Fort Collins, Colorado is a thriving city of about 160,000 residents nestled in the Rocky Mountains. In 2018, Bicycling Magazine recognized Fort Collins as the #3 bicycling city in the entire United States. The city also boasts more Bike Friendly Businesses than any other U.S. city, with 65. The Fort Collins Bike Share, which began in 2016 (now called Pace Fort Collins), is a collaboration among the City of Fort Collins (CFC), Bike Fort Collins (BFC), and Zagster, with the sponsorship of numerous local entities such as Colorado State University (CSU). The bike share has grown year-over-year because of the close collaboration among all these entities.
Reasons to Collaborate
1. Safe bicycling. “We have a really simple vision,” says Bruce Henderson, Executive Director of Bike Fort Collins, “It’s more bikes and safe streets.” Not only does BFC work with Zagster to manage the Pace Fort Collins bike share program, but it also partners across Fort Collins to promote safe bicycling. For example, BFC and CFC collaborate on the Safe Routes to School program. “Everyone here just works together, including the City of Fort Collins, CSU, local nonprofits, breweries, and businesses,” says Laura Smith, BFC’s Community Relations Coordinator.
CSU, for example, has a bike safety program for incoming freshman (about 5,000 annually) that uses a game developed by BFC. The game, Legal or Not?, shows photos of bicyclists in various scenarios, such as riding against traffic, and asks players to judge whether cyclists are following the rules-of-the-road. “We’ve found that the game really engages our incoming freshman around bike safety,” says Erika Benti, an Active Transportation Professional at CSU. Colorado State University also collaborates with BFC on adventure rides and pop-up events to promote the Pace bike share.
2. Building a bike-friendly culture. The City of Fort Collins understands that its unique bicycle culture is a crucial part of the city’s image, helping attract people to live, work, and study in the city. It’s no accident that when you go to the Visit Fort Collins website, you see images of smiling people enjoying Fort Collins on two wheels.
“We take a comprehensive, collaborative approach to creating our great bike culture,” says Tessa Greegor, FC Bikes Program Manager at the City of Fort Collins. “Our political leadership is supportive, working collaboratively with our entire bike community.” The strongest indicator of CFC’s commitment? “It’s reflected in our collaborative spirit and all the programs we’ve helped develop,” says Greegor.
3. Sustainability. Both CSU and the City of Fort Collins have climate action plans, and both view bicycling as part of their sustainability efforts. “At CSU,” says Benti, “we put a big emphasis on reducing emissions, and we coordinate closely with CFC. Having more students on bikes helps.” CSU was the first university in the world to be awarded STARS “platinum status,” the highest possible rating, by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education.
4. Bike equity. BFC’s Bruce Henderson is a passionate advocate for bike equity. “We’re working closely with communities on locating bike share stations closer to low-income areas in the north of Fort Collins,” he says. “The other issue is affordability. We’re using promo codes and other strategies to overcome economic barriers.”
Henderson proudly describes a collaborative event held last July in the Hickory Street area, which has a high concentration of low-income and Hispanic residents. BFC came together with CFC, The Family Center/La Familia, and several Fort Collins non-profit groups and businesses to host the first ever Fiesta de Movimiento Comunitario de Hickory Street, celebrating the launch of a new Pace Bike Share station. Hickory Street was closed to cars and opened to a free farmers market organized by healthcare company Kaiser Permanente. The event also featured Pace Bike Share demos, a Safe Routes to School rodeo, and music by local artists.
Lessons from Fort Collins
1. Identify synergies. All the stakeholders in Fort Collins follow the “golden rule” of collaboration, as described by BFC’s Henderson: “Find shared interests and understand what's in it for everybody. This results in each of our organizations getting something unique and valuable that we wouldn't have gotten on our own.”
2. Create formal communication structures. As CFC’s Greegor explains, “we have a monthly meeting with our partners, where we, BFC, CSU, and Zagster come together to discuss where we are now and where we’re going next, as well as planning our outreach activities.”
3. Leverage each partner’s strengths. “We always seek to leverage the unique strengths of our partners,” says CSU’s Benti, “we rely on BFC and the City’s expertise to help us develop shared mobility solutions and make more informed decisions.” BFC’s Laura Smith, for example, sits on CSU’s Campus Bicycle Advisory Committee.
4. Be open and humble. This advice comes from my own experience in Fort Collins. It's much easier to collaborate when people are willing to reveal needs, goals, weaknesses, and challenges. The members of the tight-knit bicycling community in Fort Collins do that immensely well, and it builds a foundation of trust for ongoing collaboration.
The collaborative spirit of Fort Collins is truly the “secret sauce” that’s enabled the city to continue growing its amazing Pace Bike Share program and unique bike culture. We at Zagster are proud to be partnering with the Fort Collins community!
Interested in getting a bike share program started in your community, talk to us. Would you prefer e-bikes or scooters? We can help you with that too.