There’s a lot going on downtown during the summer. Carpooling to Old Town can be a smart way to go. But for some events, like New West Fest, parking spots are in very short supply. At times like that you’ll definitely want to travel by bike or bus instead (or both!).
If you’re an occasional cyclist, you might not have a good route in mind that will get you, and your kids, safely and comfortably into the downtown area. So I’m going to outline a few suggested routes to travel.
Fort Collins is longer than it is wide, so the most important routes to know head north-south. Three key bike-friendly ways to travel in the north-south direction are the Mason Trail, the Remington Bikeway, and the Power Trail. (I’ll give some tips for each one below.) In order to reach one of these three, you’ll most likely need a good east-west route that will connect up with one of these. I’ll include some suggestions for connecting routes as well.
The Mason Trail
Because the Mason Trail parallels the MAX line, it’s probably received the most attention in the newspaper, so it’s the route you might be most familiar with. It’s a comfortable trail that connects Laurel just north of campus to the Fossil Creek Trail on the south end of town. Between Cherry and Laurel, however, it’s not considered a trail any more as you’ll be pedaling along Mason Street. There are bike lanes most of the way, though. And where there aren’t, watch for sharrows (a painted image of a bicycle with two arrows showing the direction of travel). Those sharrows show you where bicyclists should be positioned on the street.
If you feel comfortable on the trail portion of Mason but not the street section, there are two good alternative options that enable you to turn east and cross under College Avenue using a pedestrian tunnel. The first opportunity heading north is at the Spring Creek Trail (just down the hill from Whole Foods). From there you’ll have to pop up out of the trail and loop around to hit the Remington trail going north. Or stay on the Mason Trail until you reach campus, then watch for signs that point toward the University Center for the Arts (the old Fort Collins High School building, by the flower gardens). If you pass the new parking structure, you’ve gone too far. Once you pop out at the flower gardens, carefully cross Remington and continue north. I think this second option might be the best overall if you’re traveling with kids or people that are a bit nervous about bicycling.
The Remington Bikeway
The Remington Bikeway is not just on Remington street. It includes a series of streets that approach downtown from both the north and south. It uses side streets to safely and comfortably get cyclists through the center of town. Despite the fact that it is made up entirely of surface streets (no bike trails), I feel more comfortable riding through these quiet neighborhoods than I do on the Mason trail where the intersections seem more hectic and busy. And once you reach the downtown area, Remington tends to be more comfortable than Mason Street.
Remington’s main fault is that it’s made up of a bunch of different streets. Unlike the Mason Trail which is pretty much a straight line, Remington has more turns, more connections, and more ways to get lost. (If you get lost easily, take Mason. If you’re good at watching for road signs, you’ll do fine on Remington.)
Also, be aware that at the intersection of Laurel and Remington is one of the smallest little roundabouts you’ve ever seen. When you reach that point you can either exit the bike lane and take the sidewalk. Or, if you choose to stay in the street, then be sure to ride in the center of the lane while you’re in the roundabout. This will keep cars from coming up on your left side, then turning right to exit the roundabout and running you over.
If you live north of Old Town, Remington trail might also be the best route for you. The northernmost end of this bikeway is at the intersection of Willox and Redwood, near the Redwing Marsh Natural Area. (Unfortunately it’s now shown on the map. But if you can find that intersection, then it’s a straight shot towards New Belgium and then on to downtown from that point.)
If you’d like to learn more about the Remington Bikeway, check out this Pedal Fort Collins article: The Remington Bikeway. And if you’d like to know more about traveling through a roundabout safely while you’re on a bike, check out How to Travel Through a Roundabout.
The Power Trail
For all of you SouthEast FoCo residents, you’ll probably want to use the Power Trail to get most of the way towards downtown. However, it ends at EPIC, so at that point either head west on Stuart, or travel a bit further until you hit the Spring Creek Trail. Either way, watch for signs indicating when to turn right/north to follow the Remington Trail.
Dunbar & Centre
There are two more north-south bikeways that you could use, but I don’t think signs have been put up along these routes yet, which means that unless you take a map with you that outlines the route, you might lose your way. (Believe me, I’ve tried it. I made it north, but I think I spent more time off the bikeway than on it.) Here are some maps if you’d like to give it a go.
Another alternative to the Mason trail, for those that live to the west of it, is the Centre Bikeway.
And for those that live much further west of the Mason Trail than this, check out the Dunbar Bikeway.
The best east-west options are trails. The Poudre Trail travels from the northwest to the southeast and is very comfortable. The Spring Creek Trail travels from the Southwest to the northeast and is also quite a lovely ride. If you’re able to hit either of these, then Yahoo! If you need a few other ideas, though, I’d recommend the Swallow Bikeway. It does have signs and it’s a very comfortable ride. (With the exception of the bit between Mason and College. Neither of those crossings are particularly fun.)
There’s also the Pitkin Bikeway. Some wonderful improvements have been made to this route, especially at several disjointed intersections that have been hard to cross in the past.
If you’re heading downtown from the west and you take Laporte to Mountain, be careful on the trolley tracks. As best as possible, try to swerve a little to the left right before you cross them, then turn right so that you’re crossing them at a right angle.
Don’t forget to bring a sturdy U-lock with you when you head downtown. Even though Fort Collins is still a pretty safe town, bike thefts are certainly not unheard of. And be sure to bring a water bottle along. It’s important to stay hydrated while you’re out and about on your bicycle. Most downtown events include water stations where you can refill your bottle before your return trip home.
Most of all, have fun not only at the downtown event, but enjoy the ride there and back again!
All maps are from the Fort Collins Bicycle Wayfinding Network Master Plan. Some have been slightly altered to emphasize one route over another.
This article was originally published on the Bike Fort Collins blog in August 2016. It has been updated since that time.