Denver Moves: Enhanced Bikeways Edition

Back in 2011 Denver hired a team of consultants to perform a comprehensive update to the city’s bicycle master plan known as Denver Moves.

Denver Moves Bike Map, 2011

Denver Moves Bike Map, 2011

While New York and Washington, DC were adding physically separated cycle tracks to protect riders from automobile traffic, Denver Moves relied almost exclusively on traditional striped bike lanes.

Denver Moves proposed 121 new miles of bike lanes, however only 2.7 miles of these offered any physical protection from automobile traffic.  The majority of these new cycle tracks were placed in park loops and none were located downtown where protection from traffic is most needed.

Fast forward three years and planners have realized that by providing cyclists with protected space on the roadway, conflict between cars, bikes and pedestrians can be reduced and more ordinary people can be encouraged to ride.  In May, Denver began a process to update Denver Moves utilizing the latest design strategies, emphasizing ease of use for new riders and connectivity between neighborhoods. On October 7, a public open house was held to reveal a first draft of the proposed maps and designs.  This update focuses on what Denver calls “enhanced bikeways”- physically protected bike lanes, buffered lanes and neighborhood bikeways:

dm street design

Denver Moves Enhanced Bikeways Design Proposals

The ambition of this plan is seen most strikingly downtown, where almost all of the striped lanes proposed in Denver Moves have been converted into protected cycle tracks:

denver moves before after

Maps and design proposals can be viewed here and comments are still being accepted for a few more days. The city plans to start implementation with 14th Street (paralleling the protected lane on 15th St) and with Lawrence and Arapahoe Streets.  This will create a low-stress north/south and east/west grid through Lodo and Arapahoe Square downtown.  With any luck over the next year, this scene-

lawrence bike lane

Lawrence Street Bike Lane

Will look something more like this-

Credit: Beyond DC

Credit: Beyond DC

Bike Lanes on Broadway?

With construction of our first on street protected bike lane on 15th St, could Broadway be Denver’s next transformational bike project?

bicycle_lane_endsPrior to 15th Street, all of Denver’s bike lanes were painted on low traffic streets.  While this can make for comfortable riding, these streets often do not make connections between neighborhoods, abruptly abandoning cyclists at a busy intersection with a “Bike Lane Ends” sign.  A bike lane on Broadway on the other hand could provide a continuous north-south route from Downtown to I-25.

So what would a bike lane on Broadway look like?  Given the high speed of traffic, few cyclists feel safe riding down this corridor and it is unikely that a 5 foot wide striped bike lane would provide much comfort.  Currently Broadway is an expanse of concrete with 5 lanes of speeding traffic:

broadway

But there is the potential to be so much more.  Below is a photo of 1st Avenue in NYC, a similarly wide arterial which was transformed into a multimodal corridor, complete with a protected bike lane and designated busway.

1stAveNYC

Of course, Broadway in Denver has significantly less traffic congestion than First Avenue in NYC.  Dedicating a lane to bicycles and one to bus transit should be relatively pain free.

But we don’t need to rely on New York to imagine how Broadway could be redeveloped.  The newly released Golden Triangle Neighborhood Plan has published an ambitious design for transforming Broadway into a grand multimodal boulevard:broadway model

Here we see a protected two-way bike lane conveniently placed alongside a B-Cycle bike share station and a separated bus lane on the right.

broadway bike lane mapThe map to the left shows how a bike route on Broadway would provide direct connections between Five points, Uptown, Golden Triangle, Capitol Hilll, Baker and West Wash Park.  Currently, riding north-south between these neighborhoods requires either a circuitous route on the Cherry Creek bike path or a treacherous crossing of Speer.   Broadway would provide a direct link from the new 15th Street bike lane, connecting to Civic Center and points south.

According to a CU Denver study, the Broadway/Lincoln corridor accounts for 6 of the 12 most dangerous intersections in Denver for cyclists with 37 bicycle/automobile collisions between 2003 and 2009.

Evidence from other cities has shown that a protected bike lane which separates cyclists from cars would remove much of the potential for conflict.  A study in NYC found that while bicycle traffic tripled after construction of a protected bikeway, crashes resulting in injuries decreased by 63%, sidewalk riding fell from 46% to 3% and speeding by automobiles decreased from 74% to 20%.

Anybody who has attempted to park on South Broadway on a Friday night knows the struggle that businesses, customers and neighbors encounter every week.  Turning Broadway into a multimodal corridor would encourage those who are interested in leaving their car at home and decrease our dependence on the limited parking supply.

If you would like to see this vision become a reality, please send feedback to Denver Public Works, City Council or the Mayor.

15th Street Protected Bike Lane Debut!

Today the city of Denver unveiled its first on-street protected bike lane, running along 15th Street from Civic Center to Larimer Square.  Led by Mayor Hancock and a motorcycle escort, dozens of cyclists made the inaugural ride blissfully free of double parked cars and delivery trucks.

Let’s start with some bike lane eye candy-

15th st 4

15th st 7

15th st 6Cars and bikes are still figuring out exactly how those left turn mixing zones work.

15th st 8Now that’s a protected bike lane :)

A little background behind the photo op-

One year ago, the city took the bold move of converting a traffic lane along a major downtown arterial into a bike lane.  However, without any vertical protection between the lane and moving traffic, cyclists were left exposed to speeding cars and double parked delivery trucks.  A major push by Bike Denver and Denver B Change, including a petition signed by over 800 people convinced Denver Public Works to install the vertical bollards now protecting riders from traffic.

With so much excitement at today’s event, now is the time to build on our momentum.  While vertically protected bike lanes can help apprehensive cyclists feel more comfortable riding on-street, just as important is ensuring connectivity of these lanes so that riders can safely get from start to finish.  In this regard, the 15th St lane leaves much to be desired.

15th st bike lane map

The most glaring shortcoming is obvious from the above map.  The lane travels only halfway through downtown.  If you want to ride to Union Station or across the river to Lower Highlands, you must traverse three lanes of high speed traffic to continue on the other side of 15th.  You then follow a sharrow lane shared with a high frequency bus line.

DPW’s solution is to give a delayed green for cyclists crossing traffic, but good luck getting a novice rider to understand what is going on here-15th st 9

Representative of this dilemma, if a cyclist on today’s ride were to attempt to continue beyond Larimer St they would be confronted with the following obstacle:15th st 10Quite an inglorious end to such a high profile bike facility.

However there are promising signs that this bike facility is only the beginning.  With strong support from the mayor’s office, city council and public works, Denver has committed to additional protected bike lanes downtown via the Green Lanes Project and will be updating the Denver Moves Bicycle Plan to include a comprehensive network of protected lanes.

So congrats to the city of Denver and our bike community in achieving this milestone.  Let’s build on this accomplishment to improve conditions for anyone choosing to bike in Denver.

Welcome

Welcome to Bike5280.org- a new blog for the Denver bike community, a place where commuters, roadies and cruisers alike can collaborate to improve the state of cycling in our city.  We hope to be your go-to source for cycling events, advocacy and community in the Denver area.

We are currently a work in progress and hope to officially launch this spring. I will leave you with some of my favorite photos I have taken on my bike in the last 5 years.  Enjoy!

wolf creek

cruisers

bike snow

maya bike

mt bike3

farther