Denver Public Works’ 15th Street Bike Lane Isn’t Protected Anymore

When the 15th Street bike lane debuted, it was the jewel of Denver’s bike network, but since then, the paint has faded, a lot of protective posts have been broken off, and it doesn’t feel nearly as protected as a protected bike lane should.

It’s never been perfect, but now the 15th Street bike lane is downright nerve-wracking. I shot this video during Wednesday afternoon rush hour (most of it has been sped up to save you some time).

This is not how a protected bike lane is supposed to function. Thin plastic posts are the only thing separating people on bikes from car traffic — where they still exist. Detours around construction zones are poorly implemented, failing to provide any continuity or predictability for bike riders and drivers. Delivery trucks park in the bike-only lane with regularity, forcing riders into traffic.

Good protected bike lanes make people feel more at ease getting around on two wheels. When they work well, casual riders become bike commuters, families with children can bike on downtown streets, and tourists who don’t know the city well can hop on a B-Cycle.

Later this year Denver Public Works is planning to test stronger, more visible barriers, like planters, to better protect people on bikes. Hallelujah.

Here’s a look at how Washington, DC, creates good protection even when there’s not a lot of space between the bike lane and motor vehicle traffic:

And yes, it is possible to maintain the continuity of a protected bike lane next to a construction site. Take a look at the concrete barriers that separate some sections of this protected bike lane in Brooklyn — those are temporary measures while nearby construction occupies the sidewalk.

  • mckillio

    This is truly embarrassing. At the very least we need to get similar laws as D.C. where when there is construction that removes the sidewalk that a path bordered with concrete barriers are created for pedestrians. But they also require that bike lanes remain as well. This isn’t just about convenience but safety.

  • TonesOfLife

    This is a disgrace to our city. I ride 15th all the time and basically find it safer to just block an entire lane of traffic instead of risk my life in this bike death trap since none of the drivers seem to care about cyclists or this lanes existence.

  • tom36

    ditch the mixing zones… and completely separate it from traffic like the bike lane in DC. Until the city actually invests in a grade separated bicycle path, it will never function like a “protected” bicycle lane.

  • ANM

    I’m curious about how auto traffic has fared during all of the construction, with the lanes reduced. We may, in fact, have enough ROW to build a proper protected bike lane so that Dave can avoid all of those shenanigans.

    • iBikeCommute

      There are two lanes closed off to traffic for a number of blocks right now. I think this goes to show that there is space for a legit protected bike lane as well as a dedicated bus lane. 15th st may have the most bus lines in the whole city, separating them from general traffic would benefit the entire system.

  • MT

    I’d really like to see a protected intersection design used instead of these “mixing zones.” This is the perfect street for Denver to build our first protected intersections.

  • John

    The 15th Street bike lane was half-assed from the start. The city tried to go cheap and thought nobody would notice. Meanwhile, Bike Denver seems far too satisfied to accept whatever meager scraps of progress they can get. I’m not surprised the result is a big failure.

  • Kayla

    Thank you for sharing!! With all the construction going on along 15th, this ‘protected’ bike lane is actually very scary.

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