(With respect to Urban Velo, of course)
Why I Love Riding In The Suburbs
Readers of the blog and general folks who know me know that we moved to a south Denver suburb from Denver about 3 years ago when we bought a house.
It is an easy argument to make that a car-free or car-light lifestyle is much more suited to the city proper than a suburb developed in the 1970's. However, there are a number of things that make a bike-oriented lifestyle very practical in the suburbs, at least in our neighborhood.
1) An abundant off-road trail network. We are literally surrounded by trails in our neighborhood. At the bottom of our street is an elementary school and it is connected by east-west trails. I can basically ride in any direction and catch a trail that goes where I want to go. South Suburban parks and rec is currently building a new trail that will run directly from our neighborhood to S. University, making the connection to many places that much easier. Here's a map (not a great one) of the South Suburban trail network.
2) Moderately well connected neighborhood streets. Riding in our and surrounding neighborhoods is comfortable and easy. Streets are wide enough for cars to easily pass, and for the most part traffic is light and not moving terribly fast. While there are some very large, high speed streets nearby, it is not terribly difficult to find a signaled intersection at which to cross these roads. Where the residential streets are not connected, there are often small connector trails to make routes available to pedestrians and bicycles but still prevent vehicle through traffic.
3) A fair amount of on-street bike lanes. While there is much room for improvement, there are a few significant secondary through streets with marked bicycle lanes (including S. Clarkson St. and E. Easter Ave/Nobles Rd). If you'll recall from an earlier post, Centennial is currently building out many more miles of bike lanes in the city, reflecting a commitment to encouraging multiple modes of transportation. (As an aside, I heard from the city engineer this week that the final plans are complete and they are taking the project to bid. I might even have a map to see this week.)
4) Lots of close-in places to go. This one actually surprised me. If you have not already seen it, you should check out Clif Bar's 2-Mile Challenge. Go to http://2milechallenge.com/mapyourride/ and put in your address to see how many places are within 2 miles of your home. For us, there are six grocery stores within two miles of our house. Also, two libraries, plentiful restaurants, the post office, our bank, and everything at The Streets of Southglenn, a new mixed-use development. We are also surrounded by excellent parks provided by Centennial and South Suburban Parks and Recreation, including a public outdoor pool. Finally, the local elementary school and middle school are both less than a mile from our house, both walkable without leaving the neighborhood or local park.
5) Access to the light rail. This makes it extremely easy to extend the range of a bike trip. The SE light rail line is just about 3 miles from our house. From there, we can easily get to central downtown, LoDo, and Cherry Creek or head south to the Park Meadows shopping area.
I will admit that the excellent nature of our neighborhood happened mostly by luck. We did not search out these things when selecting our house (although the proximity of the trail system was a huge perk for my wife the runner).
I read yesterday (on a non-bike related blog) about a woman who decided to sell her car in an effort to save more money. The comments on her post all fell into 2 categories:
1) People who had done the same and never looked back
2) People who wished they could but had a lot of excuses why they couldn't.
Most of these excuses were based on where they lived. I'll admit we do not live in the worst kind of suburb, with nothing but housing for miles around, but I think we are a good example of how using a bicycle for transportation can be very practical in the suburbs. While there are times when we miss living in a more walkable area, we are certainly in a very "bike-able" area.