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Boulder bike-culture inspires suggestions for earthquake ravaged Christchurch, NZ


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The very-Boulder slogan to “Think Globally, Act Locally” may soon be bearing fruit on the other side of the planet—in Christchurch, New Zealand, which was nearly leveled last year in a devastating earthquake. The best part is that Boulder doesn’t have to do anything other than what it’s been doing for years. That is, promoting alternative transportation and making life as easy as possible on bike commuters, ideas that have now been exported to New Zealand thanks to some Christchurch expats who moved to Boulder for six months after the earthquake.

Pamela and Leon Phillips have been living in Boulder while Leon, a chemistry professor, is a visiting fellow at JILA, a joint venture of CU-Boulder and the National Institute of Standards and Technology. Pamela Phillips was enamored enough of Boulder’s extensive system of bike paths, bike lanes and bike/motorist accommodations that she wrote a lengthy piece in her hometown newspaper The Press, hoping to encourage a rebuilt Christchurch to follow Boulder’s lead.

“When we arrived from earthquake-ravaged Christchurch for a six-month stay in Boulder, we were struck by the similarities between the two cities,” she wrote, “and wondered if some features of the Boulder lifestyle could be beneficial in a rebuilt Christchurch.”

The Feb. 22, 2011 earthquake caused widespread damage in the central city and eastern suburbs, requiring a near-total rebuild at an estimated cost of $16-$24 billion.

Among Boulder’s bike friendly amenities that Phillips suggests for Christchurch:

• It’s 310 miles of bike lanes, routes, designated shoulders and paths;

• Enhanced crosswalks and intersections;

• The B-cycle bike sharing program;

• Boulder’s extensive bus network and PR programs aimed at reducing vehicle travel;

• And its numerous bike racks, locked shelters at bus stops, and bike friendly busses.

She also touts the city’s lawmakers for striking a balance between the freedom of bicycling and bicyclists’ responsibilities to safety, noting laws prohibiting drunk cycling, requiring lighting after dark, and a proposal to impose a speed limit on bike paths.

Boulder’s bike culture “makes me think nostalgically about the time when Christchurch was also bicycle-friendly, with an average of four bicycles to a household,” she wrote.

But there are things, she writes, that Boulder could also learn from Christchurch—the New Zealand city is ahead of Boulder in terms of its waste management goals.

“In l997 the city adopted a waste management plan which commits the city council to zero waste by 2020,” she writes of Christchurch. “Boulder County passed a zero waste resolution in 2005 and aims to achieve zero waste or ‘damn near’ by 2025.”

Of course, Boulder has long been a model for other communities in alternate transportation, especially as it regards bicycling (it was awarded a platinum designation by the League of American Bicyclists in 2008), but it’s still nice to know that the efforts are noticed by visitors … and in this case, that they might spur other communities to follow suit.

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