DENVER (CBS4) - Avoiding traffic in Denver is next to impossible, and it's not much easier for those on two wheels.
"If you look on Google maps, which I don't recommend," Jem Zornow, who rides his bike nearly every day in Denver, said, "they'd recommend that you get to Uptown from here by going over to Logan and going up Logan which is guaranteed suicide."
Denver has implemented some bike lanes around the city, but many are on popular streets with high traffic and that can create high stress for cyclists.
"Riding with a lot of cars overtaking you at high speeds can be terrifying," Avi Stopper said.
It's a big reason why Stopper came up with Denver Bike Streets, a community program that maps out "low stress" routes so riders of all ages and abilities can safely get around.
"The reality is that a lot of the bike lanes that exist are quite intimidating for the vast majority of would-be riders," he told CBS4's Kelly Werthmann. "There's a huge population of folks who would love to get out on bikes, but avoid it because it's scary."
With the help of a team of more than 80 volunteers – called "Neighborhood Captains" – Stopper has created a map that pinpoints safe side streets or alternate routes in neighborhoods with less traffic.
"The city has done a great job, in many cases, of creating a network of protected lanes," he said. "However, those protected lanes often don't connect with other low-stress facilities. Bike Streets taps into those areas that are already on the official Denver map and says, 'Okay, these are the protected lanes, these are the neighborhood routes the city map already encourages people to ride, these are the lower stress streets and here are ways to actually connect them.'"
Zornow is among the 85 volunteers who has helped scour neighborhoods for comfortable routes.
"I'm looking for a nice, calm, quiet street," he explained, "one that hopefully doesn't have blind turns and one that has reasonably good road conditions. Not a lot of potholes."
Nicole McSpirit said she became a Neighborhood Captain because she wants to encourage people to get on two wheels instead of behind one.
"To let people know it's not this intimidating thing. You don't have to dress in Spandex, obviously," she said with a laugh, pointing to the ripped jeans and casual attire she was wearing. "You don't have to have some high-tech speed bike or anything either."
Stopper started the Denver Bike Streets project last summer, gaining a lot of support from local businesses – even New Belgium Brewery. Right now the community designed map is available online, but Stopper is also working on creating a mobile app. He has launched a Kickstarter campaign, too, in hopes of raising $10,000.
The money would exclusively go towards printing thousands of maps to offer for free in places like schools, libraries, coffee shops and more.
"I want to see tens of thousands of people out riding on these routes," he said. "There shouldn't be this misconception that riding a bike or bike commuting is exclusively about going to work. People should be out riding to schools, their neighborhoods, to local business, whatever they want to do."
And, he added, the hope is having an easily accessible map that offers safe alternatives to getting around will help pedal away the fear of riding a bike in Denver.
"It takes what is typically an adrenaline rush and makes it more of an endorphin rush kind of experience," he said.
To learn more about Denver Bike Streets, visit: https://www.bikestreets.com/
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