Recently, I took a bike ride down the new-ish South Monaco Parkway bike lane that begins at roughly Magnolia and Monaco near the Southmoor light rail station to the north and ends at Belleview and Ulster in the Denver Tech Center to the south. Given that Southeast Denver where I live has never been the most bike-friendly of places, I was really excited to try this lane out. Here is what I experienced.

Quick note about the pictures: I took a majority of them on my second ride two days after the first. During the first ride, I was focused mainly on getting a “feel” for the lane itself, while my second ride was for getting visual documentation of the lane.

Getting There and Initial Impressions
I started at about 9:15 AM on Sunday morning, December 2, arriving at the corner of Magnolia and Monaco at about 9:12 AM before putting Strava on. Because I live to the northwest of the bike lane itself (near Evans and Interstate 25), I took the High Line Canal path there.

When I arrived, the only vehicle that I saw there was an RTD bus (the 105) and a sporadic car or two going into the neighborhood. The bike lane begins near the Southmoor light rail station and a King Soopers, so it feels fairly central, if not slightly south, to the neighborhood.

Images below: 1.) The full ride logged on Strava; 2.) Entrance to the South Monaco Parkways bike lane at South Monaco and Magnolia.

The first part of the lane is a slight uphill climb for about a mile or so until Eastmoor Park. After Eastmoor, there is a downhill segment that parallels the car lane on Quebec Street and passes under Interstate 225. There is a 4.2 percent grade climb that begins to level off around Ulster and Technology Way that is the most difficult part of the southbound component. The gradual climb continues until about Ulster and Tufts, where it completely levels off and then goes downhill until the Ulster and Belleview turnaround.

Images below: 1.) Intersection near Eastmoor Park; 2.) “Share the Road” marker on the street just north of Ulster and Technology Way; 3.) The end of the bike lane at Ulster and Belleview facing away from the intersection toward South Promenade.

Turning Around
The most confusing component of the lane itself is the southern turnaround. Without warning, the lane ends shortly after Belleview and lets riders off near a shopping center. The northern trek home begins similar to the southern trek: a slight uphill climb, followed by a cresting off and downhill component. There are slightly more unprotected sections of the northbound lane, and a brief section of no bike lane with a green “share the road” pavement marker on the way back. But once the rider gets past the Interstate 225 underpass, the northbound bike lane infrastructure parallels the southbound infrastructure.

Images below: 1.) Northbound lane entrance; 2.) Brief part of the northbound bike lane that is unprotected; 3.) Northernmost part of the South Monaco Parkway bike lane across from the Southmoor light rail station.

Concluding Thoughts
One of the things that I noticed in regards to the bike lane was that it seemed to ease traffic. Drivers didn’t seem to be making the same mistakes that news outlets such as CBS Denver reported when the lane debuted in September. I felt safe about 85 to 90 percent of the time along the route, even in sections along Ulster where car traffic was heavier and the lane was fragmented. From a “difficulty” perspective, the inclines, including the ones leading up to Eastmoor Park and the climb into/out of the DTC, make it a little tough. Additional signage near the southern end of the lane would be a vast improvement as well, along with general maintenance all along.

The most substantive criticism I have is not of the lane itself, but lack of ridership. I used the lane twice this week, once on Sunday morning to get a feel and another Tuesday afternoon, and I saw no other bikes near or on it. Even though it was in the 30s both days and during slightly off hours, having a whole bike lane to myself doesn’t happen often. If Southmoor residents want a convenient and fairly straightforward alternative way of getting to work in the DTC, running small errands, or exercising, look no further than the South Monaco Parkway bike lane.

Images below: 1.) Huzzah! I made it through the loop of the South Monaco Parkway bike lane… twice! 2.) A (qualified) thumbs up—use the lane but also advocate for a better lane when you can!