If you live in Boulder and like to bike, then you know you can get from one side of town to another on the city’s amazing system of bike paths, barely seeing cars. Indeed, it's a huge bonus for the local cycling scene. But if you’re visiting, or new to town, or haven’t ridden around that much, you might not realize how interconnected this path system is. Wouldn’t it be nice if someone would show you?
That’s where the city’s 18th annual Circle Boulder by Bicycle comes in. Scheduled for June 7 and the kick-off to Walk & Bike Month, the event is a great opportunity to follow a signed route around Boulder to become more familiar with the network of paths. You'll circle the city, stop for a snack along the way, and partake in a party at the finish. Co-hosted by the City of Boulder and Community Cycles, it's a great way to quickly learn how to get around town using the city’s bikeways, not to mention a rollicking good time.
The event showcases one of Boulder's brightest draws for the outdoorsy set: Its world-class bike system, which spans 58 miles of paved paths, 79 underpasses, and more than 100 miles of on-street bike lanes. (Technically, the paved paths are multi-use greenways, but we'll just focus on the bikes for the moment.)
Circle Boulder by Bicycle offers two route options to explore that network: the B-360, which is about 20 miles and takes two to three hours to complete, and the B-180, which is half as long. The routes follow a combination of bike paths, lanes (painted lanes on city streets), and routes (quiet roads that are designated as good places to bike). The Circle Boulder by Bicycle map, as well as posters and painted arrows along the route, make it easy for riders to navigate the course. The idea is to acquaint you with how to string together a route to get from Point A to Point B on your bike.
Along the way, you'll see what makes the city’s bike path system (also known as greenways) is ideal for two-wheeled transit. A lesser-known fact is that these greenways are also designed for flood mitigation. If you’ve ever wondered why some underpasses flood during high runoff, rest assured this is intentional. The paths are designed to channel storm water into the greenways and away from areas that could be damaged, a function you may be able to see in action following the city's recent flooding.
“We want to showcase Boulder’s Greenways path system and educate people about their dual purpose of mitigating flooding in the city,” says Kristen Dean, a City of Boulder utilities planner.
If you’ve done Circle Boulder by Bike before, you're likely to pick up some new transit tips and ideas, since the route changes every year. This year, it starts and ends at Hub Plaza at Valmont Park, with a rest stop at Aurora 7 Park where riders can fill up on energy bars, fruit, and other free snacks provided by Whole Foods. Up to 750 people can roll up to the starting line any time between 10 am and 12 pm for the event, which is self-guided and “go at your own pace.”
“It’s a great free community event that showcases Boulder’s wonderful Greenways system and highlights new additions to our bicycle facilities each year,” says Sue Prant, executive director of Community Cycles. “More than 500 people come out for this family-friendly event, and many tell us they discover new parts of Boulder and great multi-use path links even if they’ve been here for quite some time.”
A big party at the finish line is incentive to relax with fellow bike enthusiasts while listening to live music and digging into free Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. People of all ages—even tiny tykes—will have fun at Circle Boulder by Bike. If you go, wear a helmet and dress for the weather: It takes place rain or shine.