About Denver
From "How America Can Bike And Grow Rich, The NBG Manifesto"

I looked forward to seeing the legendary Steve Stevens again. In 2000 Steve, a Golden CO resident (no relation to the Thomas Stevens who circumnavigated the globe on a bicycle in 1884), completed a ride from San Francisco to Boston on his HIWheel in an amazing 29 days, a world record that still stands today. And he would be at Denver City Hall to help greet us!

As we rolled closer to the Mile High city, I found myself wondering if Scott Campbell who had rolled through here for us in 2006 was correct. He kept saying that it wouldn’t feel like San Francisco where cars have an overbearing presence. Though not quite as big, it was still the biggest population center we would ride through since we left the Golden Gate city. What would make Scott right was the fact that its 566,000 people lived on 154 square mile compared to the 739,000 people that were crushed into San Francisco‘s 49 square miles.

It is hard to think of it in such a way now, but what is now Denver used to be a French possession. When the United States made the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, that buy included most of what is now Colorado. In order to divide up the monstrous chunk of land that extended from New Orleans on a diagonal all the way up to the border of Canada, according to a formula, the US formed territorial governments, each of which was created when enough settlers moved into a new area. For seven years from 1854-1861 then, what is now Denver was once a part of the Kansas Territory.

It was a land speculator whose accident would name what would become the capital of a new territory and then the 38th State of the Union. In an attempt to win favor from James Denver, who he thought was still the Kansas Territory governor, General William Larimer named the settlement he had formed for Pikes Peak gold miners on the banks of the South Platte River after this man. Ironically, however, Mr. Denver had resigned before Larimer’s act could bear any fruit.

Nonetheless, the name stuck and when the Denver outpost became a part of the Colorado territory that was formed in 1861, it also became its capital. When Colorado was then granted statehood, 15 years later, in 1876, Denver remained as its seat of government.

In the same way San Francisco staked its fortunes on the discovery of gold a hundred miles away, Denver’s early growth was fueled by the discovery of gold at Pikes Peak and Cripple Creek, 75 and 45 miles away respectively. While not as large as the California gold rush of a decade earlier, it is estimated that 100,000 miners, called 59’ers, came to Denver and its outlying areas in search of this precious metal. By 1890, Denver had even out grown San Francisco for a short time to become the second largest city west of Omaha. Gold was in such plentiful supply in Denver, that when the state capital was built here in 1907 the entire outer surface of the 42 foot diameter dome was covered with this prized metal.

As we pedaled along, even though there were plenty of office building and skyscrapers to be seen, the riding, as Scott had suggested, was pleasant. The bike lanes were plentiful and the car drivers seemed accustomed to sharing the road. We were made to feel even more welcome by all the green that surrounded us as we then reached Denver’s civic area.

A park like area, the City Hall where we would meet Mayor Hickenlooper looked out on to a wide boulevard behind which stood a sprawling tree filled lawn. Probably half a mile away, we could make out the state capitol building. Even from a distance, it looked impressive.

As was Denver City Hall. Filling up a whole city block, four stories tall it was shaped to form a wide arching half circle. At it’s center stood the stone steps that led to its entrance. The six or seven massive columns that rose to its roof, gave all of it an impressive degree of authority. Later we learned that it was opened in 1932 as a part of a popular Mayor’s campaign to create a “Paris on the Plains”.

Bikes in Denver