The best way to get around Denver is _____.
A. By car, because that’s what this city was built on
B. By public transit, because cities should not be car-oriented
C. By bicycle or scooter, because I like exercise and/or fun
I nearly wrote that “Denverites in every coffee shop and bar are having this debate” but then I remembered generalizations are silly and also that this probably is not at all true. But the Denverites at Denverite dot com do talk and even loudly argue about this quite a lot, so we decided it was time to try to answer the question — or at least provide a case study.
This is how we hatched the idea for the absurdly named Great Denver Transportation Race. Each of us would take a different mode of transportation and we set a simple ground rule that would dictate the terms: Treat this like a normal commute.
That’s why, for one thing, no one walked. If you had plans to meet someone for a beer 3 miles across town after work, it’s very unlikely you’d walk. That’s also why we started timing at the front door, accounting for the time it takes to get to a parked bike or car, call a Lyft, catch a bus or find a dockless scooter. There was to be no running, because you certainly wouldn’t do that normally, and the finish line was the front door of the destination.
The route was designed to have advantages and disadvantages for everyone and to go through downtown. The rush hour timing is the disadvantage for the cars.
Point A: Denverite HQ, 10th Avenue and Bannock Street
Point B: Ratio Beerworks, 29th and Larimer streets
Dockless electric scooter: Kevin
Personal bicycle: Ashley
Personal car: Esteban
B-cycle: $135 annual pass
Dockless electric scooter: $2.95
Personal bicycle: Free
Personal car: Estimated $3 gas
Ride-share: $8.25 before tip
(Scale of 1-10)
Dockless electric scooter: 8
Personal bicycle: 6
Personal car: 9
1st place: Ashley, 18 min., 12 sec.
2nd place: Esteban, 20 min., 12 sec. (his app malfunctioned, so we’re adding an estimated 2 min.)
3rd place: Allan, 20 min., 50 sec.
4th place: Kevin, 22 min., 11 sec.
5th place: Donna, 23 min.
6th place: David, 50 min.
David: I’m writing my dispatch from the sheltered bus stop at 18th and Stout, where the 44 bus is not. It might be here in 20 minutes. When it comes, it will take me to where the beer is. Twitter says my enemies have ordered beers at Ratio and are drinking them. The woman next to me is asking someone on the phone who Bob Ross is.
This is one of the reasons I love cities and what’s in them — including the bus. You get to see and interact with people you might not otherwise. Plus you get to chill and write, or listen to Ezra Furman on the headphones, or reject blessings from your colleagues.
But let’s be real: those nice things don’t get you to your destination on time. Denver needs bus lanes! The 44 is the second leg of my trip, but the first was the 0 on Lincoln, a street with bus-only lanes. It was fast because we didn’t have to share space with cars carrying just one or two people.
People who have to ride the bus shouldn’t also have to be late when there’s plenty of room on the streets to make it better. In the end, it took me 50 minutes to go 2.5 miles. But I got to talk to my bench-mate about Bob Ross’s happy trees.
Donna: My poor finish shows cheaters never prosper. I went by my B-cycle rack earlier in the day and set all the seats on the bikes there at notch 5 to ensure I wouldn’t waste time at the start getting the seat right.
My route was classic Denver — past the art museum, library, City & County, Lawrence Street shelters. Also crisp as I crashed through leaves. And pungent — weed on 14th, something loamy outside Spirits Distillery.
Best of all, I saw a very good Irish setter on the mall.
Kevin: I struck out twice before I managed to get some electric wheels rolling beneath my feet.
I approached a Bird first and was immediately held up by their first-time rider process that required me to scan my ID. The scan didn’t take, so I entered in my information manually, adding more minutes to my time. When I finally got the thing unlocked, I jumped on only to realize that something was not working. The darn scooter wouldn’t scoot.
“This,” I thought to myself, “is what I deserve for talking smack.”
So instead I headed toward 12th and Sherman where the nearest Razor was. Someone told me it was the fastest brand in town, so I thought I might go the extra mile. But I came across a Spin scooter first and gave it a shot. Spin’s in-app map has never worked on my phone, but did let me scan the scooter. But, alas, it was out of battery.
So, there I was, hoofing it up Capitol Hill and quite perturbed.
I finally made it to my Razor, and I was on my way. It’s pretty remarkable that I finished right behind Allan, considering I walked for 10 minutes of my 22-minute-and-11-second commute. I weaved north through uptown and into Five Points, on the street but generally obeying the law. I jumped onto the light rail path along Welton until Park Avenue traffic became prohibitive, then headed west and finally north again.
I was on a sidewalk somewhere in Five Points that had massive lunar craters in the concrete. This was scary on a scooter, but I managed to bunny hop over them and keep on my course.
Like an oasis, Ratio appeared on the horizon. But despite my best efforts. I did not win. It was a fine ride, but my family’s honor may never be restored – until next time!
Allan: I came in third, but my experience in the Lyft made ride-sharing feel like a pretty comfortable and efficient mode of transportation. The car arrived in less than two minutes and I hopped in to meet a nice, longtime Denver resident named Jordan. I was sure we would arrive first, but then we ran into several detours. Not only did we hit the expected traffic of rush hour, but we also ran into several closed streets that made us loop around, just to run into more traffic.
We also got stuck behind pedestrians several times who were quite literally meandering in the street. The ride cost about $8 before tip and my total trip took around 20 minutes, so I would like to think the ride-sharing option is a pretty feasible way to get around Denver at most times of the day.
Esteban: So, I lost. But more importantly, I beat Cheatin’ Kev in the Great Denver Transportation Race. I got pretty pumped for this thing when the trash-talking started in the office (resulting in Kevin’s nickname, which he got after he suggested using a closer scooter to get to a faster scooter). I felt pretty damn cocky because, come on, I was driving a car.
Turns out legs can be just as efficient. Ashley beat me, but barely. It’s a thought that will keep me up tonight: How. Did. She. Do. It, tho?
I basically felt like I had it in the bag once I passed the Capitol. It was a good omen. And there were a few times where I felt like I could have sped up, maybe buy myself 30 seconds or so, but again, I got a little cocky and said I’m doing just fine.
So you can imagine my surprise when I saw Ashley after I stepped up into the brewery. How did she do it? I don’t know, because my app also messed up the time for some reason, saying I finished a few minutes before Ashley. So my app was wrong… Or Ashley has access to teleporting technology she doesn’t want to share with the world yet. Oh well. It was fun! I’m gunning for gold next time.
Ashley: Look, I was about 97 percent sure I would win.
I’ve never owned a car. I’ve been a public-transit-and-bike person for all of my adult life. And let me tell you, I frequently beat my friends in cars to happy hour. Nevertheless, the trash talk in the office was getting pretty heated, so I reigned myself in just a bit. I also wore heels — because I usually wear heels and that’s only fair, but also because winning is good but winning in heels in better.
My trip was about 50 percent Cherry Creek Trail and 50 percent Market Street. The trail portion was significantly faster, though it was crowded enough at rush hour that I got held up behind packs of walkers and other cyclists passing them. It was a pretty lovely ride, especially compared to what followed.
The downtown streets were packed. I could only Idaho Stop at one light, and I caught almost every red light. And here’s the thing about biking in Denver: It’s dangerous. Trails and bike lanes don’t connect very well, if at all. I had to get across three lanes of traffic on Market at rush hour to make my turn onto 29th. I also almost got hit by a guy who was merging without looking in order to illegally park his car on a corner. (If you’re reading this, sir, I’m not even a little bit sorry for shouting profane things at you.)
Still, I arrived at Ratio, locked up my bike outside and walked in the front doors first. Sweaty and a little winded — but first. And the dismayed look on Esteban’s face when he walked in two minutes later was worth nearly getting run over by his car-dependent peer.
The next time
We’re bringing the Great Denverite Transportation back for winter, spring and summer — with different routes and at different times of day. Stay tuned, because I’m betting the results will be different.