Commuter Story: Boulder Hybrid Journey

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This story from Greg of Boulder, Colorado…

When we moved to Colorado, my first thought was, “Look at all these lunatics riding their bikes in the snow!” Then I started working with people who owned MORE THAN ONE bike and paid more for a bike than I thought possible to spend on one. Slowly, the collective bike consciousness started to work on my psyche. I bought a dept store “ATB” and a Bell hard shell helmet. I eventually “upgraded” the steel parts for used aluminum parts (a large used parts market being one of the benefits of living in Boulder) and reduced the weight from 47 lbs to 32 lbs. I started venturing out in the cold, gradually accumulating the necessary winter coverings, safety eqpt and maintenance items. After a few years I’d become one of the lunatics I had sworn at when we first moved here.

Like many folks, I live in one community & work several communities away. It’s too far for me to bike the entire way (93 miles, round trip), so I put my bike in the car and bike part way. Because my bike is not commuter-friendly (no rack attachments & no room for fenders), I usually only ride from March thru September when the weather’s good (above freezing, & 30% or less chance of rain). I don’t get to ride as often as I did when I lived and worked in the same community, but it’s better than not bike commuting at all. Right now I’m averaging about two times a week. I’ll ride more when we get out of springtime and the weather stabilizes a bit. I hope to build up a good commuter this summer so that I don’t have to watch the weather reports so closely.

I’ve done a few calculations and the numbers came out like this:

  1. Since I bike on surface streets rather than freeways, I can take a more direct path to work when I combine biking with driving. I end up saving 50 miles of driving each time I add biking.
  2. Even though driving on surface streets lowers my gas mileage, I only drive 42 of the 93 miles I’d normally drive. This means I get approximately 62 mpg to cover the same distance to work. I’ve become my own hybrid vehicle!
  3. Even though driving on surface streets is slower to cover the same distance, I only drive for 1/2 hour instead of an hour. I then bike for an hour, which only adds an extra 1/2 hour each way but gives me the benefit of two hours of exercise.

When I started bike commuting, we only owned one car for ten years. Although I can reduce my car operational & maintenance costs by adding cycling as part of my commute, it’s not enough to also lower my insurance to “recreational” status. The last time I worked in the same community as where I live, I was riding the entire way to work year-round. I only put 4,000 miles/year on my car and my insurance company lowered my rates.

As a bonus for me this year, the local paper ran a short Earth Day Tips story on my combo commute:

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0 thoughts on “Commuter Story: Boulder Hybrid Journey”

  1. Hak says:

    Great story. I’m trying to work out the logistics of commuting to work before the summer temps in Las Vegas hit the triple digits. I’m intrigued by the hybrid idea of driving part way as that would get me across a particularly nasty freeway overpass that has zero shoulder.

    Out of curiosity, where do you park your car and do you feel it’s safe?


  2. Fritz says:

    Denver/Boulder area has a lot of park-and-ride lots and garages. There are sometimes problems with breakins but the park-and-ride lots are very heavily used.

  3. Fritz says:

    FYI, Tim, the Reporter-Herald link isn’t working. The only “Reporter-Herald” I know of along the Colorado Front Range is in Loveland, CO, which is usually identified with Fort Collins, not Boulder. I guess Greg probably commutes to Boulder from Loveland?

  4. John says:

    I also am a “hybrid commuter”, driving 30 miles to a local mall, and riding the remaining 11 to the office.

    BTW my son Keith recently moved to Loveland, into a very new commutiny there. Having visited myself, it looks like a small enough place where you two may know each other. He is the one always wearing a Red Sox cap.

  5. Greg says:

    Hak, I try to park in areas that I feel are least likely to see bored teens messing with strangers’ cars. At first I asked a co-worker if I could park in her neighborhood. It was a quiet development & had designated parking pull-outs so I wouldn’t be “on the street.” When I lengthened my bike segment, I called a local church & asked the maintenance supervisor if I could park in their lot a few days out of the week. I explained what I was doing, & he welcomed me to park there as often as I’d like. Now that my route has changed (new job), I’m parking in a business’ lot. I wasn’t planning on doing that, but I started telling the salesman what I was looking to do & he just offered his lot as my parking location.

    Fritz, yes, I’m driving from Loveland to Longmont, then biking from Longmont to Broomfield. We did live in Boulder for 10 yrs & I’ve worked in Boulder for most of the 9 yrs we’ve lived in Loveland. When I started doing this hybrid commute I was driving to Longmont & then biking to Boulder. I’m not that comfortable using Park & Rides simply because of the vandalism they see. It’s moot for me right now anyway, ‘cuz the closest P&R to my route is always full by the time I get to it in the morning. I’m not sure what route I’m going to take when I do the full commute from Loveland to Broomfield. Longmont doesn’t have any good N-S corridors that I know of. Any suggestions?

    John, I’m glad to hear there are other hybrid riders! What area of the country are you riding in? Unfortunately, I don’t know any Keiths in Loveland. Does he ride? The local hospital (McKee Medical Center) has a one day fund raising ride in May, the Community Classic Bike Tour. Since the hospital’s management (Banner Health) underwrites all the costs of this supported ride, 100% of the fees go to the Children’s Trauma Unit. Tell him it’s a great excuse for a fantastic breakfast! Fees go up $10 after April 30th.

  6. John says:

    Greg: My commute is in Taunton Ma. which is 35 miles south of Boston. I have a photo journal of my commute HERE.

    Keith is the executive director of This place in Loveland. But just got a new position and will be moving back to “the bubble”. He is a single track biker and also a telemark skiier. Naturally every weekend he is off to the mountains.

  7. Fritz says:

    Greg, the main N-S road used by Longmont cyclists is Collyer Street, which is a couple of blocks east of 287. You can park at the Super Wal-Mart on the north end of Longmont, cross Hwy 66 at the light out of Wal-Mart parking lot, get on the sidewalk and cross to Collyer. Google Maps shows Collyer connecting to 66, but the city closed that off when local residents expressed concern about cut-through traffic to Wal-Mart.

    At the south end of town, Collyer crosses 3rd Ave and then you’re in the Longmont Foods “Fun Zone.’ During the morning commute, you get to share 2nd Avenue with trucks hauling turkeys from Weld County into Longmont. Sometimes you get to share the road with escaped turkeys. Personally, I like to get onto 287 from 3rd Ave and catch that nice long downhill there. 3rd Avenue defines the south end of Longmont’s downtown area.

    At 2nd you’re at the south end of Longmont and US 287 is nice and wide. Just watch for turning traffic onto Ken Pratt and Pike Road. Beyond Pike you have marked shoulders almost the entire way to Broomfield.

    Another option might be to park in the Lowe’s parking lot on Ken Pratt at the south side of Longmont.

    Go visit Bicycle Longmont for more cycling resources in Longmont. Longmont has an active and very effective advocacy organization. Bicycle Longmont and its two LCIs work with the city and the St. Vrain school district for cycling programs. LCI Buzz Feldman, owner of High Gear Cyclery in Longmont, received the ” Bicyclist Lifetime Achievement” award during Bicycle Colorado’s annual gala in Denver last Friday night.

  8. Greg says:

    John, nice ride pics! I should do something like that….
    It’s been a few years since we’ve visited the Environmental Center. Is Boston “the bubble”?

    Fritz, I’ll take a look at Collyer. Thanks! Riding Main from 3rd to Pike will be like running a gaunlet! I made the mistake once of riding Hover & I can see Main being the same way. To further complicate things, Main is torn up from Ken Pratt to Pike. One of my co-workers said they don’t expect to be done until July or August. I’ll probably take 3rd west to S. Pratt, S. Pratt south to Pike, & Pike east to 287. This is for the month surrounding the solstice. I’ll need at least 2-1/2 hrs each way to ride door to door & I prefer to do it when I have the most daylight.

    It’s funny (to me) that you mention Longmont’s “effective advocacy organization” since I’ve had the worst treatment from drivers there. Just to name the most memorable events: I’ve had fast food & cans thrown at me, been buzzed & yelled at by yahoos in pickups, & had a carload of students take [b]two[/b] passes at running me off the road.

  9. Fritz says:

    Greg, I’m disappointed to know about your experiences with drivers in Longmont. In four years of daily commuting across Longmont I encountered about one or two honks a year. I know of people that have had stuff thrown at them along the Diagonal and there are occasional conflicts between roadies and drivers out in the county along Nelson Road, but as a commuter nobody ever assaulted me. Longmont’s traffic sergeant and police chief are both cyclists and they will investigate assaults if you report identifying information about the drivers who do this.

    I don’t recommend Pike Road — it’s narrow and has heavy traffic during commute times making the left turn from Pratt Pkwy is difficult. I forgot about the construction though (moved away a year ago), so maybe it’s an option to try. I frequently rode on 287 from 9th south to Pike and beyond, taking the lane without any problems.

    From 1st Ave there’s a “secret” back way through the city recycling center, on a dirt access road and onto the St. Vrain Trail that will take you south past the city Rec Center and onto 287 right around Pike. Use puncture proof tires because goatheads abound. City Parks talked about making that an official trail so perhaps it’s open by now?

  10. john says:

    Greg; The “Bubble” is Boulder. I am told it has been called four square miles surrounded by reality. Ergo, the bubble. When I visit riding in and around Boulder is one of the highlights of my trip.

    I was also impressed with Fort Collins, spending a day there last summer.

  11. Trent says:

    Cool photo journal…

    you’ve inspired me to post one.

    Currently I live in the Boulder “bubble” so if your coming back… welcome back to a cyclist/commuters dream come true.


  12. Chris says:

    Greg: I hear you about the lack of N-S bike corridors in Longmont.

    I live on the north end of Longmont and work in Broomfield, near Midway and 287. This past Saturday (6/16/07) I rode to work and found Gay St. to be an effective workaround to get from highway 66 to 2nd. I then took 2nd to Pratt Pkway to Missouri to get out to Hwy 287. There are a couple of tricky bits where the road jogs at intersections and I had to use the bridge on Pratt to go over the train tracks, but it seemed very quiet compared to Hover, Francis, or Main.

    I haven’t tried this during ‘normal’ commuting hours yet, although I’m planning on riding next Wednesday for bike to work day. If I’m able to pull it off, I’ll try to post some comments about it here.


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