Pete Piccolo, Bicycle Colorado

Pete Piccolo, executive director of Bicycle Colorado

FAST FACTS:

  • Executive director of Bicycle Colorado since February 2018. The organization is the state's leading advocate for bicycling.
  • Has more bicycles than cars — 11 bikes, two motor vehicles
  • Follows up his Sunday ride with homemade pizza
  • Loves fishing but has not caught one in two years. "Thankfully, my kids, who are teenagers now, still want to fish with me."
  • Native of Buffalo, New York, which means he's a Bills and Sabres fan "despite my best efforts to divorce myself from Buffalo sports."
  • Previously a vice president with CitiGroup, he turned to bicycling as a profession with Outdoor Adventures for Kids, which connects disadvantaged kids with bicycles. He most recently spent eight years with Denver Public Schools, including as executive director for innovation. In that role he founded the Imaginarium, an innovation lab that aims to reinvent public education so that every student who gradates is prepared for college and careers. He holds a master's degree in business from Southern Methodist University.

Colorado Politics: What made you want to work for Bicycle Colorado, given your most recent job in public education?

Pete Piccolo: Bicycles are a simple machine that can help solve some of our society's most pressing challenges. Bikes are good for the climate, good for our minds and bodies, and good for the economy. As someone who loves to ride bikes for fun and everyday trips, I wanted to be part of a movement that is working to make riding bikes safer and more accessible for all Coloradans.
 
CP: Where is Colorado lacking in its laws to protect cyclists and what can the legislature do to encourage more bike riding?
 
Piccolo: There are three areas the legislature can make a difference. First, allocate funding to build a connected, high-quality, statewide bike network. This infrastructure would include a combination of expanded shoulders with rumble strips, and hard- and soft-surface bike paths; it also involves replacing all "Share the Road" signs with "Three Feet to Pass" signs. Funding bike infrastructure costs a fraction of highway maintenance and expansion projects, and when the state funds and builds infrastructure that encourages people to bike instead of drive, taxpayers will all save money with reduced roadway maintenance costs associated with driving multi-ton vehicles every day. Second, pass laws that prioritize the safety of people who bike. A top priority for us is updating the Safety Stop law so that it applies to all Colorado communities. This is a cost-neutral solution that enhances safety for bicyclists and drivers alike by reducing conflicts on the roadway and overall commute times. Finally, we would like the legislature (and the Department of Motor Vehicles) to take steps to enhance driver training and testing by adding bicycle and pedestrian safety content. Additionally, we believe that all Coloradans should be required to periodically take a written drivers test that includes the latest laws and guidelines on bicycle and pedestrian safety. Today, for most Coloradans, we take a written test once in our lives, and most of us haven’t taken a test since we were 16! That creates a dangerous lack of awareness of our rules of the road.
 
CP: Once upon a time, there was actually a bicycle caucus at the state Capitol with some very avid cyclists. However, the last of its biggest advocates (Sen. Mike Foote) will be gone in 2021. How hard is it to persuade lawmakers to take up the cause of cycling? What are the pitfalls?
 
Piccolo: We recently completed a questionnaire of people running for a House or Senate seat to gain insight into their thoughts on bicycling. We distributed the questionnaire to every candidate in the 83 seats up for grabs this year, and we heard back from candidates or incumbents in 51 of those districts. It was very encouraging to learn that many of the candidates love to ride bikes and are open to working with us to pass legislation that supports bicycling. Bottom line is most people support bicycling because they either ride themselves or they understand the many benefits of riding a bike. Supporting biking should not be controversial — and typically it isn’t. The real challenge is that each legislator can take on only so much work, which means they need to decide what does and does not get attention. Our job, in part, is to ensure that legislative work addresses the needs of bicyclists.

CP: Where do you see bicycling in Colorado in five years? Where are the biggest gaps?
 
Piccolo: Compared to most states, Colorado is a wonderful place to ride a bike. However, as we look to the future, we see a number of opportunities. The top factor that will impact bicycling in Colorado is population growth, which is both an opportunity and a challenge. The opportunity is we expect to see more people riding bikes, which means there will be greater demand for bike infrastructure and laws that make riding safe and accessible. The challenge is our current bike infrastructure, both pavement and dirt, can not support this growth. We must accelerate the pace of change — we must invest more in bike infrastructure, pass laws that prioritize the safety of bicyclists, and reform our driver education and testing systems so that bicyclists and pedestrian safety is not an afterthought. And we must do these things now.
 
CP: What do you ride for fun, and be specific! Do you compete? Where are your favorite places to ride in Colorado?
 
Piccolo: There are so many rides to choose from! My go-to ride in Denver, which is where I live, is Deer Creek Canyon. Outside of Denver, I really enjoy riding my mountain bike in Crested Butte. There’s a ton of great single track to choose from, but I really enjoy riding up Washington Gulch Road to Paradise Basin and down toward the 401 trail. It’s a steady nontechnical dirt road climb to the Basin which is best enjoyed in the early morning to catch the sunrise and avoid traffic.
 
 

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