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New Bike Lanes Help Denver’s Upper Larimer Street Prosper

Upper Larimer Street between Downing and Broadway was converted to two-way traffic last October

In October of 2011, less than a year ago, Public Works converted Larimer Street between Downing and Broadway from a three-lane one-way arterial into a two-way street with one auto traffic lane and one bike lane in each direction. The result of of this relatively minor public investment has been great for this once neglected commercial corridor. In recent years the RINO or River North District has seen numerous new coffee shops, cafes, bars, restaurants, art galleries, businesses of all kinds opening along Larimer Street. These businesses existed in spite of and not because of the condition of Larimer  Street North of Broadway, essentially a three-lane speedway into Downtown.

  

Above photos: Larimer Street just after conversion to two-way traffic and addition of bike lanes in October 2011.

The change from one-way to two-way with bike lanes has provided local businesses with a much improved pedestrian and bicycle environment and neighbors in the surrounding area are taking notice and walking or biking over to Larimer in ever greater numbers. Businesses such as Crema at 29th and Larimer have become neighborhood favorites and are busy from open to close. The bike lanes on the street have set a tone for the redevelopment along the corridor. The added buffer between the cars and the sidewalk makes for a better pedestrian environment and it also sends a message that this community values sustainability. With Denver Bike Share headquarters at 27th and Larimer and sustainable-minded businesses such as Volunteers of America and EarthLinks headquartered on the street, Upper Larimer is developing into Denver’s sustainable main street. The new bike lanes are an important part of this atmosphere and I applaud the RINO district and Public Works for having the vision to include bike lanes in the plan.

 

Above photos: Some of the great new sustainable local businesses that have recently opened up along Larimer Street.

To take Larimer to the next level, additional sustainable streetscape elements could be added, such as the on-street bike parking and parklet seen here in San Francisco’s Mission District:

Hopefully, city officials will take note of what is happening along Larimer and future conversions of similar streets, such as E. 19th Avenue between Park Avenue and Broadway, which is under consideration now, won’t take the 10-plus years it took to implement the Larimer street conversion.

Above photo: E. 19th Avenue at Pennsylvania has a very similar condition to Larimer Street prior to the conversion.

If you have not been there lately, bike over to Larimer and take in the  local shops, restaurants and cafes along Denver’s new Sustainable Main Street.

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15 Comments

  1. Aaron says:

    Good for Larimer glad to hear that is working out up there, and hopefully that example will carry over to similar streets.

    Just curious though if anyone else seems to think the cycling improvements have stalled since Vidal left office? It just seems we got a flurry of activity that one year, and after the administration change occurred, other than long term projects (IE 15th st, Colorado Station bridge) nothing new seems to be in the works. Am I missing some new projects that are not near downtown?

  2. Joe Burnham says:

    Glad to hear it. Here’s hoping the city notices and considers doing the same for other neighborhoods. While I’m partial given where I live, I’d love to see this happen through Capitol Hill’s east and west bound one-ways.

  3. Toast2042 says:

    This is great :) Bikes lanes should be the default, not an “added amenity”, particularly through a neighborhood built like RiNo. Welton could use some attention like this as well.

  4. mckillio says:

    Glad to hear it. Denver seriously needs more dedicated bike lanes, maybe one every three or four blocks, not to mention fewer street lights.

  5. Mary Lou says:

    I hope the bicycle culture could spread to Globeville – a little sustainability goes a long way and could counteract industrial encroachment.

  6. John says:

    I’m all for the bike lanes…now if only cyclists would actually stop at stop signs and traffic signals, not ride 4 or 5 abreast down the bike lanes or against traffic and would stay the f*ck off of the sidewalk! Want to be treated as vehicles equivalent to cars in terms of road use? Follow the rules of the road and the city rules regarding cycling in the public right of way!

    Bully for RiNo and northern Larimer Street!

    • mckillio says:

      I definitely agree with you about riding abreast (which is allowed as long as you don’t impede traffic), I have friends that do it to purposely slow traffic down so they feel safer, either get more comfortable about it or ride somewhere else. Bikers are allowed to be on the sidewalk as long as they plan on dismounting or getting on the road within one block. However, there is no reason for bikes to have to stop at stop signs, they should stop at lights before proceeding though. Denver needs to adopt the “Idaho Stop” law. Bikes aren’t motor vehicles and shouldn’t be treated as such.

    • Toast2042 says:

      Bikes blowing through stop lights bugs me. It bug me because I commute by bicycle and every time I see it I know that that person has just made my life more difficult by pissing off every car on the road. The Champa and Stout lanes are also full of bikers riding against traffic, which accomplishes the same effect. More biker education and enforcement is needed, and I say this as a bicyclist. Though I wouldn’t mind having an Idaho stop law here in Denver…

  7. Liz Simmons says:

    Now, if only they would do this with Broadway and Lincoln (I know, I’m dreaming).

  8. Wendy E says:

    John H, thanks for the great article and for being a top bicycle advocate in Denver!

    I agree with Toast2042, I obey the traffic laws on my bike and it really irks me to see others not doing it, and progressing the stereotype that cyclists are jerks.

    I was in Beijing in 2011 and they had full sized service roads seperated by a hard, tree lined median where the bulk of cyclists rode. These lanes did have slow moving cars, scooters, and petty cabs as well; but it was clear that they were in primarily bicycle space. They also had seperate red and green lights just for bikes so that the cyclist traffic could go before cars at a red light.

    For Denver City plans related to bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure see:
    http://www.denvergov.org/bikeprogram/BicyclinginDenver/StreetsandTrails/Planning/tabid/438250/Default.aspx

  9. Ian says:

    The success of larimer is good, but it could have been made much more effective had the parking and bike lane simply been switched (with some sort of barrier in between). Why have cycle tracks not been more seriously considered in Denver? For a little investment added on to what is already planned, the city’s streets could be made much safer, healthier, and welcoming to a huge swath of the population to everyday cycling by cementing their senses of physical (and subjective) safety. Planners likely know this, yet they are for some reason either reticent or resistant to proposing them in “Denver Moves”, possibly jeopardizing their goals and the potential for even higher strides in our development as a sustainable, attractive city to newcomers and safer, more vibrant one for residents already here.