Denver’s Latest Bike Plan Comes Up Short

DPW won't say what's holding up a study that has the potential to make streets safer.
Photo: David Sachs

Denver has waited with bated breath for Mayor Michael Hancock’s administration to release its Bicycle Safety Action Plan [PDF]. But the plan that Hancock unveiled two weeks ago, when he committed to eliminating traffic deaths and serious injuries, isn’t what bike advocates were hoping for.

A good bike plan should lay out specific policies and goals that city agencies can be held accountable for. If Hancock committed to mapping a citywide network of safe, low-stress bikeways in the next year and building it out within 12 years, hitting specific targets along the way, that would be the basis of a solid plan. Advocates could track the city’s progress and assess how it measures up to its stated goals.

What Hancock has released, however, is much more vague than that. About the best you can say about the new plan is that it correctly identifies the main obstacles to bicycling in Denver, and suggests some good strategies and design templates as solutions, like building protected intersections. But it lacks the concrete goals and timetables of a good bike plan. Without those details, it could end up just like Denver’s last bike plan, a bunch of well-intentioned ideas that the city failed to implement.

Right now, Denver’s bike network is Swiss cheese. To the city’s credit, the “action plan” puts building a complete network at the top of its priority list, acknowledging the “challenging environments for cyclists to complete a journey.”

Here’s the plan to fix an incomplete bike network:

Link origin and destination points with routes, road infrastructure, intersection treatments and technologies and signage along the entire route. This will provide standardized infrastructure and level of service in Denver.

A number of origins and destinations can be selected, and infrastructure developed that will allow an average bicyclist traveling 15 miles per hour (mph) to cover one mile of route in 5 minutes.

Well, yeah. A city that’s safe for biking needs to build more bikeways. That’s been established in other Denver bike plans, and what does the city have to show for it?

The plan says Denver Public Works will find gaps in the network and begin to address them. What’s missing is a detailed framework for how Public Works will fill in the gaps, and how the city will pay for it.

Some to-be-determined amount of bike improvements will get incorporated into existing street design and repaving projects, according to the plan, which is a fine idea but doesn’t rise to the level of a specific goal and timetable that the city can be held to.

Beyond the $2.2 million in bike projects already budgeted for 2016, the future of Denver bike infrastructure remains foggy. The new bike plan recommends leaning on existing plans and creating yet another one — a transportation master plan that integrates bike projects into other street changes in the works.

Coordinating between agencies is necessary, but at some point, cities that are serious about making bicycling safe stop making plans to draw up more plans — and they start getting stuff done. So far, the Hancock administration hasn’t shown that it’s serious about getting stuff done.

  • John

    Denver can’t even properly maintain so many streets, I’m afraid I have little faith in any bike infrastructure expansion.

    • Robert Chase

      “Can’t” is not synonymous with “won’t”. So long as the City is free to waste money on its misplaced priorities without any political consequences, more pedestrians and cyclists will die.

  • DenverJ

    You’re mistaking this overarching bicycle safety plan for a bicycle infrastructure masterplan. This document is about getting a list of prioritized action items across the board, not only focusing on infrastructure. Infrastructure alone will not incite safer cycling. The safety plan also works towards a more balanced approach to safety, rather than focusing on just cyclists, motorists have more responsibility for keeping cyclists safe (after all, if there were no motorists, there’d be exceptionally few road fatalities/injuries).

    For a plan that is focused on bicycle infrastructure planning, please see Denver Moves.

    Rather than dig a plan that is progressive in reducing cyclist casualties on Denver streets, advocates should be rallying around such documents to push forward change in Denver. Use this document to push for funding, use it to start new programs for cycling and get elected officials to make decisions. We’re all in this together.

    • Robert Chase

      Elected officials have made decisions — the wrong ones. If cyclists and walkers cannot summon the wit and gumption to challenge them, things will continue to get worse — I count a rising toll of death and injury to be extremely negative.

      • DenverJ

        Right, so pressure them to make the right decisions….

        • Robert Chase

          Get a clue about what pressure is and how it could be applied; having been re-elected with 85% of the vote, Hancock is absolutely unaccountable to bicyclists and pedestrians.

          • DenverJ

            How do you make him accountable?

          • Robert Chase

            Get rid of him! Plan on electing someone other than a running dog for the Downtown (Business) Partnership next time. Until then, deal with Hancock harshly.

  • Ben

    I was really excited when Streetsblog Denver became a thing, but the negative slant on almost every article has left me pretty disappointed. I’m all for wanting things to be better and I understand not all news is good, but geesh, this place is downright depressing most of the time. Confluence Denver and DenverInfill find positives, celebrate them, and write enjoyable articles that inspire activism and involvement. This blog just complains and it’s tiring.

    • Robert Chase

      How absolutely pathetic! No wonder Denver is a dangerous place to walk and bike and getting more so. What is indicated is real militancy against a Mayor and administration that are killing us with neglect, but you want this blog to “find positives, celebrate them” rather than deal with the harsh realities of trying to move about Denver’s ugly sprawl.

      • DenverJ

        “the harsh realities of trying to move about Denver’s ugly sprawl” maybe you should move to Portland, or somewhere with beautiful sprawl. Constant criticism and a “militant” behavior is not going to make cycling and walking better in Denver. You could write/meet with your elected official and push them to enact change.

        • Robert Chase

          Take responsibility for Denver’s incompetent government! It really isn’t very hard to understand — Hancock and Co. have other priorities — like expanding the Convention Center, buying B-cycles for tourists, and pushing sprawl out to the airport. So long as even stupider people give them a free pass, they will continue to get away with doing next to nothing — other than creating more political patronage and spin (by creating an “Office of Sustainability, e.g.) — and pedestrians and cyclists will continue to die. The audit of Denver Moves demonstrates that the City has done nothing since the plan was completed, the toll on walkers and cyclists is growing, but the clueless continue to give them political cover and act as these criminals’ apologists. What would it take to get you angry — your own family members or friends getting killed by Denver’s totally out-of-control, scofflaw motorists?

          • DenverJ

            What are you doing about Denver’s government not implementing bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure?

          • Robert Chase

            Agitating and protesting — most recently in connection with this issue, decrying the insane “Love-In” held recently on City Hall’s steps. Denverite’s staggering complacence and acceptance of incompetent government are far and away the greatest problem, and they are driving all the rest, including an ever-rising death toll of people trying to cross City streets. It shouldn’t be necessary to begin the fight for safe streets by calling out the very organizations supposed to be working to that end, but there is about no light between them and Denver’s corrupt administration, so that must be the first order of business.

          • DenverJ

            And how much are Denver’s government listening to you and taking action?

          • Robert Chase

            If Denver wants progress, it needs to jettison the idiots now misgoverning it — but you keep sucking up to them and see where it gets us.

          • DenverJ

            “If Denver wants progress, it needs to jettison the idiots now misgoverning it” – That isn’t going to happen. And all you’ve done is insult every other person who commented on this thread. Maybe just look yourself in the eye, and try to find a way that actually progresses bicycle/ped safety, rather than just insult people. Quite frankly you just come off as a troll, and no one has time for trolls.

          • RobertChase

            Anyone who wants safe streets needs to recognize that there are people who are obstacles to progress and act accordingly — no one is going to cajole action out of this Mayor!

      • Ben

        First of all, Robert. Let’s be civil. You don’t know me well enough to call my opinion pathetic.

        Secondly, I’m not saying to ignore bad news. I understand that it happens. My wife and I were both seriously and permanently injured in a car wreck that was not our fault, which is why I advocate for safer streets.

        I am saying that when there are positives, let’s celebrate them, not twist them into something negative.


  • Robert Chase

    Denver’s citizens want to make the City safe for walking and cycling, but progress is stymied by the co-opting of the organizations supposed to be working towards that goal by the City’s administration. We need to militate for budgets that spends what is needed to implement Denver Moves; instead, non-profits without the resources to accomplish anything on their own cheer on a Mayor who failed to implement the plan during his first term in office and gives every indication that he will not prioritize the building of the infrastructure required. Pedestrians and cyclists are now being seriously injured and killed almost every day in Denver — it is time to stop dithering and planning and to start criticizing the City’s grossly misplaced priorities and demanding the allocation of funds to implement Denver Moves! To cite just one example of the inexcusable waste which fritters away the resources which should be going to building protected bike lanes and sidewalks, Denver is buying 150 more B-cycles for tourists Downtown; this very expensive amenity for them does virtually nothing to get Denver onto bikes (the rental cost of a B-cycle now substantially exceeds that of short-term car rentals — $10/hour for B-cycle; $6/hour for Enterprise) and absolutely nothing to make Denver less dangerous!