No room for bikes at the ‘greenest convention in history’

Organizers for the Democratic National Convention and party leaders have touted the official greenness of the upcoming convention in Denver, including everything from biodiesel buses and recyclable materials to carbon counting.

But in the rush to secure everything green -— even setting up a “hybrid-only parking lot” at the Pepsi Center -— it seems one simple and fairly obvious LEED-certified step was overlooked: Installing bike racks.

Indeed, there will be no bikes allowed within the DNC perimeter of the Pepsi Center, nor at Invesco Field, where Barack Obama will deliver his acceptance speech, DNCC organizers confirmed this week.

Repeatedly citing the Secret Service and the Denver Police Department as making all security-related mandates, including not allowing delegates, volunteers and gathered media to park a bike within the convention perimeter, organizers said not accommodating leg-powered transportation is the exception to the rule when talking about the true greenness of the event.

“I think it’s important to take into consideration all of the different mechanisms available for delegates to travel around downtown during the convention,” said DNCC spokeswoman Natalie Wyeth. “Thousands of our delegates will be staying at downtown hotels so they will be able to walk to the Pepsi Center or take the 16th Street shuttle bus. A majority of our delegates will have access to the light rail as well and all of our delegates will be able to use our shuttle system to bring them to the convention and all of those buses will be run on biodiesel. 

The rack lack at the Pepsi Center doesn’t bode well for at least one pro-bicycle group that is planning to provide delegates, volunteers and the media free use of 1,000 bikes during the convention.

The group, Bikes Belong, partnered with Humana to bring bikes to Denver so as to be checked out at six different kiosks locations around town and will duplicate the effort in Minneapolis-St. Paul during the Republican convention a week after the party in Denver.

“We are disappointed the bikes will not be allowed onto the Pepsi Center (grounds) but we know there are security concerns,” said Avery Stonich, marketing and communications director for Bikes Belong. “There will be a station across the street from the Pepsi Center, though.”

Stonich said 1,000 bicycles will be available on loan for free to people who can supply a driver’s license and credit card.

“What we are hoping to do is showcase bicycling as a good option for short trips in big cities,” Stonich said. “Most trips in cities are less than two miles but only 1 percent are taken on a bike. We are hoping to influence people about the value of riding bikes and we’re hoping that people get to experience biking, maybe for the first time, at the convention and see how easy it is.”

The DNCC has vowed it will be the "greenest convention in history." Here’s a list of greenness:

Counting carbon: The DNCC is comprehensively calculating the carbon footprint of the convention. Where emissions are unavoidable, the DNCC has said it will participate in carbon-offset programs.

Greening the arena: After becoming the convention’s location, the Pepsi Center announced it was going “100 percent green.” Plans are to operate entirely on renewable wind and solar energy and to include new recycling bins, a hybrid vehicle-only parking area and a “no idling zone” outside the arena.

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Jason Kosena

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