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Denver Urbanists Unite! MeetUp #12 Coming May 13, 2015

Please join us for Denver Urbanists MeetUp #12 on Wednesday, May 13, 2015 starting at 5:30 PM at McLoughlins Restaurant and Bar, 2100 16th Street. McLoughlins is a great neighborhood pub right next to the Millennium Bridge.

Never been to one of our MeetUps before? Stop by! There is no program or anything formal. It is just a bunch of friendly people getting together to chat about Denver’s growth and development and meet like-minded people and make connections. There is no fee and you’re on your own for food and drinks.

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Click on the link below to see additional details. Registration just helps give us an idea of how many people to expect. You do not need to bring the RSVP ticket with you, and if you don’t register, that’s OK too. Please stop by either way.

Denver Urbanists MeetUp #12 Eventbrite RSVP

We hope to see you at Denver Urbanists MeetUp #12 on Wednesday, May 13 at 5:30 PM at McLoughlins. See you there!


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

Note: Now that the big series of Doors Open Denver previews have concluded, we are temporarily returning these three popular bicycle posts from March back to the top-of-page position to facilitate more discussion. 

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?


Doors Open Denver Preview: Art Students’ League of Denver

Built in 1893, the Sherman School is a prominent landmark that represents the grandeur and pride that was once part of the public school image. Rising above the surrounding residential neighborhood, the main Richardson Romanesque structure features a sandstone base and arched portico entries that welcome students today as they have for 110 years. The building was designed by architect Henry Dozier, and is one of only a few of his structures that are still in existence.

Here is an image of the Art Students’ League of Denver at the Sherman School building, courtesy of Doors Open Denver.

2015-4-24-Art-Students-League

The Annex building on the North side of the main building was built in 1920 and is typical of the “bungalow school.” It was designed with a decidedly homey character to accommodate kindergarten children, featuring fireplaces in its two rooms that today are spacious sculpture studios. Once covered in blacktop and surrounded by a rusted chain link fence, the surrounding gardens were landscaped in 2001 and have since been lovingly designed, planted and maintained through the hard work and green thumbs of a team of garden volunteers. The gardens include many native Rocky Mountain Region perennials. Funding was generated through private donations and foundation contributions.

This building preview is part of DenverUrbanism’s special countdown series to Doors Open Denver 2015. Click here for more information on Doors Open Denver.