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Archive of posts filed under the Bicycles category.

Where Should We Put Bike Lanes? (Part 3 of 3)

Bike Lanes on Low-Volume Side Streets

The case for concentrating our bike network planning on smaller, side streets is one that is equally as compelling as the case for focusing on large streets. However, that is not to say that we have to simply choose one option or the other.

Take Portland, for example: a city home to one of the most comprehensive bike networks in the country. They have focused much of their energy on public greenways: transforming small, low volume streets parallel to larger thoroughfares into neighborhood bike lanes. These greenways are more than just sharrows; they’ve actually built infrastructure into the streets. But they provide a safer bike route for people who don’t want to blow through at 25 mph. Additionally, this low-stress network connects all types of people on bikes to some of the city’s larger, more robust bike lanes and infrastructure such as the recently unveiled bike/ped/transit-only Tilikum Crossing Bridge.

portland greenways

*Example of one of Portland’s public greenways, courtesy of Bike Portland (source)

Focusing on smaller parallel streets such as Grant or Bannock isn’t just an option apart from Broadway, though. Actual infrastructure (buffered lanes) on these streets can provide necessary support for larger infrastructure projects in the city, such as Broadway. They provide a safer (both perceived and actual) route for the “interested but concerned” potential bike riders in the city as well as vital access for shorter trips.

According the 2009 National Household Travel Survey, 43.1% of vehicle trips in the US were three miles or less. If we were to create a system of “neighborhood greenways” to support larger, more intensively built bike lanes like the ones proposed on Broadway and Brighton, we encourage biking to people who are just running daily errands in their own neighborhoods. That keeps more cars off roads like Broadway and expands access to non-traditional bikers.

The debate over bike network planning on large versus small streets is an important one, with many successful examples of both. But, in the end, they two are not mutually exclusive. We need both types of infrastructure to create a robust and equitable network, which in the end, is everyone’s goal.


Where Should We Put Bike Lanes? (Part 2 of 3)

Bike Lanes on Major Streets

There are significant advantages and disadvantages to building bike lanes on streets like Broadway and Brighton. From the perspective of bike advocates, the most obvious advantage is the visibility of the lane as a political victory. The effect of claiming one of Denver’s most important arterials is resounding. It sends a message, loud and clear, that bikes matter; that people on bikes deserve part of the road; and that, as a transportation mode, they’re just as important as people in cars.

Further, it directly connects people on bikes with their destinations. In Denver, and especially on South Broadway, the destinations aren’t on Bannock or Sherman—they’re on Broadway. Putting people on bikes right on Broadway connects them directly with their destinations—no first and last block considerations needed. Additionally, from a business standpoint, people on bikes who are just passing through become an important customer base for those businesses on Broadway. People riding on Bannock aren’t going to make an impromptu stop if they can’t see the business.

Check out this protected bike lane in Vancouver. It’s beautiful, and has increased bicycle traffic along this route by 19% per year since 2010–but are we willing to build this intensely on our major arterials?

M62_FEAT_ProtectedBikeLanes_Vancouver_Dunsmuir_Photo-Paul-Krueger
*Photo courtesy of Paul Krueger, Momentum Mag (source)

How much work and investment does it take to build a good bike lane on Broadway? And if the lane only attracts people who are already biking, what have we really accomplished? As I wrote in my last post, any new bike lane that a family with kids doesn’t feel comfortable riding in, is insufficient—plain and simple. The sheer infrastructure that building such a lane on Broadway would require, would be monumental and expensive. A three-foot buffer with plastic bollards-style lane like 15th Street simply isn’t good enough. Have you ever seen families biking on 15th Street? I haven’t.

That is the downside of building bike lanes on major streets: the lanes have to be much more intensive in order to account for existing high-speed, high-volume traffic, and guarantee safety–real and perceived. Overall, they are more expensive to build out entirely, and take a long time to build because of all the engineering and traffic considerations. But, they connect people on bikes directly to their destinations, while facilitating more low-speed traffic (bikes and pedestrians) on retail corridors.


Where Should We Put Bike Lanes? (Part 1 of 3)

As demand for increased bike infrastructure gains more and more traction, we’ve seen the question inevitably shift from whether to install bike lanes, to where to install bike lanes. With likely bike lanes on Broadway and Brighton, Denver has shown a willingness to take on big bike infrastructure projects—but that’s not the only way to build a robust network.

Most of the kickback I’ve heard about the prospective bike lane on Broadway has centered not on whether Denver needs a north-south bike corridor, but rather, on whether Broadway itself should serve as that corridor. Many advocates have clamored for Broadway as the ultimate victory. Others, however, recommended we focus on low-volume parallel streets such as Grant, Sherman, or Bannock instead.

Broadway Photo 2

versus

sharrow

The difference between these two opinions (Broadway or parallel to Broadway) boils down to a dynamic that we see very often in cities. On the one hand, is the purpose of bike infrastructure to connect bicyclists directly to destinations, often at the cost of existing traffic routes and at great expense? Or is it to provide access in a way that is least disruptive to existing infrastructure, as well as cheaper and easier to implement? Both are valid arguments and both have been used successfully.

In the immediacy, we need bike lanes on important routes. But the long-term goals must be increasing ridership through bolstered connectivity, and guaranteeing safe interactions between people on bikes, people walking, and people in vehicles. Essentially, we’re building a network. But whether bike lanes end up on major roads or on smaller, parallel roads should be up for debate.

And further, what happens on Broadway and Brighton will inevitably set the trend for the future of bike/ped planning in Denver. Those projects are extremely important. My theory is that any bike lane we build must be robust and safe enough for non-traditional—think families—bikers to feel comfortable riding on them. In the next two posts, I’ll explore what that caveat means for building lanes on major streets versus low-volume parallel streets.

What’s your preference? What do you see as the ideal solution for a north-south bike corridor?


Bikes on the 16th Street Mall?

We’ve all seen the deluge of statistics showing the increases in biking as a mode share in Denver. According to the Downtown Denver Partnership’s 2014 Downtown Denver Commuter Survey, the number of people commuting downtown by bike has increased by 43% in the last year.

Combine that with new bike lanes such as the crowdfunding project on Arapahoe Street and the forthcoming Bike Hub at Union Station, and it’s clear to see that we live in a “bike city.” So why is that on Denver’s most iconic multi-modal street—the 16th Street Mall—bikes are all but completely banned?

16th Street 2

True, bikes are allowed on the mall on Sundays; and the city is considering lifting the ban for Saturdays. But is that enough? As a bike advocate, I’m excited for this progress, but for such a bike-friendly city, even the combination of Saturday- and Sunday-only access seems more like a consolation than a victory.

16th Street 1

The purpose of the current bike ban is to protect pedestrians and bicyclists—itself a necessary precaution given the handful of bike accidents that have occurred there. However, as bikes continue to make up an increasingly large mode share in the city, perhaps the time has come to rethink how we navigate interactions involving bicycles, as well as, fundamentally, how we categorize them. According to Chapter 54 of the Denver Revised Municipal Code bicycles are categorized as vehicles, “with all the rights and duties that apply to motorized vehicles.”

That’s a problem. Bikes are not cars. With the downtown bike commuting mode share approaching seven percent, bikes have earned the right to a separate designation with its own codified rights and duties in the city. This would also make bicyclist more accountable for obeying laws.

All in all, the ordinance to lift the bike ban on Saturdays is a positive step. But instead of asking whether to allow bikes on the mall, maybe we should ask how to incorporate bikes safely into the mall, in order to make it truly multi-modal.


Broadway: Denver’s Next Bike Corridor?

Anyone who has ever biked down Broadway knows how unpleasant of an experience it can be. Between cars passing far too close and at high speeds, and having to fight for space in a bus lane, most people just avoid Broadway altogether—understandably.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. The reality is that Broadway has the potential to become a major thoroughfare not only for cars, but also for bikes and pedestrians. And this isn’t just one bike advocate’s pipe dream; plans for a bike-friendly Broadway have already been designed by city planners and approved by the Golden Triangle Neighborhood.

See these images of plans and renderings of Broadway from the newly completed Golden Triangle Neighborhood Plan:

Broadway Photo 1

Proposed design for the intersection of Broadway and 11th Avenue:

Broadway Photo 2

Images courtesy of City and County of Denver and Golden Triangle Neighborhood Plan.

The plan was approved by a Golden Triangle Neighborhood vote back in November, and as is clearly evident, includes bold plans for bike and pedestrian infrastructure. According to the plan (available here), there will be a protected bike lane on Broadway all the way from Colfax to Speer, with the possibility for further expansion north and south into adjacent neighborhoods as well. It makes sense. Currently, bikers heading downtown from South Broadway are forced to jump on and off of Bannock (currently the area’s only bike lane, albeit not protected) as it meanders tenuously through residential neighborhoods and by the hospital, then ride through the Sunken Gardens Park just to cross Speer, and finally either walk their bike or merge with high-speed car traffic on Broadway.

Back in December, BikeDenver capped its annual Winter Solstice Ride with a bike parade down Broadway from 12th Avenue all the way to Illegal Pete’s on South Broadway. It definitely felt safer riding with 60 bikers, and without having to worry about buses. But that withstanding, it was a powerful experience showing the potential of Broadway as a true bike corridor in the city.

We already have city and neighborhood support. Now we, as bike advocates, need to band together and make the actual implementation of this a public push for 2015!