(By Ryan McCann) Last month the University of Denver was honored a bronze level Bicycle Friendly University award by the League of American Bicyclists. This month, BikeDenver continues its celebration of this national honor by awarding our BikeDenver Bike Hero award to one of the Grand Poohbahs responsible for DU’s bicycle friendly success, Ethan Crawford.
Ethan, a Colorado native, grew up in Denver’s Park Hill neighborhood, studied Broadcast Journalism at the University of Colorado, and is currently continuing his studies at the University of Denver’s Korbel School of International Studies and working as a Digital Instruction Specialist at the University of Denver Graduate School of Social Work. And somewhere…between his days growing up in Park Hill, studying at CU and DU, and a hearty amount of international travel, Ethan grew into a full-fledged sustainability advocate…with an affinity for (what else?!) bicycles!
We tried asking where Ethan’s passion for sustainability derives from to no avail, and were left with a wide-eyed, headshaking, and open palmed answer; “It’s complicated..!” It may be that Ethan’s passion for all things sustainable is a learned characteristic shared by his “millennial” generation, or maybe it was nurtured by his pursuits under our own Colorado sunshine… In any case, we had a lot to learn about Ethan! Some of what we learned was predictable, and some, a bit more of a surprise. It’s no surprise that he lives close to his studies and workplace and commutes year round by bicycle, or that one of his favorite rides is a meandering route that stems from DU to Washington Park, Cherry Creek Trail, Cheesman Park, 16th Avenue, and (finally) City Park. However, we weren’t expecting to learn that Ethan has been a member of the Boulder/Denver Cruiser Communities for a decade and has even rubbed up handlebars with the jean jacket vested group known as the “Cobras” (the original twelve member group that helped establish Denver Cruisers back in 2006), or that every morning he feeds his chickens and tends to an expansive community cropshare…in his backyard!—Which includes a hand-built chicken coop (constructed by Ethan) that would put most youth summer camp cabins to shame!
Ethan has been riding his bike in Denver since the age of six, and can bear witness to Denver’s rise of the bicycle—the good and ugly. He notes; “I only have a [one-way] 1.5 mile commute and am routinely harassed and buzzed.” But Ethan doesn’t solely gripe about bad behavior from people in cars, he has frustrations with infrastructure (stopping at stop signs in neighborhoods, the lack of traffic calming mechanisms and citywide bicycle infrastructure like painted lanes & sharrows), and the growing bicycling culture itself (equally AWESOME and disappointing—especially when it comes to bicycling etiquette). It’s this awareness (and a broken collar bone suffered from an unfortunate bicycle crash near DU) that spurred Ethan to take action and become Co-Chair of DU’s Transportation Committee, a Subcommittee of DU’s Sustainability Council. “I was and am thankful for the opportunity. It’s been my goal to prevent “reacting” to transportation issues…especially after my crash which I think DU responded accordingly to… but it should not have happened. I’d rather not focus on the problems of the past, but help to find effective solutions going forward.”
True to his word, Ethan has kept a cautious eye on transportation matters around DU’s neighborhood. Within five months of his being appointed as Chair, sharrows were installed along S. High Street. Soon after that, Ethan led the way to create a Bicycle Advisory Committee that applied to the League of American Bicyclists (LAB) for Bicycle Friendly University recognition. Ahead next, Ethan and the Committee have their sights on “Gold” and are currently reviewing LAB’s recommendations for improving campus bicycle friendliness. They are also working on addressing other alternative transportation matters around campus (they are the “Transportation Committee” after all) and have been cranking out some exciting solutions. Two ideas in development are the proposed additions of one of Denver’s first fix-it stations—complete with bike stand, tools, pump and vending; and, another first-ever (for the campus), an electric car charging station.
As we concluded our interview with Ethan, we asked the favorite question often posed by Laura, a member of BikeDenver’s summer staff, “If you were a bike part, what would you be?” With little hesitation Ethan answers, “a spoke!” and justifies this as being “one-among many” within a strongly connected bicycle community. A modest answer at best, we point out to Ethan that he’s more like a “hub” given the various groups of people he has helped advise, organize, and work with. A pause of silence spreads across the room as Ethan considers our suggestion… He then nods his acceptance and tells us, “Sure, I can go with that. But I was a spoke before I was a hub!” Touché.
Ethan Crawford, congratulations on your success and thank you for ALL the bicycle advocacy work you do! You are our BikeDenver Bike Hero of the Month!!
Bike Hero of the Month Awards highlight different people each month, and help encourage other people to bike by telling the Hero’s personal story. The goal of the Bike Hero Awards Program is to showcase the diversity of citizen-cyclists and the people who support them in Denver.
BikeDenver’s Executive Director Piep van Heuven says: “We introduced the Bike Hero awards because we want to encourage a friendly environment for and public image of bicyclists in Denver. One of the ways we can do this is to showcase the different faces of and great stories about people in our community, like Chris, who ride bikes or help others get out there and ride. Through the Bike Hero awards, BikeDenver honors bicyclists of all ages and walks of life, from the first time bicyclist to the rain or shine bicyclist! We all know people (our neighbors, co-workers, family members or community leaders) who inspire us to reach for the handlebars instead of the car keys. Take a moment to look around you and help BikeDenver recognize the people in our community who are making a difference for Denver, one ride at a time!”
To nominate a Bike Hero, please send a photo and a brief description of why you think they should be recognized (100 words or less) to info(at)bikedenver.org.
We started naming Bike Heroes in 2010. Meet past honorees here:
Bicycle Village has been a Colorado owned and operated business for more than 30 years. From modest beginnings in an 1800 square ft. building in West Denver, Bicycle Village has grown into the largest bicycle retailer in the Rockies. www.bicyclevillage.com
BikeDenver is Denver’s bicycle advocacy organization. BikeDenver promotes and encourages bicycling in and around Denver and works to make Denver a better place to ride your bike for fun, recreation and transportation. Why? Because it’s healthy for you, and healthy for Denver. www.bikedenver.org