Retrofit Could Make Intersection of 16th and Broadway Less Chaotic

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A random snapshot from Google Maps shows one car parked on the sidewalk and one turning from Broadway onto 16th Avenue, directly on top of a sharrow pointed the other direction.

The intersection of 16th and Broadway: A cluster of cars, huge buses making left turns, mall shuttles every 90 seconds, and awkward diagonal crossings for pedestrians and people on bikes trying to connect to the 16th Street Mall and 15th Street bike lane. It’s intimidating, but may soon become less so. The Denver Business Journal reports that the chaotic intersection is getting some love from the Department of Public Works.

Here’s the bird’s eye view now:

Image: Google Maps
Image: Google Maps

Here’s the design meant to make the intersection better:

Image: Department of Public Works
Image: Department of Public Works

And here’s a rundown of what’s coming:

  • A median on this part of 16th Avenue, which is long overdue. For anyone not in a car, that area feels like a free-for-all. The median should change that by getting drivers taking a left onto 16th from Broadway to handle their turns more carefully.

  • Right now this street section allows bikes to go both ways on 16th Avenue, while cars can only go one way. The contra-flow system allows people to bike a more direct route, which is a good thing. But this block of 16th is the only one from Broadway to East High School that doesn’t have bike lanes (just sharrrows). The median will act as an extension of the 16th Street bike lane that will physically protect people on bikes from cars turning left.
  • The north corner, across the street from Civic Center Station, is a particularly busy one for pedestrians. After the construction they should have more room to stand comfortably. The corner will include a colored and textured warning strip on the edge.
  • New pedestrian ramps, signals, bike racks, trees, and lighting will be installed around the intersection as well.

The intersection could use some other improvements, too, like better signage and striping that makes clear how people on bikes connect with the nearby 15th Street bike lane. Right now the area feels like a broken link. Broadway needs more robust crosswalks, too. The current ones are thin and faded beyond recognition. Finally, the “Do Not Enter” sign directed at cars should include a disclaimer for bikes. Currently it’s telling people on bikes not to use an official bike route.

Incidentally, using existing construction projects as an opportunity to add low-cost, effective bike-ped facilities is not only a best practice for cities, but something Mayor Michael Hancock committed to when he signed on to the Mayor’s Challenge for Better People, Safer Streets.

As the city concentrates time and money on making streets wider for cars passing through, what’s happening at 16th and Broadway is an example of how to make Denver’s streets better for people.