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Nate Kvamme

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Maes'd and Confused

Posted: 08/06/10 01:33 PM ET

An interesting thing happened Wednesday in Denver.

No, it wasn't the 5,000 Coloradoans who attended a bicycle ride from the steps of the Capitol.

No, it wasn't directly tied to Gov. Bill Ritter's and Lance Armstrong's announcement marking the return of the professional cycling to our great state of Colorado in 2011.

However, there is an ironic connection...I think.

Gubernatorial candidate Dan Maes argued in a Denver Post article that bicycling and environmental sustainability efforts led by Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper are "converting Denver into a United Nations Community," and as a result, "threatening personal freedoms" of its citizens.

Whew.

After reviewing Mr. Maes' comments and the Denver Post reader responses, I, like many others considered, "Should I take Mr. Maes' assertions seriously?" What is a "United Nations Community," and are our "personal freedoms in jeopardy" at the handles of bikes?

Well, unfortunately, I've never lived in or visited a "United Nations Community" like I am sure Mr. Maes has, so making any credible direct comparison is impossible for me.

And the last time I was on my bike it really didn't feel like my personal freedom had been threatened. Instead, I felt like I was gaining a new, and very positive, perspective on our community, our state, the surroundings and our environment. But that's just my experience.

I guess ask yourself, and form your opinion by answering, "How'd you feel the last time you were on a bike?" It may have been yesterday or a decade ago, but I'm willing to bet your memory on a bike brought a smile to your face.

For now, let's forget opinions, mine or anyone else's, and let's take a look at a few facts (source: www.bikesbelong.org):

• Riding a bicycle improves the health of individuals - cyclists live on average two years longer and miss 15 percent less work due to illness;
• Riding a bicycle reduces carbon emissions and pollutants into the air we breathe; and,
• Commuting by bicycle has significant positive economic effects.

At a time when our nation's dependency on unsustainable resources continues to increase, and where the obesity of Americans of all ages has reached epidemic proportions, should we not focus on a broad and proven solution?

You don't have to believe me, because the fact remains that bicycles and safe places to ride them, are a part of the solution.

Bicycles and bike-sharing systems like Denver B-cycle are not intended to replace cars, trains, buses, etc., but they can and do replace the costly short trips of two miles or less. And fortunately for Denver, as demonstrated by the 10,000-plus residents and visitors who have used the Denver B-cycle system, bicycles are spectacular intermodal transportation solutions.

There are more than 50 million Americans who ride a bike each year, who believe - as the crowd of more than 5,000 demonstrated Wednesday with Governor Ritter and Lance Armstrong -- that the bicycle is iconic and a symbol of personal freedom, health, sustainability and a demonstration of choice.

I cannot say if the 50 or so supporters who attended Mr. Maes' rally in Centennial, were part of the enthusiastic 5,000-plus riders. If they were, then they were the silent minority. And their support and silence was appreciated.

What I can say that is several dozen of the riders - myself included - participated on a bike provided by Denver B-cycle, and thoroughly enjoyed the freedom it provided.

Forward thinking and progressive action, such as bringing the Democratic National Convention to Denver and positioning Denver and the state of Colorado as a model for other cities and states to aspire to, has been a direct result of the leadership from current mayor and Gubernatorial candidate John Hickenlooper.

However, the kind of thinking that a bicycle could "threaten our personal freedoms," or that safer and more sustainable communities for citizens is a bad thing, is thinking which is simply misguided, wrong and a-Maes-ing.