The Denver Post Likes Modern, Multi-Modal Streets in Theory, But Not in Practice

Photo: Robby Long
Photo: Robby Long

The Denver Post, the most influential publication in Denver, can’t seem to take a position on what the city should do with its streets.

In its Friday editorial — “An Open Mind on Denver’s Clunky Broadway Bike Lane” — the paper says it likes biking and transit projects in theory. But when confronted with a real-world example of multi-modal street design in action — the reconfiguration of Broadway to prioritize people walking, biking, and riding the bus — the Post turns sour.

Last year, Denver Public Works repurposed a half-mile of a southbound car lane for a two-way, parking-protected bike lane that should — eventually — stretch from I-25 to Colfax, and hopefully further north. A red, 24-hour bus lane and safer crossings for people walking around the bustling small business district are also in the works.

It’s an incredibly important project that will enable more people to travel safely and efficiently along Denver’s spine. The Post could have thrown its weight behind this model for modern city streets, but instead, the paper straddled the fence through the entirety of the editorial.

The lede was a grumpy admission that the newspaper’s editors are “not fans” of the bikeway. The piece then muddles toward a weak conclusion, in which the editorial board, despite “misgivings,” declares that it is “somewhat in favor” of the city’s Denver Moves bike plan — which includes building more projects like the Broadway bikeway all over the city.

Here’s a taste:

And, critically, we support the general direction the city is headed, emphasizing transportation, mobility and transit in the pending plan to ask voters to approve an estimated $800 million to $900 million in general obligation bonds funded with property taxes.

Okay, but who isn’t in favor of “transportation” and “mobility”? These are generalities, not a specific direction the city can take. At least the editorial board also ventured an endorsement of “transit.”

Of course, the way to emphasize transit is to repurpose streets so buses, walking, and biking take precedence. When it comes to specific projects that lessen dependence on cars, however, the Post casts them as “flashy” and foreign:

If the South Broadway bike lane is a microcosm of the big-picture debate occurring right now in subcommittees trying to set priorities for the bond money, we hope they can look past big flashy European-based transportation projects to see the need to fund deferred maintenance. We need to take care of the existing infrastructure before we build new.

Ah, so the American thing to do is underfund ongoing maintenance work in the regular budget and catch up with a burst of borrowing — until the city falls behind again. Now that’s tradition!

Deep down, the Post knows there’s a problem that requires a more fundamental shift:

Yet Denver must do something about the heavy traffic and parking problems that are only growing as this Front Range mecca booms.

How about “doing something” by moving more people in less space with transit and bicycle improvements? That’s what the Broadway project is all about.

But to the Post, this real-world solution to Denver’s traffic and parking problems is an annoyance to the people who matter — people in cars:

The design feels clunky, plopped on a busy thoroughfare to intentionally discourage commuters from taking this efficient cut-through from downtown to Interstate 25.

As far as the Post is concerned, “commuter” is a synonym for “driver.” Forget about everyone who might be getting to work without driving.

DPW knows that the old, cars-first Broadway design discourages everything but driving. There’s not one continuous route for people on bikes between downtown and I-25, let alone an “efficient cut-through.”

Even with the bike lane, Broadway still has three lanes solely for cars. Since the bikeway’s installation, rush-hour travel time has increased just 9 seconds for motorists. The Post acknowledges the slight traffic delay, but then urges “the city to focus the remaining months of their study on potential traffic impacts…”

Focusing on traffic impacts is what the city has done for too long. That just digs the hole deeper. It’s time to focus on moving people, not cars, and creating a safe, efficient urban transportation system.

Apologies if this hurts the feelings of suburban car commuters, but, for once, this is not about you.

  • TakeFive

    Eh, a couple of points.

    A healthy skepticism is not the same as being sour. Perhaps like Obama (and me) they prefer an “all of the above” approach. Unless the urban fantasy is to build a Yuge Wall around a 3-mile radius of downtown – maybe check the availability of a Trump grant,;he’s very fond of walls. Otherwise I think it’s best to find an optimum solution that accommodates everybody.

    With respect to maintenance IIRC the last (Better Denver) Bond issue asked and received a mill levy increase for more maintenance. My calculation was that it started out at $25/26 million a year. Obviously it wasn’t nearly enough. Obviously the intense growth and inflationary costs more recently have overwhelmed the need. You can procrastinate repairing the “leaky roof” but you do so at your peril. Needed repair costs can go up exponentially.

  • PabloDali

    Death Traps

    • gojoblogo

      Was that a full thought?

      • PabloDali

        What part didn’t you comprehend?

        • gojoblogo

          The core concept, I suppose. Are bikes death traps? Cars? Broadway itself? You just like the term and wanted to share it?

          If I read you correctly, I also think the three additional lanes of high speed arterial traffic are death traps. Best to get these transit and bike lanes up and running as soon as possible!

          • PabloDali

            Headline Subject = Multi-Modal Streets

          • Tiger Quinn

            I’ve watched your dumb ass get banned on five sites now.

          • PabloDali

            Censorship is cool … for Fascist cowards.

    • Devin Quince

      Please explain? Perhaps it is the drivers of the motor vehicles?

  • gojoblogo

    That last line is so true. A massive Denver bond package and infrastructure improvement program should have specific focus on serving those who stay (either momentarily or as a resident) within the borders of Denver and spend money there. Condemning local-serving transportation and mobility projects in favor of a project that treats Broadway as a really long on-ramp onto I-25 for suburban commuters should not be the focus of the City of Denver.

    Yes, I know that those people contribute to Denver’s tax base as well, but it is a perverse use of money by a place to ensure that you spend as little time in that place as possible.

    Even though I think that the parking discussion on Broadway is WAY over stated, at least I get the premise. I do not get the premise of being against getting more people on the same sized street through improved multi-modal facilities. Especially when we have data that says that the price to pay is 9 seconds. Nobody could make a really strong case that those 9 seconds are a deal breaker. Especially when the pro-side is that more people are able to move safely and more equitably on the street.

    • mckillio

      I also wonder how much of that extra time is due to people waiting until the last second to get over when the bike lane begins.

    • TakeFive

      I wouldn’t disagree. So Broadway is capable of accommodating everybody.

      While 52 bike riders or even double or triple that isn’t moving a whole lot of people, bike lanes should exist for those who live in the area (or not) and want the option.

      So Broadway is also the one corridor deserving of an Urban LRT Line down to the I-25 Station and also along the Speer Blvd/Leetsdale Dr corridor. That is how you would move a lot of people through the area. It works in peer cities of Minneapolis and Phoenix; it would work great in Denver.

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