Steel is Real: Observations from Pueblo Colorado

One of the biggest challenges is for vehicular cyclists to know exactly where to stop at an intersection in order to trigger a traffic signal when no cars are around.  Most places use metal induction loops buried in the road to trigger signals.  When a car stops at the intersection, the loop detects the metal and that causes the signal to change.

It’s not so easy on a bike.  The loops themselves are not always easily visible and although they’re supposed to be adjusted to detect the lighter weight of bicycles, they aren’t always.   It becomes a guessing game for a cyclist.  Is the loop set right?  Should I sit and wait for a car to show up or do I go over to the sidewalk and press the pedestrian button?

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This particular road graphic leaves no doubt where I should stop.

It couldn't be more obvious, even without signage.

It couldn’t be more obvious, even without signage.

That’s why I was so impressed to see this elegant solution while cycling through Pueblo Colorado this past weekend.  It was just a simple graphic painted on the street but it did the job.  I’d never seen this before, but I immediately understood what to do.  It’s even in the center of the lane where it belongs!

Speaking of Pueblo, cycling here was a neat experience.  This former steelmaking center is reinventing itself as a bicycle friendly city.  When we lived here in the early 2000s, the city’s trail system was crumbling and mostly unusable.  It has all been replaced with wide concrete paths that are smooth and pleasant.  There are over 30 miles of trails in total connecting all corners of the city.

Pueblo's trail system spans the city from end to end and offers off-road connectivity.

Pueblo’s trail system spans the city from end to end and offers off-road connectivity.

The Arkansas River trail looking northwest from the Union Avenue bridge.

The Arkansas River trail looking northwest from the Union Avenue bridge.

The 5th Street cycletrack uses parked cars as protection from traffic.

The 5th Street cycletrack uses parked cars as protection from traffic.

Cyclists get their own signals.

Cyclists get their own signals.

Murals, East Side.

Murals, East Side.

Pueblo's trail system was built to allow cyclists access without road crossings.

Pueblo’s trail system was built to allow cyclists access without road crossings.

Mature doe crossing Fountain Creek. This was a pleasant surprise.

Mature doe crossing Fountain Creek. This was a pleasant surprise.

CSU campus.

CSU campus.

This bride over the Arkansas west of downtown was particularly picturesque.

This bridge over the Arkansas west of downtown was particularly picturesque.

The climb to Lake Pueblo. Great efforts should yield rewards, right?

The climb to Lake Pueblo. Great efforts should yield rewards, right?

I think this one was well worth the effort!

I think this one was well worth the effort!

There are also protected bike lanes on 5th Street downtown and buffered bike lanes along Elizabeth Street into downtown from the north side of town.  Share the Road signs are everywhere.  It feels like a bicycle city.  More importantly, it rides like a bicycle city.

Most of the city’s major destinations and shopping areas including the Union Avenue Historic District and Riverwalk as well as the Colorado State University campus are connected by bicycle infrastructure.  The Arkansas River Trail from downtown to Lake Pueblo State Park west of town is among the finest urban trails I’ve ridden on anywhere.

How's this for connectivity? I was able to ride all over town.

How’s this for connectivity? I was able to ride all over town.

Most importantly (and somewhat surprisingly) motorists were very aware and respectful towards cyclists on city streets.  Even though Pueblo is a very friendly town, it always struck me as the sort of place that might be somewhat hostile towards cycling.  Not so.  It was delightful cruising around town on both Saturday and Sunday.  I put in approximately 50 miles and had no challenges from motorists whatsoever.

Not surprisingly, this has all led to a resurgence in cycling here.  While out and about, I saw numerous cyclists both on trails and city streets.  Some were joyriding while others were using their bikes to get around.   I’d invariably get a wave and a “good morning”…something that doesn’t seem to happen everywhere I ride.  I like that.

Pueblo isn’t on the radar yet in terms of bicycle friendly places, but from what I saw it should be.  It was as easy or easier to ride here than many higher ranked places.  It just goes to show that you can’t always rely on official lists to find the best places to ride.

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