More Bike Parking, Fewer Curb Cuts on Council Agenda

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Curb cuts like this one near 44th and Tennyson won’t be allowed under the new zoning. Image: Google Maps

Tonight the Denver City Council will consider changes to the city zoning code that, if passed, should make Denver’s streets at least a little better for walking and biking.

Here’s what some of the technical changes will mean at the street level:

Fewer Conflicts Between Drivers and Pedestrians on Sidewalks 

One proposal would prohibit additional curb cuts to some buildings if an alley already provides car access. To help create more continuous sidewalks where people don’t have to worry about drivers cutting across their path, planners want the rule to apply citywide to rowhouses that don’t face the street, bringing those homes in line with single-family houses, duplexes, and street-facing rowhouses.

Bike Parking Required for More Buildings

The zoning update would also expand bike parking minimums to cover community recreation centers and religious institutions. Bike parking is already required for buildings like museums, libraries, and elementary schools, which have to provide at least one bike rack per 10,000 square feet.

Seattle, San Francisco, and even Lakewood and Fort Collins already have similar bike parking minimums for these types of land uses.

Ground Floors That Enliven Streets

Buildings that engage the sidewalk make for a better walking experience than buildings that turn their back to the street. A monolithic parking structure? Not good for the pedestrian environment. A cafe or a gym with transparent windows on the ground floor of an apartment building? That’s more like it.

“We’re trying not to have buildings that create a dead spot with a big blank wall,” said Kyle Dalton with Community Planning and Development. “We want to prohibit certain uses that deaden the area, that make it so there’s not activity, which creates dead zones.”

The code would prohibit sidewalk-deadening uses like parking and storage bays in the first-floor facades of all “main-street” and “urban mixed-use districts” like Colfax, and near transit stations. In other mixed-use districts, 40 percent of the storefronts would not be allowed to have these uses, according to the new code.

There will be a public hearing tonight at City Hall on the zoning changes before council members vote on the package.