Rick Price was instrumental in establishing many Fort Collins bicycling and safety programs. Kevin Duggan, firstname.lastname@example.org
A stately line of bicycles hangs in the basement of Rick Price’s home in central Fort Collins. Many of the bikes are sleek, classic Italian road bikes, the likes of which are no longer made.
Each bike has a story that Rick happily shares with a visitor. His enthusiasm for bicycles and travel shines like a headlight.
Rick has shared his passion for cycling with Fort Collins by relentlessly advocating for bicycle programs and safety. For years he was a familiar, bearded figure at City Hall and community meetings pushing the benefits of alternative transportation, especially bikes.
The message was consistent and clear: Fort Collins needed more bikes and more bike safety.
Along the way he was instrumental in the establishment of local cycling programs residents tend to take for granted, including the nonprofit advocacy group Bike Fort Collins and the city-run Safe Routes to School program.
He brought financial and legal structure to the Fort Collins Bicycle Co-op, which offers residents a variety of programs, including an opportunity to earn a bike by volunteering in the community.
Rick wrote a column focusing on bike safety for the Coloradoan for five years. He also advocated for funding a bicycle and pedestrian “safety town” that led to the Walk & Wheel Skills Hub on West Drake Road designed to educate children.
His work, which over the years included a lot of collaboration with government officials and fellow bicycle enthusiasts, had a lot to do with Fort Collins’ reputation as one of the best cycling cities in the country.
“Without a doubt I cannot think of any individual who has contributed more to our local Fort Collins bike culture,” stated Bruce Henderson, former president of Bike Fort Collins, in an email to the Coloradoan. “Many of his early mission and vision ideas like promoting more bikes and safer streets have persevered to this day.”
On Tuesday, city officials will formally recognize Rick’s contributions when Mayor Wade Troxell proclaims Aug. 20, 2019, as Rick Price Day to “thank him for his service and commitment to active mobility in our city,” according to the proclamation.
The proclamation ceremony is scheduled to begin at 5:15 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall, 300 Laporte Ave. The public is invited to attend. There’s plenty of room to park bikes in front of the building.
The recognition comes as Rick and his wife, Paola Malpezzi Price, prepare for another extended stay in Italy to spend time with family, including two grandchildren.
Rick and Paola met in 1965 when she was in Oregon for her senior year of high school through a student exchange program. They connected on her first day at school and have been together ever since.
In December, they will celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. Bikes have been a part of their lives together since the beginning.
In 1972, they started a bike-touring company — Bike Across Italy — as a vehicle for getting away from the dreary Oregon coast and visiting Paola’s homeland.
The couple arrived in Fort Collins in 1983 when Paola took at job teaching romance languages and literature at Colorado State University. Rick found work with the university’s study abroad program.
In 1985, they formed Italian Specialty Tours Inc., which became ExperiencePlus! Specialty Tours in 1993.
In time, ExperiencePlus! took bicycle tour groups to destinations across the world. The Price’s daughters, Monica and Maria Elena, took over the company in 2008 and continue to oversee its operations.
Rick took on the role of being a highly visible bicycle advocate in Fort Collins around 2006, when the city was planning to cut more than 100 jobs, including the bicycling coordinator, because of revenue concerns.
He lobbied city council on the importance of bicycling and money was found for a part-time coordinator. Rick and others worked together to start Bike Fort Collins.
Rick said he wanted to be a catalyst for bicycling programs even if he ruffled some bureaucratic feathers.
“I just thought with the infrastructure that this town had — the wide streets, the great trails that the council started in the ’80s — here’s a real opportunity to turn this town into a great bicycling community and make it part of the lifestyle,” he said.
It worked. Fort Collins took to cycling as heartily as it took to brewing craft beers.
Paola retired from CSU in 2014. The couple has traveled extensively since then and Rick has backed away from activism.
At 70 years of age, he’s facing health problems that have slowed him. He still rides a favorite bike that has been modified with electric-assist equipment for getting up hills.
Rick was surprised and pleased to learn about the city’s recognition of the work he and others have done.
“I look at what’s going on out there and I’m absolutely thrilled with what happened. Bike Fort Collins has thrived, we have a professional bicycle planner … there’s infrastructure, there’s stuff going on everywhere, people are really aware, and I think proud, of what we have done in the city,” he said. “I’m glad to be part of that.”
Rick Price Day in Fort Collins may not be a holiday, but it would be a good day to ride your bike to work or anywhere else you want to go.
Rick would certainly approve.
Kevin Duggan is a senior columnist and reporter.
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