Bike Projects Planned For 2017, and What Didn’t Happen in 2016

Part of the Arapahoe Street bike lane will look like more like the 2nd Avenue bike lane in Seattle. Photo: Seattle Bike Blog
Part of the Arapahoe Street bike lane will look like more like the 2nd Avenue bike lane in Seattle. Photo: Seattle Bike Blog

It’s time for the State of Biking in Denver, when Denver Public Works reveals how streets will change in the coming year to make biking safer and easier. The annual breakfast took place yesterday as part of Winter Bike Week.

While BikeDenver, the Downtown Denver Partnership, and Bikes Together gave an update on how they plan to get more people riding, Denver Public Works shared a list of projects it hopes to get done this year. Here’s a look at what’s in store for 2017 (and what didn’t happen in 2016).

Four New Protected Bike Lanes

14th Street from Market to Colfax: Between the Denver Performing Arts Complex, the convention center, and a bunch of hotels, the 14th Street striped bike lane might as well not exist — drivers constantly park in the lane to load and unload passengers. That won’t be possible when this bike lane is finished, because a row of parked cars plus a 1-foot tall curb will separate bike riders from auto traffic, like so:

Image: Denver Public Works
Image: DPW

14th Avenue from Speer to Bannock: A row of parked cars will buffer people on bikes from motor vehicle traffic, like on Arapahoe and Lawrence streets. Unlike Arapahoe and Lawrence, the painted buffer between parking spaces and the bike lane will be a solid tan instead of a striped marking.

Image: DPW
The 14th Avenue plan. Image: DPW

Brighton Boulevard from 29th to 44th: These raised bike lanes are part of a huge redesign of the street that may or may not be completed this year. About 25 percent of the lanes will be protected by parked cars as well.

19th Avenue between Broadway and Park: This one’s a little misleading because the bike lane will only be protected, by a curb similar to the 14th Street design, for three blocks of the eight-block bike lane. But! DPW will install the lane as part of a two-way conversion to the current one-way street. That’s good for people.

New Protections for Existing Bike Lanes

DPW will test new types of barriers that physically protect bicyclists from speeding motorists (instead of plastic flex-posts, as on 15th Street, that aren’t as effective in keeping drivers out). Crews will only install them on parts of the lanes to study how well they work before implementing permanent fixes.
  • Taking a page from Vancouver, 15th Street will get 2-foot-high “barrier curbs” — probably something like this — from Stout to Curtis.
  • Taking a page from Seattle, DPW will exchange plastic bollards on the Arapahoe Street protected bike lane for planters and curbs — probably something like this — from 17th to 19th.

Two “Neighborhood Bikeways”

This is what DPW calls streets that don’t necessarily have bike lanes but are designed to prioritize walking and biking. They include traffic-calming measures like “bump-outs” (extending curbs further into the street at intersections) and “diverters” that block through-driving for cars but allow bikes. Bikeways could also include bike signals, signs, sharrows, and bike boxes, which give bicyclists a head start at traffic lights and make them more visible to drivers.

We should see the new street designs this year on Knox Court from Kentucky Avenue to Nevada Place in Westwood, and on West 35th Avenue in Highland and West Highland.

Curb Your Enthusiasm?

These projects represent progress on Denver’s streets. If they happen.

DPW promised a lot of new infrastructure last year, including several of the projects on the 2017 docket. Of the two to three protected bike lanes expected last year, just one happened — Stout Street — and DPW watered it down to appease people who complained about parking. Fourteenth Avenue and 14th Street got pushed up to this year because of problems with contractors and design, DPW senior planner Rachael Bronson said. The department planned to test planters and concrete barriers on 15th Street last year as well, but didn’t have enough money and workers to do it.

Blame Mayor Michael Hancock’s meager funding for Denver’s bike program.

That being said, Bronson said DPW added bike lanes that “were not planned at the start of the year but we added when the opportunity arose,” including bike lanes on Lowell Street and 41st Avenue, “bikeway improvements” around the 41st and Fox RTD station, and bike lanes connecting West 2nd Avenue to the Platte River Trail.

DPW did make good on its promise to improve bike lane snow removal by purchasing two special plows, and also added bike counters to the Lawrence and Arapahoe bike lanes.

  • John Riecke

    Liking those Vancouver barrier curbs, heck yeah! Put those everywhere, who needs testing?

    • Wait until you wipe-out and hit your head on one, or get forced into one by another reckless bike rider trying to pass you, or a bunch of teens in a car get killed by one, then you will see why raised concrete barriers on roads aren’t as good an idea as some people think. Do remember that some cities had lots of those same barriers removed 30 or 40 years ago for safety reasons.

      • Chris

        Does that mean we should get rid of the concrete barriers along I-25? Your thought process applies because if we have people driving 60-70 mph down each side of the interstate it would be better for them to hit one another then to hit the barrier because of safety reasons?

  • Sarah

    All good, except the bump outs. These are not good for cyclists, as they force one to move over into the lane of traffic. Thoughts?

    • The idea behind the bump-outs is to reduce pedestrian crossing times, however, on more than one occasion pedestrians standing in the bump-out area have been mowed down by an inattentive or intoxicated car driver or run right over by a bus or truck driver turning right too.

      • Chris

        Do you have data to back up this claim?

        • Look-up Complete Streets, which is a Federal law governing street redesign, as they are the party behind it.

  • Blame Mayor Michael Hancock’s meager funding for Denver’s bike program?

    There is a whole lot of blame to go around and most of it goes to TABOR, plus the fact that median bottom 99% income has lost about 60% of its average retail purchasing power since Bill Clinton expanded free trade with China in 1999.

    I have a good idea if you want more bike route funding. How about forcing bike owners to buy $40 license plates for their bikes, so that bike riders who choose to wantonly violate common traffic laws are more-easily caught?

    Just over the last 3 years as a pedestrian I have almost been hit by a biker running a red light, riding on the sidewalk, or riding the wrong way on a one-way street dozens of times, and just at the intersection of Larimer and 14th St I have seen five different accidents between bikers and pedestrians where a biker thought that it should be OK to run right over a pedestrian in a crosswalk who had the legal right of way.

    Your design for 14th Street eliminates even more of scarce street parking. Do remember that us North Metro residents still don’t have our long-promised FasTracks trains even though we have paid just as much for them as has anyone else and likely won’t have them until 30 years from now either.

    Moreover RTD has been forced to delay bus routes that had been promised us even before FasTracks passed and has even been forced to eliminate existing bus routes across the North Metro area too after wildly overspending on the completed portion of FasTracks. In-fact today RTD is so broke that they can’t even properly maintain their aging buses.

    Perhaps you advocates of car-free downtown living wouldn’t mind if fully 40% of the Metro-Denver area population just avoids coming downtown in order to avoid your hatred of our only viable form of urban transportation?

    • John Riecke

      Your threat is not a threat. Keeping angry, speeding suburbanites off downtown streets (and out of our bike lanes) is a feature, not a bug.

      • A threat? How do you perceive a threat out of what I wrote? Aren’t you a little thin-skinned if you see a threat there to do anything more than force bikers to help pay for the roads that they want to drive-on, as well as increase biker adherence to common traffic laws in the interest of safety?

        We didn’t need bike lanes growing up in Detroit in the 1960s and 1970s in a city that was then far larger than Denver is now, so why do you need bike lanes now, especially when total bike traffic is no more than a small single-digit fraction of total vehicular traffic?

        Did you ever read that CSU study on the airborne contaminates that bike riders inhale quite a bit more of than car, bus, and truck drivers, when bikers insist on riding in heavy traffic?

        The study found that biker exposure to cancer-causing airborne contaminates was several times that of drivers as all enclosed vehicles have cabin air filtration and bikers are exerting themselves while drivers are sedentary.

        Aren’t you being a bit irresponsible intentionally exposing yourself to a high-level of cancer risk as well as a high-level of accident risk too? Who do you expect to pay for it after you get cancer or get run over by a semi turning right as a result of your irresponsible behavior?

        Are you even aware that it is impossible for semi drivers to see you alongside their vehicles when they are turning right? Who has the right of way if the truck driver can’t physically see you, as all he can see in his right mirror is the side of the trailer?

        Did you know that London, England has made it illegal for bike riders to pass semis and buses on their blind side at stoplights and on sharp corners? It is also illegal in London for bikers to run red lights.

        I think maybe that Denver needs that same law as well as a law banning running red lights if any pedestrians are present, as Denver allows pedestrians to cross diagonally, which essentially turns the entire intersection into a crosswalk.

        So why moan about $40/year if it builds more and better off-street bike infrastructure, as according to DRCOG Metro-Denver bike route funding is nearly 60% short on projected needs through 2040 without extra funding?

        I am a graduate-level urban & regional planner and an APA member in addition to having 30 years of experience in wholesale fresh food supply chain, warehousing, distribution, and load-planning too.

        • Walter Crunch

          You are on the wrong side of history-bud.

          • I am 60 years old and quit riding bicycles 43 years ago too.

    • Walter Crunch

      “scare parking”. Um, yeah. Compared to….what exactly?

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  • Matt

    Still no way to get safely from Union Station to Uptown. 17th is a nightmare on bike and 18th St bike lane only goes NW towards Unions Station. We need a complimentary bike lane on 17th St.

    • Walter Crunch

      Is Union station still complete with the protected parking lane for cars?

  • Walter Crunch

    Wow, they couldn’t have made 2nd have more annoying than it is. Planters and armadillos. Needs more “Hey cars! Look how special we are!”. Could have been just a little raised pavement.

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