Located in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, 35 miles northwest of Denver, Boulder developed as a supply base for miners searching for gold and silver. With an influx of people after World War II, residents were compelled to preserve what they loved about the area. In 1967 thousands of acres of open space was purchased and that prompted the adoption of the Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan in 1970.
Residential growth management and infill and reuse was important then, and, after talking to Martha Roskowski, GO Boulder program manager, the community’s conviction toward community preservation is unmistakable.
“About 20 years ago, in the mid-80s, the Boulder city council decided it needed to do transportation differently,” explains Roskowski. “They looked at what it would cost financially in terms of the quality of life for the community, what it would take to just expand our roadway system indefinitely to accommodate the demands of single-occupancy vehicles, and they decided that was not the future that they wanted for Boulder.”
She emphasizes, “They realized that if you’re going to ask people not to drive, you have to provide them with transportation options.” That’s where GO Boulder comes in. The “GO” stands for “great options,” and it is this program in the city’s transportation division that establishes these options. “It’s morphed into being the alternative transportation and policy and planning and promotion wing of the transportation division,” Roskowski says.
This isn’t something the city came up with overnight; it is something Boulder has been working on for 20 years. Roskowski states, “Our transportation master plan calls for providing transportation choices, for making our streets work for all modes. It’s building a community that works well for transit, bicycling and walking.”
Roskowski’s start in transportation was with bicycles. The city of Boulder hired her in 1990 to coordinate Bike Week. From there she became a bicycle advocate and for seven years ran Bicycle Colorado, a statewide bicycle advocacy organization. Following that, a coalition called America Bikes hired her to head up the campaign in Washington, D.C., on the reauthorization of the federal transportation bill in 2002. “I spent 2-1/2 years lobbying on the federal transportation bill and then lobbying for bicycle and walking provisions,” she says.
Subsequently the city of Boulder had a manager position open and she applied. Regarding this position she says, “The job here is broader than just bicycling and walking and it includes transit — all modes of transportation.” Given her experience at the federal level, it was a good fit.
Offering a Variety of Options
Unlike the transit agencies we normally highlight, GO Boulder is a city program that focuses on all modes of transportation. The underlying goal is to reduce single-occupancy vehicle trips to reduce congestion on the roadways, so it looks at the menu of transportation choices, more than just looking at how to move cars.
“It means we can look at things like, how does our bikeway system integrate with our transit service? How does it work for people using the system, rather than a more specific focus of we just do buses or we just do bicycles and walking,” says Roskowski. “It’s somewhat of a unique setup that we have within the city of Boulder, but it works.
“We do quite a bit around biking and walking, encouraging people to bike and walk,” she explains. “We have a really robust walk and bike month celebration every year. Now a community nonprofit, they’re taking the lead on it with funding from us.” She adds, “We had organized that internally for many years but we wanted to invigorate that more.”
A recently launched program is called Go Bike Boulder, similar to a “Mapquest” for bikes. Bikers can go online and type in the destination and starting point, on-street route or off-street route preference, and it will map it out. “It will provide you with your route with all of your instructions and show you a map and it will tell you how many calories you will burn on your route,” Roskowski explains.