Sometimes a fairly small improvement can have a big impact on how friendly a street feels for bicycles and pedestrians.
For example, take the stretch of Larimer Street between the Auraria Campus and 14th Street. For years, Larimer has had one eastbound bus-only lane, two to three westbound vehicle lanes, narrow sidewalks, and no bike lanes, giving this stretch of Larimer Street a very automobile-dominant feel—a sad situation made even worse by the fact that it intersects with Speer Boulevard, a 10-lane monster that separates downtown from the Auraria Campus.
So today when I spotted some new improvements to this stretch of Larimer, it made me happy. The bus lane is gone (apparently RTD was no longer using it) and, rather than converting the bus lane to another travel lane for cars, it has been re-striped, bollards added, and converted to bicycle and pedestrian space. Way to go Denver Public Works!
The segment from 14th to the path through Creekfront Plaza leading to the Cherry Creek Trail is now a buffered bike lane. Here’s the new look as viewed from 14th Street and then back toward 14th Street:
The rest of the block over the bridge has been striped as a no-car zone. The sidewalk on the bridge over Cherry Creek is ridiculously narrow, so this no-car zone gives pedestrians more space and relief from feeling pinned against the bridge railing.
The pedestrian environment on the segment of Larimer in between the two directions of Speer has been similarly pitiful. Again we have a sidewalk that is far too narrow for the flow of people between downtown and the campus, and the adjacent ugly parking lot only adds insult to injury. Now, this stretch has also been striped as a no-car zone with bollards, as seen in the two images below:
Note to Public Works: you can get rid of that “Curb Lane – Buses Only” sign that is leaning into the pedestrian through zone.
These improvements are critical, given that Larimer is a major pedestrian corridor between the Auraria Campus and downtown, with thousands of students making the crossing every day during the school year. This important Downtown-Auraria link was identified as one of the seven Transformative Projects (“Connecting Auraria”) in the 2007 Downtown Area Plan.
But wait, it gets better! These improvements are good for the short-term, but a permanent fix may be coming. In the 2017 GO Bond transportation ballot measure that Denver voters will approve (I’m optimistic) in November is $7 million for “Larimer Bridge Reconstruction and Pedestrian Improvements.” Here’s the language from the GO Bond Projects Summary document:
This project will improve the pedestrian experience on Larimer between 14th and the Auraria Campus. Currently the sidewalks along the Larimer bridge over Cherry Creek are narrow (just 5’ on the south side) and do not support the high demand from pedestrians who regularly use Larimer to connect between Downtown and the campus. A full reconstruction of the bridge will allow a much wider structure (up to 88’) and accommodate a significantly larger pedestrian and amenity zone area. Funding will also help address the non-ADA compliant ramps that are currently located at the bridge approach and at two intersections where Larimer crosses north and southbound Speer. This is a significant challenge due to the current placement of both drainage and signal system infrastructure. Finally, this funding will allow for an upgrade to light fixtures, street furniture, planters, trees or other landscape improvements that could ultimately be maintained by the Auraria Higher Education Center.
Just one of many great reasons to vote YES on the 2017 GO Bond!