Coming Soon: Parking-Protected Bike Lanes on Arapahoe, Lawrence Streets

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The section of Arapahoe Street east of Broadway has a west-bound contra-flow bike lane. Once cyclists cross Broadway, they’ll ride the same direction as traffic. Image: DPW

Denver Public Works has been criticized for picking low-hanging fruit when it comes to designing bike infrastructure, but it’s safe to say the parking-protected bike lanes coming to Lawrence and Arapahoe streets are a bit higher up in the tree. Even better, they’ll probably be fully built by the end of October.

Reps from DPW’s bike projects department presented the Mayor’s Bicycle Advisory Committee with the results of an elaborate design process last night. The new infrastructure will stretch a little over one mile, from Auraria Campus to 24th Street, finally giving people on bikes a safe way to cross Speer Boulevard, Park Avenue, and — hallelujah — Broadway.

“We heard you and we listened,” said Dan Raine, the project manager. “You have to be able to get across Broadway.”

Both streets are one-way. The typical section of the Lawrence Street bikeway will be parking-protected with a bike lane that varies between five feet and seven feet wide. The buffer between parked cars and the bike lane will include posts and a 2-foot or 4-foot painted buffer, depending on the section. While the overall design for these bikeways is pretty good, two feet isn’t enough to ensure car doors don’t clothesline passing bicyclists, according to NACTO best practices, which say three feet is the minimum. That extra foot could easily be claimed from the 11-foot travel lanes.

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Lawrence Street from Speer to 20th. Image: DPW
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Lawrence Street from 20th to 24th. Image: DPW

The typical sections of the Arapahoe Street bikeway, also parking-protected, will range in width from 6 to 7 feet. The buffer between parked cars and the bike lane will range from 3 to 4 feet wide, with posts and either a painted buffer or curb to separate people from cars.

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Image: DPW
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Image: DPW

Raine said that DPW pulled from the NACTO design guide to deal with the complicated junctions, like the six-legged intersection where Arapahoe collides with Broadway and Park in a cluster of confusion. DPW (hopefully) solved the problem by creating a contra-flow bike lane that gets its own crossing phase. If they want, people on bikes can push a button to cross without leaving their lane, which will trigger red lights for all drivers (See top image for a visual).

The intersection of Arapahoe and Speer, which currently has no bike infrastructure, will get design treatments to make it safer and more efficient for people on bikes:

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Image: DPW

The Lawrence and Arapahoe bikeways gave DPW headaches, Raine said, because of the monster intersections, loading zones, and less obvious snags like the fact that a crane lifts a Zamboni into nearby Skyline Park twice a year. And based on how well it works, DPW may or may not change the design after monitoring it for a year. Ideally, these bike facilities would claim some more space from travel lanes, which remain plenty wide.

Still, the arrival of Denver’s first parking-protected lanes is great to see, and the intersection treatments exemplify how creating a conduit for people on streets designed for cars is challenging, but doable.

Here are some other sections of the bikeways, if you’re interested in nerding out:

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Bus islands and crosswalks should help people on bikes, pedestrians, and transit users to co-exist. Image: DPW
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Lawrence and Broadway. Image: DPW
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Lawrence and Speer. Image: DPW
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Lawrence and 14th. Image: DPW
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Lawrence and 17th. Image: DPW