote a national Bike to Work Day , sponsored by the Bicycle Federation. The Boulder bicycle program annually sponsors a bicycle awareness week or month. The program has a burgeoning construction budget for adding bike lanes to local roads. The budget has risen from $100,000 in 1982 to a projected $150,000 for 1985.

''This city has been willing to commit the funds to bicycling,'' Ms.McCarthy said.

The bicycle plan, drawn up in 1976 by consultants, city staff members, and a citizens' advisory committee, was incorporated into the city's comprehensive plan in 1976.

Boulder isn't alone in its enthusiasm for cycling. Municipal governments in other areas are getting behind bicyle commuting because it helps decrease traffic congestion and noise, reduces highway loads, improves air quality, reduces fuel consumption, and can improve the efficiency of existing transportation systems.

Deputy director Wilkinson says that the City of Seattle is very interested in incorporating bicycling into its transportation system. And the state of Florida , he says, is working on a comprehensive bicycle plan.

The Denver Regional Council of Governments estimated that there were 660,000 cyclists in the Denver area in 1978, a figure that is expected to mushroom to 1, 006,524 by 1985. In 1979, the DRCOG Transportation Services Division launched a project to encourage greater use of bicycles for commuter and other utilitarian trips. Bike routes and trails, bike racks, and roadway shoulder maintenance have been constructed, and public bicycle education programs have been instituted.

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