Vail has retained its ranking as a Silver Bicycle Friendly Community as selected by the League of American Bicyclists following a recent assessment. Vail was elevated to a silver designation in 2014 after earning a bronze status in 2009. The award recognizes communities with remarkable commitments to bicycling. With the announcement of 65 new and renewing Bicycle Friendly Communities for 2017, Vail remains in a leading group of over 500 communities across the country that are transforming neighborhoods and destinations.
“We applaud these communities for making bicycling a safe and convenient option for transportation and recreation,” said Bill Nesper, executive director for the League of American Bicyclists. “We’re encouraged by the growing number of leaders who see bicycling as a way to build more vibrant, healthy, sustainable and connected communities and be a part of the solution to many complex challenges faced at both the community and national levels. We look forward to continuing to work with these communities as we move closer to our mission of creating a Bicycle Friendly America for everyone.”
Vail’s silver ranking is good through 2021 and is due, in part, to the town’s extensive recreation trailsystem and mountain biking facilities as well as the community’s longstanding enthusiasm for biking. In recent years, the town has widened shoulders along frontage roads and added bicycle markings on other streets. The town also manages the Sole Power Challenge which encourages bicycle commuting throughout the summer. In addition, the new Sandstone underpass includes bicycle lanes and an improved access point to the Gore Valley Trail. “This was a big investment on the town’s part to improve safety and usability for residents and guests,” says Mark Hoblitzell, the town’s sustainability coordinator.
“This is an exciting award for Vail as well as for Eagle County,” Hoblitzell continued. “The ECO Trails program is working hard to expand the county’s bicycle facilities with new separated trails and widened bike lanes while the Vail Valley Mountain Bike Association is working towards a world-class off road trail system.” Hoblitzell also notes the recognition goes beyond facilities to include attitudes and enthusiasm about biking. An example is the Vail Town Council’s support in allowing the use of electric assisted bicycles or “e-bikes” for recreation as well as alternative to motor vehicles.
To apply for the Bicycle Friendly Community designation, applicants complete a detailed online form with numerous questions in five key areas: engineering, education, encouragement, enforcement and evaluation/planning. Local cyclists, national experts and League staff then review the applications to determine the recipients.
While the application process is rigorous, the five levels of the award – diamond, platinum, gold, silver and bronze – provide a clear incentive for communities to continuously improve, according to Hoblitzell.
While the town is excited about maintaining its new silver level designation, staff is already looking for opportunities to improve Vail’s biking facilities including better roadway markings, upgraded lighting in some areas and evaluating the potential to improve the paved and soft-surface trail system as part of the ongoing Open Lands Plan update.
To learn more about the league’s Bicycle Friendly Community program, visit bikeleague.org/community. For more information on Town of Vail programs, contact Hoblitzell at 970-479-2333 or MHoblitzell@vailgov.com.