University research shows it's a safe day to be out on your bicycle

Chris Casey
University Communications
June 27, 2012

Bike to Work Day participant Kristen Cochran enjoys the breakfast station at Auraria Commons

By Chris Casey | University Communications

DENVER and AURORA, Colo. – Zack Strober, an employee of the University of Colorado Denver | Anschutz Medical Campus, pedaled his usual commute route along the Cherry Creek Trail on Wednesday morning.

It was a little different, though, because there were a LOT more two-wheelers than normal on the creekside path. “It’s fun to see,” Strober said of the Bike to Work Day crowd. “It’s definitely five or six times heavier than I see on an average morning.”

Despite the heat wave, hundreds of university folks strapped on their helmets and rode en masse for the annual event that encourages people to commute by bicycle. Breakfast stations were set up across the state for the cyclists, including at the Auraria Commons and in front of Building 500 at Anschutz Medical Campus.

Scenes from Bike to Work Day:

Strober, event coordinator in the Office of Outreach and Events, typically rides the five miles from home to his office at the Lawrence Street Center two or three times a week during summer. “It’s definitely a nice ride in the morning,” he said. “In the afternoon, I get kind of hot and sweaty, but I’m home, so it doesn’t matter.”

Cyclists enjoyed breakfast burritos, bagels, fruit, juice, coffee and other goodies at the breakfast stations. The Auraria Commons station was a joint effort of CU Denver, Metro State College and Community College of Denver, with Campus Recreation at Auraria staffing bike tune-up stations. The station at Building 500 was a team effort of Anschutz Medical Campus, University of Colorado Hospital and Children’s Hospital Colorado.

“I think we have a few more students attending this year’s event than in the past,” said Joe Halter, MS, assistant director of the Office of Student Life. Halter said Bike to Work Day had 50 CU Denver registrants this year compared to about 20 last year. In previous years, the Auraria breakfast station was held on the patio of the Physical Education building.

At Anschutz Medical Campus, about 400 cyclists participated, including 273 sign-ups from the university. More than 15 vendors participated, including representatives from the university and private firms, such as Collegiate Bank, Aurora Fox Theatre, and Dick’s Sporting Goods, the latter of which provided tune-ups and tire checks.

Kristen Cochran rolled into the Auraria Commons station at 8 a.m., enjoying her first Bike to Work Day. The CU Denver senior took the RTD bus from her home in Broomfield, then rode her bike from Market Street Station.

Asked if she’d consider riding her bike more often, she said, “Yeah, why not? Whether you’re into the eco side of it or the exercise part, you can’t really argue with it.”

Research shows event is a safe day to be on a bicycle

And what about the safety aspect of all those riders? Research conducted by Krista Nordback, PE, a PhD candidate in the CU Denver Center for Sustainable Infrastructure Systems, Department of Civil Engineering, shows that Bike to Work Day is a safe day to be on your bike.

“In our research we cannot show causation; we just know this is a phenomenon: There are fewer collisions per cyclist when there are more cyclists on the road,” Nordback said. “So today might be one of the safer days to bicycle.”

Her research shows that cyclist numbers spike for Bike to Work Day, but then return to normal the next day. Her team at CU Denver, the Active Communities Transportation Research Group, is continuing its research to answer the question: Why don’t more Bike to Work Day participants bike on other days of the year? The group is partnering with the Denver Regional Council of Governments — which organized Wednesday’s activities in the metro area — to refine and/or add questions to DRCOG’s random survey of Bike to Work Day participants.

Nordback’s dissertation, “Estimating Annual Average Daily Bicyclists and Analyzing Cyclist Safety at Urban Intersections,” will be available to the public at the end of summer. She recently won the Institute of Transportation Engineers Colorado-Wyoming Section Best Annual Meeting Paper Award for Graduate Students for her paper, “The Impact of Bike to Work Day on Traffic Counts.”

(Photo: Bike to Work Day participant and CU Denver student Kristen Cochran enjoys the breakfast station at Auraria Commons on the morning of June 27.)


Written by Chris Casey

Chris Casey is content manager for University Communications. A writer with over 20 years of experience at newspapers in Colorado, Minnesota and Oregon, he produces content for the CU Denver Today and CU Anschutz Today websites and newsletters. He welcomes your story ideas.

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