Pitco pushing pedal power | AspenTimes.com

Pitco pushing pedal power

As part of its effort to reduce driving and air pollution, Pitkin County has assembled a small fleet of bicycles for county staff members to use.

Susan Murphy, office manager at the Courthouse Plaza building, said the bikes are available to county employees to use for errands, and, in fact, employees are encouraged to use them. Employees can pick up a helmet and a key to one of the bikes at the plaza building’s third-floor desk, Murphy said. She said anyone who uses the bikes is urged to wear a helmet.

Non-employees might even have a shot at borrowing a bike. “We probably wouldn’t say `no’ if it was somebody we knew,” Murphy said. The inexpensive mountain bikes can be identified by the “county employee” labels taped to them.

Four bikes are based at the Plaza building and another two at Pitkin County’s satellite offices in Basalt. Four more were placed at the county’s Public Works department near the Roaring Fork Transit Agency bus barn, but two of those will soon be reassigned to the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport.

The county has had the bikes since the summer of 1998, County Manager Suzanne Konchan said. They were provided at no cost by David Middleton, owner of the Elk Mountain Lodge near Ashcroft, she said.

When the Elk Mountain Lodge began to host events, bringing more people and more cars into the Castle Creek Valley, Middleton offered to provide the bikes for the county as mitigation for any detrimental impacts to air quality caused by the added traffic.

The city of Aspen has had its own fleet of employee bikes for about five years. Lee Cassin of the city’s Environmental Health Department is in charge of those.

Of Pitkin County’s bikes, the part of the fleet based at the Public Works building probably gets the most use. Jodi Smith, office manager for Public Works, said the county’s weed management team has used the bikes to get to locations where they have sprayed weeds on foot, and land-management crews have pedaled their way to trail maintenance project locations.

One bike was employed during a project to map features on trails managed by the county’s Open Space and Trails program.

“Last year they did a ton of GPS work,” Smith said. Technicians bolted a Global Positioning Systems unit onto a rack on one of the bikes and rode it to locations of culverts, benches and other assets to be located on a map.

During construction delays this summer, Smith said, Public Works employees used the bikes to travel into town. “When the roundabout was being built,” she said, “we could ride in on bikes faster than driving.”

And it works the other way, too. Open Space and Trails Director Dale Will rode one of the plaza bikes out to Public Works for a recent meeting, Smith said.

So, all in all, the bike program is definitely working, she said.

The two bikes to be sent to the airport were requested by Carrington Brown, ground-side supervisor at the airport, Smith said, for travel between the airport terminal and other buildings. Brown said they will be used for travel between the administration building, the Airport Rescue and Fire Fighting building and Aspen Base Operation, the private aviation center.

“We want them to save gas and get exercise,” Brown said.

But the courthouse plaza bikes didn’t get much use in 1999, Murphy said. They were stored in the jail building last winter, and didn’t see the light of day this season until a few weeks ago. “Someone forgot to get them out,” she said, not naming any names.

Murphy said the bicycles may be left out all winter, this year, in the hope that people will continue to use them.

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