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Denver’s Pro-Bicycle/Pedestrian City Council

In April, the Denver City Council set “Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety and Infrastructure” (PDF) as one of its top priorities for 2014. As further evidence of that commitment, Denver City Councilwomen Susan  Shepherd (District 1) and Debbie Ortega (At Large) recently authored a commentary about Council’s goal to improve Denver’s bike/ped infrastructure. We’re happy to share their message here:

By Susan Shepherd and Debbie Ortega, Denver City Council

As a society, our public spaces are a reflection of who we are. They tell the story of how we care for our most vulnerable and demonstrate the value we place on the experiences that occur while walking along our streets or sipping a cup of coffee on a sidewalk café. The places that we share with each other can be great and they can be inspiring, but these same opportunities for greatness can also be lost when our public places are designed primarily for cars and not people.

The national “complete street”s movement seeks to address this very problem and advocates that streets be designed for the safety of all users — pedestrians, bicyclists, transit users, and motorists, which becomes especially important as more and more people are walking and biking to their destinations.

As members of the Denver City Council, we take this responsibility very seriously, a fact demonstrated by our recent vote to nominate bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure one of our top budget priorities for 2014.

With this decision, we are thinking about the diverse residents and visitors to the Mile High City: the student who is putting himself through school by serving food at a local restaurant, wants to live in the city, and could afford it if he gave up his car, but feels alternative transportation options are too limited to make that choice.

We also consider the older widow who has sold her home of many years because she could no longer care for it and has also chosen to give up her car. She would love to continue living in the neighborhood she raised her family in, where she has friends, but are there affordable housing options that are close to transit? Is the sidewalk network consistent enough for her to get around safely?

As a city, we need to remember that 40 percent of people do not drive, and the design of our streets should represent that. Those 40 percent are children, seniors, the disabled, people who can’t afford a car, and baby boomers and Millenials who are choosing not to own one.

Recently, with the rousing encouragement of the biking community, the Public Works Department changed direction and decided to pilot a protected bike lane along 15th Street. We hope to see more such pilot projects and that those projects become permanent.

In our role as council members, we’ll be doing our part to encourage an accelerated implementation of Denver’s bike and pedestrian plan, Denver Moves. Right now, only about 5 percent of the plan is implemented each year; we’d like to see that increase to at least 10 percent next year, with more in subsequent years. In order to accomplish that goal, it is essential that we hire more planners who focus solely on designing pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure.

We also hope to soon see an update to Denver’s right-of-way regulations so they prioritize pedestrian and bike uses above cars. This includes updating the permitting process for bicycle parking infrastructure. Also, when Denver hires a new chief traffic engineer, we will encourage Mayor Michael Hancock and the manager of Public Works, Jose Cornejo, to hire an experienced complete streets champion.

We’ve heard from so many parents, students, older adults, health officials, land-use experts, neighborhood activists and businesses who want to see safer, more accessible options for pedestrians, cyclists and users of alternative transportation. We are listening! There are also many organizations working in Denver to make your streets the places you love to be and safe for all users. Although by no means an exhaustive list, we encourage you to connect with Walk Denver, Bike Denver, the Transit Alliance, CNU Colorado, Denver B-Cycle, and the many other local complete streets advocates.

We need you to keep speaking for your streets, connecting with your city council representatives, your mayor, and others. Denver is ripe for this movement to complete our streets and move forward in designing them for people. You have a council that supports you; together we can take hold of this opportunity for greatness.

DenverUrbanism greatly appreciates the leadership and advocacy of Councilwomen Shepherd and Ortega and the rest of the Denver City Council for their support for better bike/ped infrastructure and safety improvements!

Please contact your city councilperson and let them know that you agree with making bike/ped infrastructure a top priority for the city.

 

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9 Comments

  1. Bryan says:

    This is all well and good…why a 10% increase? Why not 20% increase or more in implementation? that said, why oh why do they need to spend 3 paragraphs describing the “poor huddled masses” that will benefit from better sidewalks and bike lanes? Good gracious…drop the political crap for two seconds and just say “it’s better for everybody” – including yuppies and hipsters that live in the city (who will be encouraged to leave their car at home if they have better infrastructure, like streetcars).

  2. Dave B says:

    I think that’s really a 100% increase from 5% a year to 10% completed per year. If they got everything in the Denver Moves plan done in 10 years that’d actually be pretty impressive.

  3. Jkrauk says:

    A great city will get even better! This is a step in the right direction.

  4. dave says:

    bravo to city council for their advocacy but unfortunately public works is dragging their feet at every step. broadway is being resurfaced this summer between civic center and speer and this would be a great opportunity for the city to demonstrate their commitment to multimodal design. We really need something like this- http://www.streetsblog.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/Downtown-First-Avenue.jpg but instead we will be getting the standard concrete slab treatment and 5 lanes of speeding traffic.

    • Plansit says:

      How do you know PW isn’t planning to do something with Broadway? Near term?

      • dave says:

        Broadway has been designated an “area of study” by the Denver Moves plan, but public works hasn’t begun any such study. The line we always get is that they don’t want to rush such a project but there seems to be no will to test any innovative designs.

    • James says:

      That is awesome and exactly what we should do. Both Broadway and Lincoln should be converted from near the I-25 all the way to Brighton. (Where they merge it should be come a two way track.

      Those streets would convert just fine. They are already extremely efficient as it is.

  5. Richard says:

    Dave – Broadway would be a great place for such improvements, especially if they’re doing work already. That stretch has a lot of unrealized potential, and could be a vibrant street between Capitol Hill and the Golden Triangle but not until something is done with Broadway (and Lincoln). A streetscape would go a long way, but protected bike lanes and the colored bus lane would be even better. The street can still be functional with 3 thru-lanes, a bike lane, the bus/right turn lane, and the two lanes of on-street parking with more street trees, lighting and sidewalk improvements including crosswalk pavers at the intersections.

  6. Doug says:

    After reading this, I contacted my District 9 council person Judy Montero to express my support for this focus on biking in Denver. In my note, I also suggested that Denver also needed to work more with business owners to find more parking for bikes, such as allowing businesses to use a single parking spot on a block for bike racks when space isn’t available on the sidewalk. It drives me crazy when I bike somewhere and get there and have no place to put my bike. I had seen steet parking converted to bike parking like this in San Francisco and it seemed like a great solution for the older neighboorhoods of Denver.

    Much to my surprise, Ms Montero forwarded my email to the Department of Public works, and after a few back and forth emails, I got the following response:

    >Doug,
    >
    >Thanks for sending us your thoughts on bicycle parking and the link to the information about >San Francisco.
    >
    >As I mentioned, Denver Public Works is currently evaluating use of the parking lane for bike >corral parking. Our plan is to conduct a pilot program at two locations this fall (Platte Park >& Uptown), monitor the installations over the winter months, and solicit feedback from area >businesses and stakeholders.
    >
    >At the conclusion of the pilot program, we will determine if bicycle corral parking can be >replicated in other parts of the City and whether it would be viable to formulate a permit that >applicants could apply for that will enable them to install a bike corral below the curb in the >parking lane.
    >
    >Development of Denver’s multimodal transportation options is a goal that we share and our
    >department has been making steady progress in this area. This year, we are implementing an >innovative new bike facility on 15th Street downtown that features green pavement markings, >bike signals, and bike boxes and are going to be striping our 100th mile of bike lane in the >City!
    >
    >Thanks again!

    The bottomline is that the city seems to be “walking the walk” and is trying to make Denver a biking city! Send those comments to YOUR representatives and expressing your support. Let’s get the city to look at all those other issues with biking in the metro area!

    Thanks again to Representative Montero!