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Archive of posts filed under the Multi-Modal Transport category.

Crowdfunding a New Protected Bike Lane on Arapahoe Street

By Peter Bird

At the Downtown Denver Partnership’s October Member Forum, the DDP announced an exciting new project on Arapahoe Street. Following a few temporary projects on that street—and supporting the larger Denver Moves Plan—they will be implementing a permanent protected bike lane.

Here is an image of the prospective bike lane provided by Alta Planning + Design:

Proposed protected bike lane on Arapahoe Street

The lane will extend along Arapahoe from Broadway to Speer, and will serve as a vital bicycle avenue through downtown—and through a thriving business district. However, the most novel aspect of this project is not necessarily its design or planning, but its funding structure. The DDP already secured $85,000 from the Gates Family Foundation as well as $35,000 from the business community, but they have also initiated a crowdfunding campaign to cover the remaining $35,000 needed for the lane’s construction.

This crowdfunding structure for a large-scale public infrastructure project is the first of its kind here in Denver. It was originally inspired by a similar project in Memphis, TN that was very successful. Aside from the structure’s usefulness as an alternative revenue stream, its grassroots nature allows for a level of public involvement and ownership not typically available.

Many downtown businesses have already expressed strong interest in the proposed bike lane—evidenced by the initial $35,000 raised by the greater business community. The crowdfunding campaign is available here and will be open to contributions until December 12.

Aylene McCallum, Senior Manager of Transportation & Research at the Downtown Denver Partnership, commented that this structure will allow business owners as well as individuals to show the city that they want these resources. Planners often tout the phrase, “if we build it, they will come,” referring to such infrastructure projects. But this project’s crowdfunding structure turns that idea on its head. It puts the power into the hands of individuals and businesses, and says, “if we come together, they will build it.”

More and more, we’re experiencing the positive effects of protected bike lanes on cities and neighborhoods. They encourage healthy behaviors, mitigate pollution and congestion, and promote vibrant business communities, among other things. And this crowdfunding structure, if successful, will send a clear message to key decision makers: We want more urban bike infrastructure!

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Peter Bird grew up around the country and, after completing his Bachelor’s degree in linguistics, moved abroad, living in Hungary and Estonia. It was there that he first developed a love for cities and the transportation patterns within them. He currently works for BikeDenver and is also pursuing a Master of Urban and Regional Planning degree from the University of Colorado Denver with a special interest in bicycle/pedestrian transportation planning.


Two-Way Conversion of 18th Street in LoDo Opens

This past Sunday, November 2, Denver Public Works completed the conversion of 18th Street between Wynkoop and Blake Street in Lower Downtown to a two-way street.

The conversion of these two blocks from one-way to two-way traffic is an important step in helping make Lower Downtown into an even more pedestrian-friendly district. One-way streets exist primarily as a way of maximizing the movement of vehicles through an area, but they also force people to have to drive farther to get where they are going and they also encourage people to drive at faster speeds. One-way streets certainly have their place in the city, but speeding vehicles pose a threat to pedestrians and bicyclists; consequently, one-way streets are not desired in pedestrian-focused areas like around Denver Union Station. As evidence, simply compare your experience as a pedestrian along slower-speed, two-way Wynkoop Street versus the faster-speed, one-way Blake Street.

The 2000 Lower Downtown Neighborhood Plan identified 18th Street between Wynkoop and Blake as one of several one-way streets in LoDo to be converted to two-way. Others included Wazee Street between 15th and 20th, converted a few years ago, which has greatly improved Wazee as a pedestrian-friendly street.

Here are a few photo (courtesy Ryan Dravitz) of the newly-converted 18th Street on Sunday afternoon shortly after the conversion work was complete:

View from Wynkoop looking southeast toward Downtown:

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View from Blake looking northwest toward the Union Station area:

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View from Wynkoop Plaza of the 18th and Wynkoop intersection:

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Overview of the two-blocks of 18th Street between Wynkoop and Blake with the integrated bicycle lane and MetroRide station.

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Space provided for pedestrians, bicycles, cars, and transit—a nice multi-modal street!


Gas is suddenly cheap(er), and the reason is bigger than you think

Gas prices have fallen below $3 per gallon in much of the US, and the explanation isn’t the simple seasonal differences that always make gas cheaper in autumn. The bigger reason: US oil shale deposits are turning the global oil market on its head.

Photo by Wil C. Fry on Flickr.

Photo by Wil C. Fry on Flickr.

How did cheap gas happen?

In the simplest terms, supply is up and demand is down.

Travel drops between the summer travel season and the holidays, and cooler fall temperatures actually make gas cheaper to produce. That’s why gas prices always fall in autumn.

But that’s not enough to explain this autumn’s decline, since gas hasn’t dropped this low in years. China is also using less gas than expected, but that’s also only part of the explanation.

The bigger explanation seems to be that supply is also up, in a huge way. North American oil shale is hitting the market like never before, and it’s totally unbalancing the global oil market. Oil shale has become so cheap, and North American shale producers are making such a dent in traditional crude, that some prognosticators are proclaiming that “OPEC is over.”

It’s that serious a shift in the market.

Will this last?

Yes and no.

The annual fall price drop will end by Thanksgiving, just like it always does. Next summer, prices will rise just like they always do. Those dynamics haven’t changed at all.

Likewise, gasoline demand in China and the rest of the developing world will certainly continue to grow. Whether it outpaces or under-performs predictions matters less in the long term than the fact that it will keep rising. That hasn’t changed either.

But the supply issue has definitely changed. Oil shale is here to stay, at least for a while. Oil shale production might keep rising or it might stabilize, but either way OPEC crude is no longer the only game in town.

Of course, oil shale herf=”http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2013-10-10/u-dot-s-dot-shale-oil-boom-may-not-last-as-fracking-wells-lack-staying-power”>isn’t limitless. Eventually shale will hit peak production just like crude did. When that happens it will inevitably become more expensive as we use up the easy to refine reserves and have to fall back on more expensive sources. That’s a mathematical certainty. But it’s not going to happen tomorrow. In the meantime, oil shale isn’t very scarce.

So the bottom line is that demand will go back up in a matter of weeks, and the supply will probably stabilize, but at higher levels than before.

What does this mean?

Here’s what it doesn’t mean: There’s never going to be another 1990s bonanza of $1/gallon fill-ups. Gas will be cheaper than it was in 2013, but the 20th Century gravy train of truly cheap oil is over.

Oil shale costs more to extract and refine than crude oil. Prices have to be high simply to make refining oil shale worth the cost, which is why we’ve only recently started refining it at large scales. Shale wouldn’t be profitable if prices dropped to 1990s levels. In that sense, oil shale is sort of like HOT lanes on a congested highway, which only provide benefits if the main road remains congested.

So shale can only take gas prices down to a little below current levels. And eventually increased demand will inevitably overwhelm the new supply. How long that will take is anybody’s guess.

In the ultimate long term, oil shale doesn’t change most of the big questions surrounding sustainable energy. Prices are still going to rise, except for occasional blips. We still need better sustainable alternatives. Fossil fuels are still wreaking environmental catastrophe, and the fracking process that’s necessary to produce oil shale is particularly bad. It would be foolish in the extreme for our civilization to abandon the progress we’ve made on those fronts, and go back to the SUV culture of the 20th Century.

There will probably be lasting effects on OPEC economies. The geopolitical situation could become more interesting.

In the meantime, enjoy the windfall.


West Colfax Mobility Improvement Project Completed

This past weekend, the West Colfax Business Improvement District (WCBID) celebrated the near completion of a mobility improvement project on West Colfax Avenue between Federal and Sheridan Boulevards. The project, which has been in planning and development for nearly three years, includes new pedestrian-scale signage, seven artist-designed bus shelters and entry monument signage on both ends of the corridor. The project aims to encourage pedestrian traffic and mass transit use on West Colfax and throughout the surrounding neighborhood by connecting people to local parks, light-rail stations and other destinations such as the new Denver Library branch set to open on West Colfax in early 2015.  All aspects of the project incorporate the WCBID’s logo therefore helping to create a brand for the up-and-coming West Colfax corridor. The “W” logo can be seen on the entry monument shown in the photo below.

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Funded by the Denver Office of Economic Development the new signage, bus stations, and branding is also intended to help jump start additional redevelopment along the corridor. Together with bicycle signage also being installed throughout the neighborhood, these new elements form a wayfinding system that is designed to comprehensively connect pedestrians and bicyclists to neighborhood assets. Together with the bus shelters, these directional signs and enhanced transit amenities support WCBID’s efforts to encourage pedestrian and bike transport in West Colfax and create a more healthy, dynamic and  interactive community culture that will support local businesses.

While this project certainly isn’t as monumental as the recent reconstruction of 14th Street downtown or as pretty as improvements to South Broadway or North Tennyson Street, for example, there is certainly something unique to be seen here. I believe that the exciting thing about this project (unlike so many other pedestrian improvement projects) is that it anticipates the pedestrians rather than simply acknowledging an existing pedestrian presence. As it exists today, there is very little pedestrian traffic on West Colfax, but with new developments coming online including Mile High Vista at Colfax and Irving and the redevelopment of the St Anthony’s hospital, there is potential for more pedestrian traffic in the near future. Additionally, acknowledging and enhancing what little pedestrian traffic is already on the street goes along way toward encouraging more pedestrians to make their way onto the corridor. Putting just a few more people in front of existing businesses and empty storefronts just might be the ticket that sparks additional redevelopment.

Here’s a closer look at the components.

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The wayfinding signage (above) and entry monuments designed by Tom Rodgers with Hyperform Design Cooperative (as part of a larger master plan for the corridor executed several years ago) are designed to reflect the rich history of mid-century “Googie” signage on Colfax Ave while also giving the corridor a bold modern look. The entry monument on the east end (pictured earlier) replaced an existing, but tired, welcome sign located at Colfax and Irving, while on the west end of the corridor, Dan Shah of the WCBID somewhat miraculously managed to convince the Walgreen’s corporation to mount an identical sign on the concrete wall surrounding their parking lot at the intersection of Sheridan and Colfax. The wayfinding signs are located on both sides of Colfax Avenue and occur on nearly every block throughout the corridor. They help to continually reinforce the theme set up by the entry signage.

2014-10-22_Orange Bus Stop 2014-10-22_Bus Stop Detail

The bus shelters, designed by local artist Emmett Culligan, also pay homage to the mid-century modern car culture with their unique “inflated” stainless steel columns and bright colors (as seen in the pictures above). Each of the seven shelters is painted a different color of the spectrum and has matching plexiglass panels. As you travel down West Colfax from east to west the stations are placed in spectral order from red to purple. Interestingly enough, however, the shelters aren’t actually new. In order to complement the WCBID’s other sustainability goals (you can see the solar streetlight in the photo above) the BID and the artist worked with RTD to refurbish and place seven identical bus shelters along the corridor. This was no easy task as only three of the shelters already existed on West Colfax. In order to create the rest of the set, RTD and the BID swapped out three non-matching shelters from West Colfax with matching shelters elsewhere in the system and pulled one more matching shelter out of storage. A pretty amazing feat if you ask me. Once the refurbished shelters were placed on site, the artist simply mounted his inflated stainless steel tubes to the corners of the existing shelter to finish off the new look (the “inflated” tubes are made by blowing compressed air into extremely hot steel to create the “air-stream” like forms).

So next time you’re traveling by on West Colfax (in whatever transit mode you happen to be taking) check out the new bus shelters and wayfinding signage. And maybe (if you’re so inclined) linger a bit and imagine a fully revitalized corridor complete with shops, restaurants, new housing and, most of all, healthy and sustainable pedestrian street life. It’s not so much of a distant future.


Help Create “Great Paths” for Walking in Northwest Denver!

By Jill Locantore, WalkDenver Policy and Program Director

Donate to “Great Paths: The Boulevard at Jefferson Park” on Thursday, October 23 and your contribution will be matched dollar for dollar!

WalkDenver is leading a project called “Great Paths” that will make walking in northwest Denver neighborhoods more safe, comfortable, and fun. Like many urban neighborhoods, northwest Denver is experiencing a true renaissance. With new restaurants and businesses opening their doors on and near Federal Boulevard, there are more places to visit and more people moving in to enjoy these amenities. Residents would like to walk to local destinations but there are many barriers that discourage walking such as busy streets and poor sidewalk conditions.

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On Thursday, October 23, we have just 24 hours to raise $8,000 ($4,000 from local donors and $4,000 in matching funds) for the Great Paths project, which will fund:

  • a community mapping exercise that will identify the top destinations for walking in northwest Denver and a priority path that connects these destinations
  • improvements to that priority path such as pedestrian wayfinding signs or public art; and
  • a series of fun community events that will raise awareness of and celebrate the improvements to the priority path.

Will you help make this project a reality? Every dollar you contribute to this project will be matched 100% by our national partner, but you must donate on October 23!

The Great Paths project is led by WalkDenver and involves a unique coalition of neighborhood interests including the Federal Boulevard Business Improvement District and Partnership, Jefferson Park United Neighbors, and Sloan’s Lake Citizens Group. Our national partners, ioby and the Transit Center, are providing the matching funds.

Please join us in this effort, which will demonstrate the type of quick, low-cost improvements that can improve walkability in neighborhoods throughout Denver. You can learn more about the project and make a donation directly through WalkDenver’s ioby campaign page here.