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?

        • Barriers on I-25 are designed so that they don’t have stub ends for vehicles to run into a freeway speed, whereas in the city, every block you seem to want fixed obstructions that can easily hurt or kill people, which is why all those fixed obstructions that existed in the 1960s were removed. You don’t care about motorist or motorcycle safety, only about bike safety?

  • 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?

      • Scarce parking? Where I live parking is free and there is plenty of it. Where I live the cost per residential square foot is 40% the cost for the same thing within 3 miles of downtown Denver, and the cost for Grade A retail or office space is also substantially less.

        My wife and I live in the urban portion of Metro-Denver, where I have lived since 1991, we are not hicks willing to be discriminated against or talked down to either. My one grandfather owned a truckline that employed people in Denver from the 1940s through the 1980s. You seem bent on taking the city over and discriminating against anyone who doesn’t agree with you.

        I have a question that perhaps you should consider. What is the value of real estate you own based on? Is it based on what you paid for it? Is it based on what comparable properties nearby have sold for? No in either case. The value of teal estate you own is based on a number of things, most of which you have little or no control over, and effectively, the value of real estate is primarily based on what a willing buyer will pay for it.

        So here is my question given a 70% effective slide in the retail purchasing power of bottom 90% wages since 1979, a slide that is ongoing, worsening by another 2-3% per-year.

        If there are somewhere between few and no more young adults with the money to move downtown and buy your property, and there is a fairly high percentage of older Millennials and Gen-Y types who move to the suburbs as they have kids and as the effective retail purchasing power of their wages also continues to fall, and they can no-longer afford to live downtown, who is going to come downtown and buy your grossly over-priced property as the years wear on and it becomes ever less-likely that anyone will have enough spare money to move to an overpriced city no matter how attractive it is?

        I read earlier this week that the Chinese government just got their credit score reduced, indicating a recession there. Also in the last couple days there has been a whole lot of noise over a potential banking collapse of the Eurozone which together with an Asian recession would expose the US economy to moderate to severe financial crisis.

        Already the sales of high-end real estate and supercars in the bigger and more-expensive cities of the East Coast and West Coast have dropped-off markedly. Just in the last few days Governor Hickenlooper has said that President Trump’s Federal budgetary desires would be an absolute disaster for both Denver and Colorado too.

        So again, why are so opposed to paying your fair share for bicycle infrastructure given the fact that it appears that there may be a serious paucity of funding for roads, highways, mass transit, and bikeways if the Republicans get their way on the Federal budget? If you afford a $500 bicycle, you can easily afford $50 for a license plate and you can also learn to observe common traffic laws or pay fines too.

        My suggestion however if you own expensive real estate near downtown is to either try to ride it out and hope for a better future, or see if you can cash out before the economy tanks again, as you sure don’t want to end-up holding the bag on a major investment that is no-longer worth anywhere near what you paid for it, something that has happened many times in the past.

        Denver’s economy is well diversified, not like those old industrial cities where the entire local economy collapses like a house of cards the minute car sales or steel sales fall off, but even in a moderate recession especially one affecting the China and the Asian high tech industry, the jobless rate here could double to triple really easily and the price of real estate could drop substantially too.

        Which would better for lower-budget renters downtown but not nearly as good for high-end restaurants and other pricey retail, nor for anyone who is paying far more for real estate than it becomes worth in a recession either. Just so that you are well aware that there can easily be a downside to investing too.

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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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