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On May 15, 2014, a group of local bicyclists got together for the first time as part of a newly formed Bike Fort Collins advocacy committee. As we sat around the table at Daz Bog in a teeny little side room, we came up with all sorts of great ideas about things we could do to improve the safety of Fort Collins streets for bicyclists.

As we chatted, the conversation came around to the brand new Mason Corridor — with the MAX line and the Mason trail. The grand opening for MAX had just taken place five days previous and we didn’t really have a sense of how things were working out for cyclists. So instead of having another meeting the following month, we decided to have a ride instead. It was the beginning of our monthly Ride Around Town (RAT) rides.

On June 12th, we met up at the Downtown Transit Center. We pedaled from there down Mason, through campus, and just to the other side of Prospect Road. We stopped several times along the way to take photographs of problem areas and to talk about improvements that could be made or issues that we were seeing.

When we were finished, our ringleader, Bruce Henderson (now President of Bike Fort Collins) put together a list of items that we had noted, along with photos, and sent the information to both City and CSU staff members to see about getting a few improvements made. Within the year signage was added, the bike turn light was introduced at Laurel and Mason, and an additional light/crosswalk was constructed on Prospect for eastbound pedestrians and cyclists.

Bike Fort Collins has hosted a RAT ride almost every month since then, visiting various parts of town and exploring the infrastructure along the way. We’ve occasionally been joined by City staff or even City Council members. At the end of each route we stop at a local brewery¬†for libations. There we talk through what we saw on our ride, what the problems were, and perhaps even come up with a few possible¬†solutions. The ride leader compiles these notes and they’re either sent to staff members who might be able to use the feedback to make improvements, or the notes are compiled and put on the Bike Fort Collins website so that other riders can get tips and suggestions for how to get through specific areas safely.

Frank is the king of reflective gear. He's also the one who named the ride -- RAT ride. (Note the rats bungeed to the back of his bike.) Frank moved to Fort Collins from Ann Arbor, Michigan, where he was involved in the bike advocacy movement there. The RAT ride name started with those Ann Arbor rides and carried over with Frank when he moved.

Frank is the king of reflective gear. He’s also the one who named the ride — RAT ride. (Note the rats bungeed to the back of his bike.) Frank moved to Fort Collins from Ann Arbor, Michigan, where he was involved in the bike advocacy movement there. The RAT ride name started with those Ann Arbor rides and carried over with Frank when he moved.

During a RAT ride through City Park, we stopped to try to figure out if the Bike Route went north, as the sign indicated. Or if it went west, which is what the City's bike map was showing.

During a RAT ride through City Park, we stopped to try to figure out if the Bike Route went north, as the sign indicated. Or if it went west, which is what the City’s bike map was showing.

A ride on the northeast end of town included a truck parked in the bike lane.

A ride on the northeast end of town included a truck parked in the bike lane.

A ride through campus west included newly painted bike lanes on City Park Avenue. ... right in the door zone. This wasn't too many months after a cyclist had just been doored on Lake Street and ended up in serious condition in the hospital. Dot happened to have chalk in her pocket, so she drew a "door zone" sign showing that the lane wasn't as safe as one might think.

A ride through campus west included newly painted bike lanes on City Park Avenue. … right in the door zone. This wasn’t too many months after a cyclist had just been doored on Lake Street and ended up in serious condition in the hospital. Dot happened to have chalk in her pocket, so she drew a “door zone” sign showing that the lane wasn’t as safe as one might think.

After a cyclist was killed on the Kechter bridge over I-25, we biked over the bridge to check out the sign that had been added and to see what else could be done to improve the route.

After a cyclist was killed on the Kechter bridge over I-25, we biked over the bridge to check out the sign that had been added and to see what else could be done to improve the route.

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After-RAT includes looking back through our notes (often taken on phones) and making sure we’ve included anything of note from the ride.

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This ride included a City staff person and a contractor who were gathering input for the W. Elizabeth Enhanced Travel Corridor Plan and the Old Town Neighborhoods Plan.

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RAT Rides are open to anyone on a bike that would like to join us. Helmets are requested and signing a waver is required (so that Bike Fort Collins isn’t held liable if you get hurt). Though the stuffed rats often join us, isn’t not guaranteed that we’ll be graced with their presence. The ride usually takes about an hour with another hour of kibitzing over beers at the end. If you’d like to join us, be watching the Bike Fort Collins Facebook page for updates on when the next ride will be.

The video at top is from our most recent RAT ride along the Keenland Drive/Rock Creek Drive bikeway (starting at Fossil Creek High School), then heading north along the Remington Bikeway. (If you watch closely, you’ll see the signs off to the side starting about half way into the video.) A one hour ride is condensed down into less than 3 minutes, so you’ll get a sense of what the ride is like (how often we stop and talk, point things out, etc.) but you won’t get the details.