On any given day you can find Geneva Hooten pedaling down the streets of Denver, making her way to work at the Colorado Department of Transportation from her home in West Cheesman Park.
For Hooten, 29, biking is not just how she gets to work, it's her life.
“I have never owned a car," she said. "I am definitely a big bicyclist."
For the past eight years Hooten has been working in transportation planning. She came to Denver from her hometown of Portland five years ago when her company, David Evans and Associates, offered to transfer her to Colorado. As soon as she moved here, she began working with Capitol Hill United Neighborhoods and quickly became the transportation co-chair at the Inter-Neighborhood Cooperation. Both organizations act as liasons, collecting ideas and concerns from neighborhood residents and then voting on an official statement to give to the city.
She joined the organizations to learn more about the ins and outs of transportation in Colorado. She also hoped to be a voice for pedestrian and biking options in the city.
“One of the things I'm most proud of about co-chairing is we've changed the demographics of our meetings," Hooten said. "So we have a lot more young people, we have people who don't own cars who can join meetings. We're changing the voice of people who are there.”
At David Evans, Hooten worked in multimodal transportation planning. It wasn't until she moved to a Denver-based company called Toole Design Group that she began focusing on transportation planning specifically for bicyclists and pedestrians.
Switching to CDOT in November was a big change for Hooten. She works there as an innovation and improvement lead. While the department does own all the major highways systems in the state, she said Colorado is also working on transportation safety for bicyclists and pedestrians.
“But also (I can) be another voice of someone who says `Maybe we should think about something other than cars and parking and getting cars around,' ” Hooten said. “The more people who are voicing it make it better.”
Hooten said it never made sense for her to get a car. When she was in high school, her brother totaled the family car, which meant she didn't have the option to drive. During her senior year she studied abroad in France, where most people bike everywhere.
“I got to see how living and working and doing everything in a truly multimodal city could work,” she said.
While living in France she also learned about the Camino de Santiago. The Camino is a trail route through parts of France and northern Spain. The routes were traditionally taken by pilgrims to the shrine of Saint James. The trails are marked with sea shells and an arrow system, Hooten said.
“My host family had a friend who was stopping in after doing the Camino and he had this sea shell on his backpack, and that's kind of a marker of the programs,” she said.
Before joining CDOT, she spent some time walking the trail from France to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. Toward the end of her trip she was walking about 20 miles per day.
This year, she will do a different route, leaving in September to go from Lisbon to Porto in Portugal and then to Santiago. The trip will be 380 miles and she will average about 18 miles a day over a month.
Said Hooten: “it's not everyone's cup of tea for a vacation.”
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