Driving Speeds on Broadway, Lincoln Help Make Case for Protected Bike Lane

The Department of Public Works held a public, four-hour workshop Tuesday aimed at getting input about a parking-protected bike lane and other improvements to the Broadway/Lincoln corridor. Photo: David Sachs

On Tuesday city transportation planners presented more than 100 members of the public with early results of a months-long study of the Broadway/Lincoln corridor. They offered some options to help achieve Mayor Michael Hancock’s goals for a more mobile city, and asked for input from residents and business owners.

According to the study Denver’s most important north-south streets cater to cars that drive too fast, and can be changed to become safer places for people walking, biking, using transit, and driving. That’s why a two-way protected bike lane on Broadway has been at the center of the discussion for more than a year.

Screen Shot 2015-11-11 at 12.00.51 PM
Even with congestion, average speeds tend to be above the posted limit. Image: DPW

Most of the above speeds are not safe for people walking and biking nearby, but keep in mind those are just averages. People drive slower and faster than the posted limit on certain spans. Here’s how Broadway’s speeds break down at Center Avenue and Cleveland Place, for example:

On this part of Broadway, people drive at least five miles above the speed limit on average. Image: DPW

Image: DPW
This section of Broadway has slower speeds, which make it safer for drivers as well as people walking and biking. Image: DPW

“There is a direct correlation between the volume and the speed,” said Carlos Hernandez of the firm Fox Tuttle Hernandez, a planning firm that partnered with the Department of Public Works on the study. “If everybody says, ‘We have to control speed because people are speeding in the corridor,’ well then we have to have a legitimate conversation about [vehicle] volumes. Because one of the strongest connections between people driving the speed limit is actually having some level of congestion in the corridor.”

Meanwhile, in September, an average of 135 people on bikes daily used Broadway and Lincoln during peak hours. But they didn’t have a safe place to ride, so they used the sidewalk, the bus lane, or the travel lane — where people usually drive well above the 30 mph speed limit.

Screen Shot 2015-11-11 at 11.16.07 AM
Most people who ride a bike on Broadway and Lincoln ride in inappropriate, dangerous, or illegal places because they have no other choice. Image: Department of Public Works

A bike lane would offer a safe way to move people along the city’s spine and give everyone more options for getting around. Reclaiming one of Broadway’s five massive travel lanes for people on bikes is one option the city presented. Residents and city planners first identified that option in the 2014 Golden Triangle Neighborhood plan [PDF]. Another option would reclaim a lane from both Lincoln and Broadway and convert them to one-way protected bike lanes.

One option for Broadway is to convert a car lane into a two-way parking-protected cycle track for bikes. Broadway would maintain about the same amount of parking spaces. Image: DPW
One option for Broadway is to convert a car lane into a two-way parking-protected cycle track for bikes. Broadway would maintain about the same amount of parking spaces. Image: DPW

But what about the inevitable complaints from people who believe driving faster than the legal limit is a human right? Planners studied how many cars each lane could handle per hour during both streets’ heaviest periods — morning rush hour for Lincoln and afternoon rush hour for Broadway. They found that Lincoln’s four lanes moved about 1,000 more cars than Broadway’s five, indicating that Broadway could operate at its current capacity if planners reclaimed a car lane for bike travel.

broadway lincoln
On a spring Tuesday, Lincoln Street moved 3,213 cars with four lanes from 7:30 – 8:30 a.m. Broadway moved 2,380 with five lanes from 5:30 – 6:30 p.m. Image: DPW

“I think the big issue is you don’t want to mess with people’s commute, and I’m one of those people,” said Sarah Thomas, a Capitol Hill resident who drives and bikes, and works in Englewood. “But traffic isn’t getting better, traffic is only getting worse, and I want to get out of my car as quick as possible, and I want there to be an easy alternative.” Thomas added that better transit should be part of the solution.

Tuesday’s public meeting came after planners went door-to-door and spoke with more than 200 business owners and residents. The workshop was the first of several leading up to a six-week demo that will include a temporary protected bike lane on the corridor. The entire presentation will be available on the project’s website by the end of the week.