Westergaard: The Key to Bike Progress in Denver Is to Give Up on Bike Lanes

This is what Neil Westergaard is so afraid of. Image: DPW

Neil Westergaard, editor of the Denver Business Journal, wants Denver to slow its roll and stop trying to make Broadway function like a safe city street instead of a surface highway.

Denver Public Works, backed by elected officials, will install a two-way, parking-protected bike lane on four blocks of Broadway next month — a temporary measure intended to lay the groundwork for a permanent bikeway between I-25 and Colfax. Broadway and its northbound counterpart, Lincoln, would both receive more effective bus lanes and safer pedestrian crossings as part of the project.

Westergaard is fresh off a trip to bike-forward Copenhagen, which is a case study in how cities can repurpose street space for biking. Copenhagen wasn’t born a great biking city — it took very deliberate steps over many years to convert traffic lanes and parking spaces into safe bikeways and pedestrian zones.

Evidently, Westergaard didn’t get the message, because he just wrote a column in which he calls the Broadway redesign “dead on arrival.” The piece is behind a pay wall, but here are some lowlights:

I’ve been skeptical of the Broadway bike lane idea. Broadway is a major vehicle route out of downtown Denver in the afternoon and one of the busiest streets in the city. More than 36,000 cars a day use that street. Where are all those cars going to go when up to two through lanes of traffic are taken away in favor of bike lanes and a dedicated transit lane? That’s one of the configurations in the city’s plans.

Politically, I think it’s going to be dead on arrival. Last summer, the city of Boulder was forced to abandon protected bike lanes on a section of Folsom Street because of outcry from Boulder motorists. If this idea can’t fly in Boulder, I doubt it can grow wings in Denver.

Broadway already has a dedicated transit lane during rush hours, so Westergaard can rest assured that no lane is being “taken away” for buses.

What he wants to know, then, is “where are all those cars going to go” when Public Works converts one driving lane into a two-way bike lane. But the question to ask is really, “Why does Broadway have so many lanes for cars in the first place?”

Public Works and its consultants have held several public meetings where they plainly demonstrated Broadway’s inefficiency. Planners compared Lincoln’s busiest hour to Broadway’s and found that Lincoln’s four lanes moved about 1,000 more cars than Broadway’s five. In other words, there’s too much space for cars on Broadway.

That makes the street dangerous, because it leads drivers to travel at high speeds.

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

Finally, Boulder was not “forced to abandon” the Folsom Street bike lane. Its City Council caved at the first hint of displeasure from motorists after a mere two months. Denver boosters should be out to prove that our city gets things done, not cite political cowardice in a neighboring government as a model for our own.

Westergaard continues, regaling readers with his thoughts about Copenhagen:

I came away impressed. Copenhagen is a truly remarkable place for cycling. Everyone bikes, rain or shine. All the major thoroughfares have bike lanes that are separated from the vehicle traffic lanes and have their own traffic signals. There are ample places to park bicycles at the ubiquitous transit stations around the city and they’re allowed on the metro and regional trains, too.

But unlike Denver, there is an absolutely slavish devotion to traffic laws. Cyclists in Copenhagen know the rules and obey them. There’s no running stoplights, riding on sidewalks or other reckless behavior the kind which we often see here. (Except maybe by tourists.)

People ride single file, signal when they are going to stop or turn and get out of the way quickly. It is not uncommon to see 30 to 50 bicycles lined up waiting for the light to change at an intersection.

Westergaard has it all backwards. Copenhagen doesn’t have an excellent bike network because cyclists follow the rules. Cyclists in Copenhagen follow the rules because the city has an excellent bike network.

It’s not a mystery why people on bikes break the law. A leading researcher on the subject is CU Denver’s own Wes Marshall. Denver’s cars-only street designs compel bike riders to adopt “scofflaw” behavior to stay safe. Marshall found that people on bikes often pedal through red lights to be more visible to drivers approaching from behind, for instance. (And for the record, bicyclists can legally ride two abreast.)

If Broadway was a safe place for people to bike, people on bikes would be less inclined to break laws — and more people would bike. That’s what happened after Public Works installed the 15th Street protected bike lane. Bicyclists might flock to Broadway — like they do in Westergaard’s lovely description of Copenhagen — if the street catered to them a little bit.

Screen Shot 2016-07-12 at 1.16.38 PM
Is this the street that business owners and the rest of the neighborhood deserve? Image: Google Maps

Continues Westergaard:

On Broadway, however, the plans call for maintaining parking lanes on both sides of the street. I’d view the Broadway bike plans a lot more favorably if the city would simply eliminate the parking lane on one side of Broadway, but I doubt merchants would go along with it. They understand that most of their customers are still driving automobiles.

Yes, as anyone who attended the public workshops for the redesign knows, the business owners with reservations about the redesign were concerned mostly with losing on-street parking, which is why no parking spaces will be repurposed. It sounds like Westergaard’s priority is to simply move car traffic — he prefers an extra express lane to I-25 for suburban commuters to a safe commercial street for the neighborhood. Why does the editor of the city’s leading business publication want something that local business owners don’t?

Westergaard saves his best trolling for the end of the column:

It’s laudable that Denver is looking at transportation alternatives. But it should be smarter about it. Forcing bike lanes onto a high traffic commuter corridor at the expense of cars to satisfy a minority of bike commuters and activists is a form of social engineering that is just going to enrage motorists.

And, just like they did in Boulder, opponents will exercise their superior political strength and get it scuttled, setting back the development of workable bike infrastructure development for years.

Yeah. What are these people thinking when they call for safe bike lanes on an important street? They should listen to Neil Westergaard’s expert advice about achieving change and just give up. That’s how Denver will make progress on bike infrastructure development.

  • rorojo

    Yep love the people that drive through an area twice a day at the busiest times explain to those that live and work there all other times what is best for the community.

    • nwestergaard

      Lincoln and Broadway didn’t become busy streets overnight. It’s like people who move in next to an airport and then complain about the noise.

      • neroden

        I haven’t been able to dig up the history, but it appears that Broadway was widened repeatedly. So there are probably people who moved in there before it was turned into an expressway-with-intersections.

        • nwestergaard

          Not very many. I’ve lived here since 1980 and Broadway /Llincoln have always been a major north-south thoroughfare.

          • LevelHead

            I’m so excited to be able to ride down at least a portion of broadway and access all the stores safely on my bike without being harassed by people in cars, which does happen even if you are riding single file. Broadway is a great street that all forms of transportation should have access too.

        • garbanzito

          i have dug up the history and Broadway has been wide for a long time, however (and it’s a big HOWEVER), until 1955 Broadway was a two way street; it and Lincoln were converted to one-way streets over a weekend without informing the surrounding neighborhoods; even then, merchants felt the faster traffic led to a decline in patronage

          there were also two sets of street car tracks, plus small pedestrian refuges, in the center of the roadway; Broadway was much less of a route to the suburbs, and i strongly suspect speeds were much lower

      • rorojo

        Who is complaining about it being overly busy? I moved there because it is busy. Again, twice a day 5 days a week it can get relatively busy couple for about an hour or two. The rest of the time it is a vast expanse of road serving very few well. Better walking, biking, and bus infrastructure will put it to better use and be busier the other 20 hours of the day. Why prioritize the rush hour crowd that pass through the community on their way to the burbs over actual Denver residents?

  • Sloan

    “Where are all those cars going to go when up to two through lanes of traffic are taken away in favor of bike lanes and a dedicated transit lane?” …umm how about the cars stay in the garage and PEOPLE ride the bus or their bicycles?

    • nwestergaard

      Sloan, not everybody is young and fit like you probably are. Way more people depend on their cars to get around than people who ride bikes. Ignoring them because you’re opposed to cars is arrogant and unrealistic. There’s a way to accommodate everybody’s needs, if you keep an open mind.

      • Sloan

        Neil, being young and fit is no requirement for riding a bicycle safely if the infrastructure is installed. Cities like Copenhagen, Amsterdam, and even American cities such as Minneapolis, New York, San Francisco, and Long Beach are accommodating everyone’s needs with safe and connected bicycle infrastructure. In cities with well-connected and safe bicycle infrastructure, there are no such thing as “cyclists,” which you regard as “young and fit.” People in these cities depend on their bikes just like we depend on our cars as a viable mode of transportation. I would urge you to take a walk outside during rush hour in Denver and try to count how many people are sitting in traffic alone in their cars. Perhaps then you can open your mind to the absurdity of single-occupancy vehicle trips, then realize that if safe and well-connected bicycle infrastructure was put into place, then people would opt out of driving their cars to work in favor of bicycling, walking, or taking transit. I am not against cars for people’s needs; my mind is open to a far better solution.

        • nwestergaard

          Sloan, let’s get something straight. I’m not against more bicycle infrastructure, despite how David Sachs tries to portray me in his frequent personal attacks on this blog. I think the lanes envisioned for RiNo, the current 15th Street bike lane (if it ever connects with something) are great. The city should close the gaps in the current off-street bike paths and bike routes. I just think taking out lanes from Broadway is just going to piss off people and make the inner city even more congested because the studies show that even if you put a protected bike lane in, it doesn’t create a lot of new riders, the existing riders merely gravitate to the new lanes. Also, I don’t know why it’s so bloody essential to turn Broadway into a bikeway when there are parallel routes that could be used that would cause far less disruption. As I said in the column, though, if the plan would take out the parking lane on one side of Broadway to accommodate the bike lane, I’d be more supportive. But the merchants don’t want that (because they know most of their customers will still be driving cars). BTW, I’m not a suburban commuter. I’ve lived in the city since 1980. My kids went to DPS. But it’s undeniable that getting suburbanites in and out of the city efficiently is vital to the economy. (Besides. Before before long, nobody but the rich are going to afford living in the city). And can we stop comparing Denver with Copenhagen? There’s 150 percent tax on automobiles there. Gas costs more than $6 a gallon. There’s a spectacular mass transit system. Of course people are going to eschew cars. Finally, I think the planned “test” of the Broadway bike plan ought to replicate the final design, with parking on both sides of the street so we can really see what the impacts are, not like last year’s test when they took out a parking lane to implement the bike lane. As I indicated, that might work. Anyway. Cheers.

          • Sloan

            Neil, I don’t know why you are getting defensive over a civil and educated debate. I’m simply trying to point out that there exists a problem and there exists a solution to this problem. Broadway is currently five lanes wide with parking on either side. The buses are not efficient because they get blocked by turning traffic, and the cars are moving at freeway speeds because Broadway is designed like a freeway. This is a product of outdated engineering principles and is unsafe for those who want to patronize the businesses on Broadway. The bike lane SHOULD cause more traffic; make it more difficult to drive down Broadway so people will opt for an alternative rather than driving alone. However, it should also be connected to the other most traveled parts of the city so that it can provide an alternative that is complete and dependable. There are too many cars clogging our streets as it is, so we need a better solution than just continuing to accommodate them. The more we accommodate cars with parking and lanes, the more cars we will see on the road, and the congestion problems will be perpetuated. Rather than focusing on just the car, perhaps focus on what actually needs to happen on Broadway: efficient transportation. Broadway is a city street, not a freeway exclusively for cars, as evidenced by the wonderful businesses that exist there. And no, actually, we should not stop comparing Denver to Copenhagen, nor any city to Copenhagen (which BTW, I also cited other cities besides Copenhagen, including American ones who are becoming models for progress). Copenhagen has achieved something that every city should strive for: a safer, more equitable way of life for its citizens. Why on earth wouldn’t we want something like that for Denver? Especially on one of its most vibrant city thoroughfares? Shouldn’t it be safe for all people young, middle-aged, and old to enjoy? You say that soon only the rich will be able to afford living in the city – is that something we just want to let happen? David, the author of this blog does not, and he is concerned that articles like yours are standing in the way of progress.

          • nwestergaard

            I’m not being defensive, Sloan. I just disagree with your position, which is revealed in this passage of your comment: “The bike lane SHOULD cause more traffic; make it more difficult to
            drive down Broadway so people will opt for an alternative rather than
            driving alone.”

            The Broadway bike plan has been promoted as something to accommodate the needs of cyclists but its true goal is to make driving inconvenient so that people opt for alternative transportation. You said it in the previous post. Who has decided that this is desirable? Not the voters. Not a majority of taxpayers. No citywide referendum was held to determine this. It has been decided by a small minority of citizens and sympathetic city planners who believe we can engineer behavior in this way. At least you are honest about it and I thank you for that. Really. Because when I first raised this issue, David Sachs and others painted me as delusional.

            And I agree with the other poster: For the test next month, go all in. Create the bike lane from Colfax to I-25, keep all the parking spaces and collect as much data as possible. A four-block test that doesn’t replicate the final design configuration isn’t going to show anything.

          • John Harshbarger

            “The Broadway bike plan has been promoted as something to accommodate the needs of cyclists but its true goal is to make driving inconvenient so that people opt for alternative transportation.” Which can only be a good thing. Less people in cars will make for a safer city.

          • Mike McDaniel

            So you are advocating 150% car tax and $6 gas as the solution to our car dependent culture? Awesome, I’m on board with that – how do we make this happen?

          • nwestergaard

            Mike: Did you really read my comment as advocating 150 percent tax on automobiles and $6 gas? No, I am not. I’m just pointing out that that’s a big reason so many people in Copenhagen ride bikes. The cost of driving a car is prohibitive for most people. People make it sound like the Danes have had some sort of epiphany about bike riding. It’s simply self-interest. They can’t afford cars so they seek out an alternative. Go ahead and promote that idea in the U.S., but you won’t get very far.

          • garbanzito

            we can’t afford cars either, when you look at the big pictures

          • John Harshbarger

            Actually they can afford cars. Danes make more money than Americans. Danes make on average $70,000 USD a year while in America we make on average $57,220 USD Per capita. Awe, another fail! Keep it up mate!

      • TonesOfLife

        Well a lot of people depend on their cars for health reasons now because of their overuse of them previously in life… So never too late.. (Obviously others are not so fortunate, but remember there are still 3 full traffic lanes for those who do depend on the automobile)

        Depend is a self inflicted word. With Denvers hills, EBikes especially the pedelectric kind solve the car -> back to -> bike problem allowing users to transition back into better health but still make it up the hill without a heart attack 🙂

        Prices are dropping yearly and they are beginning to become really affordable. Not there yet though.

      • red123

        nwestergaard – exactly “There’s a way to accommodate everybody’s needs, if you keep an open mind”. Last time I looked there were still 3 through lanes for vehicles a bus lane and two parking lanes.

      • Mike McDaniel

        You should come check out the Denver Cruiser Ride any Wednesday night so you can see all the variations of neither young nor fit bodies that ride bikes!

      • John

        As far as needing to be healthy to ride a bike: Last I checked people of all ages can 28 mph on an ebike no problem. The young mans game is not an argument I am willing to accept. It is shear conjecture.

      • plasticm

        > “not everybody is young and fit like you probably are”
        Straw man. Not “everybody” needs to swap from car to bike. This is about percentages.

        > “Way more people depend on their cars to get around than people who ride bikes”
        Yes, and that’s the problem. This is an attempt at moving towards something better.

        The trouble is that you’re right about this being a long term game, but it has to start somewhere. Many people in Denver haven’t learnt to ride bikes as young kids and ridden them every day since. Many people moved out of town because there was a handy big road to drive down. But that’s induced demand. Over time, if the traffic gets worse people with a more flexible schedule – again, not everyone – might choose to come in earlier or later. Or some of them might choose to ride.

        Aside from the one suggestion of removing on-street parking – which I don’t disagree with but I think it’s similarly politically difficult – I don’t see you coming up with loads of alternative good ideas. Everyone seems to agree it would be nice if cycling was more accessible, but not everyone seems willing to try things to make it happen. Incidentally a trial over a longer distance will, in many ways, be more popular (especially over the longer term) because it’s far more useful.

        • nwestergaard

          Plasticm, That “young and fit” comment was in response to a poster who answered the question I posed, which was, “where are all those cars going to go?” when the bike lanes go in. He said they’d stay in the garage. I think that’s a fantasy because not everyone–or even a majority–will make that choice and one reasons is that not everybody is young and fit or wants to ride a bike instead of a car.

          If you read all the posts, you’ll see that I’ve offered alternatives. Parallel routes, on quieter streets could be implemented to accomplish virtually the same thing. The alternatives aren’t without problems, granted. But they haven’t even been considered. Instead, the plan envisions a test on four blocks, which I believe will prove nothing.

          I’ve advocated a test of the entire corridor because, as I stated in another post, the test isn’t whether cyclists will like the protect the bike lane–of course they will. The test is whether the resulting congestion is tolerable given the traffic that is already present on the thoroughfare. If it can’t handle it, motorists will rebel, the city will cave and the bike lane will be removed. That’s exactly what happened in Boulder last year.

          If that happens, it will put back bike infrastructure efforts years. Are you willing to risk that because you think the protected bike lane will really make more people ride bikes?

          I agree that more bike infrastructure is desirable, believe it or not. But why does it have to “start” as you say, on one of the busiest streets in the city?

          • plasticm

            But my point is that not everyone – or even a majority – need to switch to cycling. What if say 20 or 30 percent of drivers started cycling (or changed behaviour in other ways)? What would it really need to ease congestion – or keep it the same – despite some space being taken from private motorists? And induced/reduced demand? So many times we’ve seen increased road-space lead to more cars so the congestion evens out again, and if congestion gets worse some drivers will realise other modes, routes, or travel times work for them.

            In order for cycling to be popular it has to be made easy and obvious. This means making it feel safe and letting it take the main most obvious route. I don’t see displacing it onto – potentially less obvious and less direct side roads – as the answer.

            So the only real option to take away from is the main carriageway. Of course this takes space from drivers but I see that as a win-win. Marginalise the harmful unhealthy option, prioritise the more active sustainable less congesting option.

            I will agree that it would be more realistic to test the whole route. But will the city cave to the belligerent motorists who refuse to consider any form of change? While the trends in cities like Paris, London and Oslo is to move towards more dedicated cycle facilities and in some cases even car bans? I hope for better.

          • nwestergaard

            Plasticm: Thanks for the reasoned reply. No. 1, I do not advocate abandonment of bicycle infrastructure. David’s headline on his original blog about my column was total bullshit and I’ve said so in the comments. The truth: I think bike infrastructure is great and it should be expanded. My skepticism is strictly limited to the Broadway plan. It’s just that, too–skepticism. I could be completely wrong about this…but I don’t think so.
            That said, the bike infrastructure studies that I’ve read, notably the exhaustive study done by the University of Portland, do not suggest huge increases in ridership simply from the installation of protected bike lanes. The increases are incremental. More typically, the existing riders gravitate to the protected lanes. I don’t believe that the lack of a protected bike lane on Broadway is deterring that many people from riding. I know plenty of riders, and I ride myself, on streets parallel to Broadway that work just fine. Will a protected lane on Broadway be better? Of course. But I don’t think it’s worth the mayhem that’s going to result when the full lane is installed and the changes are put in place permanently. That’s why, at least, I think the test should simulate the final design by simply closing off one of the traffic lanes during the test. I don’t think the six-block, 15 mo., test is going to produce usable data and as I’ve stated, I’m worried there’s going to be a political backlash from motorists.

            Aside from the potential congestion increase posed by the lane closures, there’s a social engineering aspect to this effort that is going to piss people off. It’s foolish to ignore the sentiments of motorists because they far, far outnumber cyclists. They will exercise their political clout, just like they did in Boulder last year, and get this thing scrubbed.

          • plasticm

            Hi. I agree (within reason) regarding incremental changes – a cultural change takes time and a comprehensive network. FWIW I also take your point regarding existing riders gravitating towards better facilities – in addition I think that often quite a bit of mode share change comes from public transport users choosing to ride instead of drivers leaving cars at home (partly because of the demographics of the different mode users). So yes, that doesn’t ease congestion in the short term, but still, people using a cycle facility (especially with a larger variety of ages, more women etc) makes a very visual argument (assuming that happens).

            But as a general point I think that politicians boldly creating prominent facilities is no bad thing. It’s not just a change in the road layout. Private motorists really need to have it pointed out that as well as suffering from the problems of congestion (and air pollution and so on) they are creating those problems. The external costs of driving are massive and drivers need to understand that and behave appropriately – lose that sense of entitlement. It’s not OK. Of course the US has a long way to go in that respect, but if politicians can weather the flak then taking road space from private motoring is a clear visual indication of a city’s priorities.

            I will agree that one should pick ones battles – concentrate on areas with the most potential riders and work out – and I can see you’ve thought about this a lot so maybe there’s some weight to your argument about this particular route. Too often people who agree on the big picture end up getting tied in knots over smaller details.

            But I still find it hard to imagine that trialling facilities could set back the progress of cycling infrastructure so badly. Again, this is happening in a broader national and global context of cities realising that more and more cars in urban centres just isn’t sustainable or healthy.

  • Chris Jones (PickledEntropy)

    “I’m a bicycle expert because I went to Copenhagen once”

    • nwestergaard

      No more than all the city officials that went there last year and proclaim Copenhagen as their goal for Denver.

      • seewg

        Unless they are planning professionals with years of experience and training. Let’s not get too big for our britches.

  • nwestergaard

    Thanks, David, for promoting my column and republishing at least selected parts of it. But you are way, way off base with the headline. As I’ve said many times, I’m in favor of more bike infrastructure in Denver; but I think the Broadway plan has flaws. You, however, are like Wayne LaPierre of the NRA. Anyone who disagrees with you is to be ridiculed and scorned. Even the designers of the Broadway plan have reservations about what’s going to happen to the cars that use that route out of downtown Denver when two through lanes are given over to bikes and buses. You don’t care. It doesn’t matter to you because you think you can socially engineer Denver into bike utopia by ignoring reality. As I said, if this goes in as planned, there will be a political backlash from the driving public, it’ll be removed, and bike infrastructure efforts will be set back years. Commuters are an essential part of Denver’s economic success. Ignore them at your peril.

    • neroden

      As documented in the article, four-lane Lincoln Street has higher car throughput than five-lane Broadway. This is data-driven proof that the fifth car lane on Broadway is unneeded and nobody will notice if it goes away.

      Did you read that part?

      • nwestergaard

        I read it but I don’t believe it. The two streets aren’t directly comparable because there’s no parking on the west side of Lincoln. We’ll see, though, won’t we, if you’re right and motorists don’t “notice” the loss of through lanes on Broadway? In any event, this “test” that’s planned for next month ought to replicate the final design configuration. Don’t just eliminate a parking lane and replace it with a bike lane for the test. Show the public what it’s really going to look like: one less through lane and a lane restricted to buses only.

        • JoDeeWillis

          you don’t believe the facts? “On a spring Tuesday, Lincoln Street moved 3,213 cars with four lanes from 7:30 to 8:30 a.m., while Broadway moved 2,380 cars with five lanes from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m.” Regardless of the parking, Lincoln is moving more cars with less lanes….That is where “All of those extra cars are going to go”, down the street, just like everyone else…oh but now bikes can come too.

          • nwestergaard

            JoDee: One Tuesday in Spring does not constitute a definitive data set on what the road does or doesn’t handle. Go ahead, do the test next month, but make it the length of Broadway from Colfax to I-25 and see the result. A four-block test like last summer will not reveal much useful information, in my opinion.

          • JoDeeWillis

            I will do the test next month, since it was my idea and I’ll be administering the entire thing…I’ll go ahead and be sure to add the rest of the corridor, no problem. But what I won’t do is make false claims that it’s a bad idea and that nothing good will come of it…

        • John

          Neil, Not a single motorist said anything when a lane was removed from 15th earlier this year. You did not write an article then. 15th still always seems empty just as Broadway does to someone who lives a block away. I understand your offices are on Lincoln and 17th and you probably live somewhere south of Denver. So its pretty safe to assume you are driving at least a portion of your commute or work with people who are driving on Broadway so I understand it hits close to home. But you criticize bias or not reading your whole article and then you deny facts. Traffic engineering is fundamentally science its not about feelings it is about moving the highest capacity of people and the data indicates this will do so. If we want to make traffic engineering about feelings we can be like Boulder. Where we role back a traffic design that reduced collisions of all types including car to car by 38%.

          • nwestergaard

            John, no one complained about the 15th Street plan because it didn’t take out a lane. The bike lane took the parking lane, so no through lanes were affected. I think they could do that on Broadway, too and said so in the column that triggered all this discussion. The problems on 15th Street have to do with the construction staging and commercial trucks parking in the bike lane, which I agree is a problem. Plus, the lane ends at Larimer Street, dumping riders abruptly into the traffic lanes.

            BTW, I live 12 blocks from Broadway, south of 6th Avenue and I rode my bike to work today. So there.

          • John

            No not the 15th street bike lane when the two towers under construction on 15th began this spring. They removed a lane of traffic and moved the bike lane over one lane. They removed a parking AND a traffic lane this spring and no one noticed. I definitely agree there are issues with the end on Larimer and I appreciate you highlighting those.

          • nwestergaard

            I hear complaints about 15th Street all the time. At rush hour it’s impossible, not because of the bike lane, but the construction staging. Why the city lets the developers build all the way to the sidewalk, which takes away construction staging space, is beyond me. It didn’t used to be that way. Designs incorporated building plazas which were used to stage construction activities. Then, when the building was completed, they built out the plazas. They didn’t have to take a lane of traffic for months and months during construction. I see this happening all over the city.

            See you on the street, dude. Stay alert.

          • John

            I guess I have never heard a peep from anyone about traffic on 15th. So I guess I will have to take your word for it but when I’m there during rush hour it seems pretty free moving when I’m in my car headed to work.

    • iBikeCommute

      The social engineering occurred decades ago when the streetcars were ripped out and broadway was converted to a one way road to speed along commuters leaving our city. Compared to the billions the government has spent widening highways, this bike lane is small potatoes.

    • Mike

      What is your suggestion for an alternative for bikes making this commute? I assume because Broadway is so heavily used by cars that must mean that bikers are wanting to use it heavily for transportation too. The hard part with coming up with an alternative is the obstructions for bikers coming from south Denver. Highway 25, train tracks, platte river, cherry creek. Also i believe Broadway is the most level shot to get down town.

      I live off Evans and would love to be able to bike to downtown on Broadway. Currently all paths and lanes make you zig zag all through south denver. The zig zaging is mostly because Broadway is a death trap for bikes and highway 25 being a large barrier as well, oh also Santa Fe really messes bike life up on my end.

      I agree with you that a one day traffic test is not accurate enough to call science. But I do believe cars have enough lanes on Broadway, the city should cater more to the people who live in it, not the people who drive through it twice a day as quick as they can to get back to the suburbs.

      Another consideration is maybe more people will move to the city instead of living in the burbs if they know it has become more bike and pedestrian friendly? Also adding bike lanes makes the cost of living go down for lower income people who choose to bike instead of owning a car. That only happens if people feel safe and if we can get around efficiently by bike.

      • nwestergaard

        Mike, a reasoned reply deserves a reasoned answer. Thank you. One alternative would be to establish a north-south route along Acoma or Bannock street. The city would have to change the stop sign configuration on those streets to make it work, but it could run all the way from the 15th St. bike lane, through Civic Center Park, past the Art Museum and library, past Denver Health all the way to Broadway Station, which is going to have its surface streets realigned anyway under the new development plan. And, frankly, south of I-25, I think the impact of bike lanes on traffic is less anyway so the lanes could move back over to Broadway south of Broadway Station. The impact to traffic on those alternative streets would be minimal. It would be safer for cyclists and I’m guessing residents wouldn’t mind it so much either. Access to Broadway businesses would be an easy jog off Acoma or Bannock.

        Here’s my fear of what happens if you clog up Broadway. I-25 commuters are going to be peeling off the freeway onto northbound one ways that go through established residential neighborhoods even more than they do now. Plus, Broadway north of Colfax is already a congested mess. If you squeeze it down even more, it’ll be impassable and I don’t think Denver can afford to have its central business district in perpetual gridlock. You’re right, though, if lots and lots more people rode bikes, the problem would be solved. But I just don’t think that’s going to happen, no matter how much infrastructure we put in. Cars are too cheap and too convenient and the transit system is woefully inadequate to be a viable alternative for that many people.

        That said, I think we should do the Broadway test, but make it the entire length of the corridor from Colfax to I-25 and see what happens. The test should replicate the design as it’s envisioned to be permanently. Otherwise, the data is going to be worthless.

        • John


          I actually really appreciate this response it is a much more constructive approach than what I have heard so far. The issue I see with the Bannock approach, since bannock is a bike route currently is there is no way to get past Denver health. You would either have to take a lane of Speer or 8th ave or maybe both to route bikes through not to mention they would have to cross all lanes of traffic of these two streets through a merge. I imagine that would frustrate drivers more. Then Bannock gets interrupted two more times. Similarly Acoma does not have a crossing of Speer/cherry creek and unless you got rid of the Speer Tunnel it does not look possible for it to make a crossing.

          However since I have been reading your pieces for a long time I do know that is a new suggestion of yours. I have historically heard you suggest a Sherman route to the east. Of course this has exactly the same problems crossing Speer as Acoma. But to give credit to your historic suggestion appears to be the most plausible. Despite a significant engineering effort involving the Speer tunnel.

          I am open to the options to explore here. I am guessing though so was the city and looking at the map its really easy to rule out some of these other options. Not to mention cyclists spend more money than motorists so I imagine a reasoning for Broadway is the large impact on business that the lane will have. This is something backed up in study after study. I know you don’t like sample sizes of one so I will give you a few to back up this point Neil. A 2012 study by New York in the East Village found that the retail spending per mode of transportation per capita per week was:
          Bicyclists: $168
          Pedestrians: $158
          Car drivers: $143
          Public transit: $111(maybe we should ditch the bus lane)

          Ok New York is dense maybe it’s an outlier. In Portland in 2012 they found cyclists spent $75.66 per month at bars, restaurants and convenience stores, while car drivers spent only $68.56. Which of note is only a gap of $3 between the New York study and the Portland study, showing some consistency. In maybe the capital of American automobile ownership Texas. Fort Worth reported revenue among restaurants along main street jumped 179% after a road diet swapped vehicle lanes for bike lanes.

          There are many more examples but 3 seems like plenty for a comment box. Again these decisions for the city should be based on weighing data, not feelings.

          • nwestergaard

            You may be right, John. My alternatives aren’t perfect. I’m not a traffic engineer. I think the problems could be worked out, though. And I agree that data ought to drive this. That’s why I think the “test” next month should be on the length of the corridor, not just four blocks.

            And I would say that if the data on spending by cyclists versus motorists is true, (it probably is) then it would seem taking out a lane of parking on Broadway to accommodate the bike lane might be viable compromise. Would you agree?

          • John


            I think we have hit compromise! I would love a full corridor test, which I believe was mostly already tested on one Saturday.

            As far as parking, I would love to get rid of a parking lane. Everything I have read from economists says that how we treat parking in this country is a huge detriment to society. We treat it as near free and it costs ~$20,000 a spot to construct.

            Traffic is likely mostly caused from parking, Donald Schoup, Richard Arnott and Eren Inci have all published about how people looking for parking make up depending on the study between 30-40% of all traffic. If you got rid of parking. It would likely make the existing lanes more effective than they were before. However as we have seen on South Pearl individual business members do not always take into account this data and may start building garages that build to that congestion.

          • nwestergaard


          • JoDeeWillis

            on street parking and a paved surface parking lot is an entirely different story…on street parking is GOOD for cities, it not only protects and buffers the sidewalk from the drive-isles, it also provides convenience for people wanting to stop and shop. Surface parking is a huge detriment to society, correct!

            Do we really want to turn Broadway into a high speed through route right next to a walk-able urban street front? I don’t think so…It is much more pleasant to walk along a row of street parked cars than it is to be next to speeding cars in the far left lane. It’s about creating a quality experience on Broadway for PEOPLE, not cars.

            And come on guys lets be honest, do you really think the car is the future? Uber and Lyft have proven that car shares are taking over….the autonomous vehicle is coming, in ten years we could reduce all of our lanes down to two drive isles and everyone will be dropped off and picked up by and auto car share system. We can’t keep appealing to the single occupant inefficient vehicle!

          • John

            JoDeeWillis Totally fair! I agree with your analysis of parking. I was thinking landscaping options might be a replacement option.

          • iBikeCommute

            Neil, the problem is that there is no safe way to cross Speer on a bike aside from Broadway. Bannock requires jogging onto Speer or 8th ave, Sherman dead ends, grant is also a one way speedway north of Speer and Logan doesn’t have enough ROW since they added the median strip there. This is why we are so focused on making broadway a safe multimodal corridor. There are literally no other ways to connect neighborhoods across Speer. I suggest you take a look at a map or even get on a bike yourself before claiming there are better alternatives for north/south biking.

            PS. Thanks for engaging in conversation. You are a brave man to show up here 🙂

          • nwestergaard

            I agree that crossing Speer is a problem, but it could be worked out with some minor realignments. For example, a bike lane on Acoma could jog up to Broadway, cross the creek and Speer Boulevard where there is no parking anyway and then jog back to the west onto Acoma or Bannock, which already has bike lanes in both directions south of Denver Health. As I said, I’d be more supportive of the Broadway alignment if the plan would just eliminate the parking lane to accommodate the bike lane. (See some of the other posters on this subject.) BTW, I’ve ridden a bike in Denver for 36 years. I’m not sitting here in my office making stuff up. I’ve been out there, like today for example, on a bike. I’ve learned to accept that sometimes you have to ride on the street, too. If you’re reasonably careful, it’s not that dangerous. We can’t have protected bike paths that go everywhere. It’s just not realistic. So you work out compromises.

            Have the test on Broadway, though. Make it a real test, however, the length of the corridor from Colfax to I-25 and collect extensive data.

        • JoDeeWillis

          Neil, you really didn’t learn anything from Copenhagen did you? There has been numerous studies on how people on bikes spend more money than people in cars. It is more convenient for them to stop when they see a store or remember and item that they need to purchase…putting the bike in a primarily residential district would be just silly…as an editor of the “business journal” I would expect you to know the positive impacts a bike lane in front of a business has…oh well, maybe one of your interns can bring you up to speed?

          Second thought, civic center plaza has stairs on both sides…not bike-able, it’s also a city beautiful landmark, good luck changing stairs to ramps and allowing bike through…Denver art museum plaza does not allow bike either, go read the signs…

          Finally, 5 drive isles is absurd for any city street. Most interstate systems have much less lanes! How could anyone think there is logic in keeping it that way? Especially when there are transportation alternatives right off of I-25, as in the Broadway station park and ride. Reduce the lanes, let people take the alternative transit options if they feel traffic is too terrible now, and add bike lanes…then watch the street become a much better place and business will increase revenue by having an entirely new clientele in the form of ‘people on bikes’. I really hope you learn something from all of these discussions, good day sir.

    • Kevin Fasing

      Westergaard’s kinda right. I’ve ridden a bike every day for the past 8 years in both Boulder and Denver, and I hate the public health crisis that is the automobile as much as anyone (cars are the #1 killer of Americans under 40). But, the risk of highly publicized changes like this Broadway project failing far far outweighs the slight chance that more people will take a bike to work instead of a car. Although this project could resolve the lack of a single safe bike route between alameda and colfax, it may be cheaper and more effective to connect what few bike routes we have and hold drivers accountable for being jerks. There is still no safe & effective way to ride a bicycle from one end of the city to another.

      Also, I found this line pretty funny: “Denver boosters should be out to prove that our city gets things done, not cite political cowardice in a neighboring government as a model for our own.” Hard to think of a more politically cowardly and bigger lip-service city than this one.

      • nwestergaard

        At last, reason. Thanks for throwin’ a bone my way, Kevin. You’re right. I think we risk permanent backlash against bikes if the Broadway plan fails (and I think it will) when there are much more effective fixes that could employed instead, especially heavy fines for motorists who act out their road rage against cyclists. Denver police are not at all sympathetic to this problem. A couple of years ago, my son was injured when a woman turned in front of him into a cone zone and he landed on the hood of her BMW. Guess who got the ticket? My son. $160 and four points on his driver’s license before we got it tossed by the court, which informed us that the law states that cyclists cannot lose points for traffic violations committed on their bikes. A DPD traffic supervisor ordered the responding officer to ticket my son. And I’ve heard subsequent stories of this happening.

        • Nanci Kerr

          I loved reading this whole string of comments! Neil, when are your running for Mayor? I’ll run your campaign.

        • TonesOfLife

          now your just fear mongering… Don’t do Broadway or you will loose it all!! Broadway, with its bars, shops, cafes, restaurants and landmarks is prime for a multi-modal solution!

          We are fortunate it has a lane to spare, which it certainly does. I drive and ride on that route all the time, its never that bad traffic wise but getting south of town has always been a danger for bikes. This is a much needed step towards a comprehensive bike network.

          • nwestergaard

            Tones, I’m not making this up out of whole cloth. Last year, very liberal and pro-bike Boulder was forced to rip out the protected bike lanes on Folsom because motorists complained so much. The city council there, which is very down on cars and supportive of alternative means of transportation, threw in the towel. At the very least, I think the city needs to ascertain what the effect could be of closing down one lane and making a second lane exclusive for buses on Broadway by closing down a lane the length of the corridor it’s planned “test.” which begins next month. A four-block test isn’t going to “prove” anything. I know many posters on this blog have said, “screw the motorists” but I think that’s risky in the real world. That’s not fear-mongering; it’s being realistic.

      • JoDeeWillis

        5 drive lanes to 4 would cause an outcry? not when it’s proven that the same amount of traffic flow can be achieved in less lanes. RE: https://www.ted.com/talks/jeff_speck_the_walkable_city?language=en

  • Steve

    Excellent article David. Thanks for providing a balanced assessment of the project and countering the fear-mongering that often precedes any proposed change to the status quo…

    • nwestergaard

      How did you determine that David’s article was balanced? Did you read mine in its entirety, Steve?

      • JoDeeWillis

        did anyone read your SUBSCRIBER CONTENT private article? no…if you had something valuable to say, why not make it public?

        • nwestergaard

          Because then we don’t get paid for the value we provide. Pretty basic, don’t you think? You want to read it? Buy a subscription. If you don’t, then don’t. We have lots of subscribers who do.

          • JoDeeWillis

            I don’t want to read it, from the title I can tell it’s an uninspiring puff piece…this free blog post proves to be of way more value. Why shouldn’t Denver aspire to be like the most livable city in the world? Zero pay for zero value…good luck gaining more “subscribers”.

          • nwestergaard

            JoDee: You cannot possibly know whether I’m making a false claim or not because the bike lane test hasn’t happened yet. You can only have an opinion, same as I have one. I believe I’ll eventually be proven right, but hey, I could be wrong. We’ll see eventually won’t we?

          • JoDeeWillis

            dead on arrival is absolutely false, because it happened last year and it was in fact a success. not to mention this year, all of the business owners are on-board and thrilled about it…maybe your DBJ should do some real homework and talk to those business owners?

          • nwestergaard

            JoDee: You are naive if you believe a weekend “test” over four blocks last year or even a six-week tryout this summer covering only four blocks establishes anything about whether this plan will eventually fly. As other posters have suggested, this year’s “test” should be over the length of the corridor, in the same configuration as it’s envisioned to be permanently. Otherwise, it’s worthless.

            The success or failure is not determined by just whether cyclists like it. It also involves whether the motoring public will tolerate it enough that they don’t exercise their considerable political clout to force the city to abandon it, just as Boulder did last year with the bike lanes on Folsom. My guess is, and it’s only a guess (but one based on a lot of years observing politics and government in Denver), that motorists will have huge problems with this plan. But let’s find out, shall we? Do the test this summer over the entire corridor.

          • nwestergaard

            OK. Leave it on Broadway, but take out a parking lane. That is, in fact, what Copenhagen has done on its major bikeways. There’s no parking. I’d be a lot more supportive if the city would look at that.

            And stop with the ageism, will you? It makes you look stupid.

          • JoDeeWillis

            I am glad you replied to yourself on that one, because yes…you do look stupid.

            Copenhagen, if you learned anything there, does not have parking because no one has cars. We, here in Denver, have cars and use them.

            Businesses want parking, especially in front of their building, because that is how they get people in to their business…make sense?

            Removing the parking is a bad business decision…I am so glad your ‘valuable business journal’ is advocating this….but by swapping a drive-isle for a two way bike lane is a brilliant solution. Do you know why? Because people will still drive on Broadway and still be able to park on Broadway, oh but now bikes can come too…how brilliant.

          • nwestergaard

            Aw, shucks, Miss JoDee. I hit the wrong button. Must’ve been my aging eyes. I’ll get an intern to help next time.

          • garbanzito

            it seems likely you don’t fully understand the concept or the plan; there’s no way to “test” the whole corridor because the work to set up the corridor (redoing curb-cuts and bulb-outs, new poles, new signals) would be prohibitively expensive to undo; also you have some facts wrong; the test will cover six blocks and run approximately three months; you have also stated two lanes of traffic will be removed when there will be only one (in both the test and in the full plan)

            i do agree that the test will not show how the whole corridor will work; its value is to evaluate the logistics much more accurately than the short “pop-up” and to help people understand and visualize the system, which i hope will put the eventual political question onto more rational ground

          • nwestergaard

            As I said to another poster, the test is not to determine if cyclists will like it. Of course they will. We don’t need a test for that. The real “test” is whether motorists will tolerate it enough to not raise hell with the city council like motorists did in Boulder last year. So what’s going to happen after three months? What will determine whether it was a success or not? A four-block long bike lane is not going to give much indication to people of what this is really going to be like, especially if the city sets it up like last summer. Its meaningless.

          • garbanzito

            the test is to work out logistics and explain it to *all* groups, not just motorists; motorists, especially commuters, will inflate any inconvenience and blame it on the largest nearby target; the hope is we can get past the “drivers-seat IQ deduction” and actually have a rational look at this

            the city is not “setting it up like last summer” — suggesting that makes it seem like you have fired off your whole critique without knowing much about the plan; the new test is a non-trivial streetscape conversion, including new signals

            as i understand it, after three months there will be an evaluation and possibly continuance of the test while plans for the whole route are developed, incorporating lessons-learned; the planners have measures for “success”, but i agree with you it will be a political decision; i suppose you will be opposed to enforcing the speed limit on Broadway too, as that will really piss off the commuters

          • John Harshbarger

            VALUE? You sir are an embarrassment.

          • nwestergaard

            John, you can join the other naive people on this site if you believe a 150 percent tax on the purchase of an automobile doesn’t deter car buying in the least. Fail? You fail to understand basic economics.

    • Roads_Wide_Open

      Balanced? Ha! Show me an article where he’s written one. These test lanes are going to fail miserably…

      • mckillio

        What’s your definition of failure? I do think that doing a four blocks is stupid, go all in.

  • Vertigo700

    I think that Broadway is a great, much needed project. If the protected lane is done correctly, it’ll make Broadway one of the safest, most direct ways for bicycling and transit in the city. Broadway is the best solution because A) it’s the most direct to where people want to go (various businesses on Broadway and the RTD station at I-25/Broadway) B) Would be the easiest for bicyclists to navigate. People talk about those “easy” parallel routes when in fact both Bannock and Grant/Logan have significant weird jogs at Speer that are confusing and Grant involves also traveling down a too-big road with too-fast speeds and/or a pretty big hill. Bannock does not exist south of Alameda and the jog at Speer is even more significant and involves navigating tons of traffic on 8th and Speer. C) The reality is that with growing population we need to have even more people use alternative means of commuting to work. This project will make it a lot easier for people to use bikes and transit. I’ve ridden the 0 from Capitol Hill to I-25/Broadway during rush hour and it can take more than a half hour to drive 2 miles. That needs to change. Other cities with worse climates and topography have more bicyclists than we do…the biggest difference is Denver has significantly less bike infrastructure that makes it “easy” for people to ride.

  • Bollards

    nwestergaard – If not a bike lane on Broadway, what is your proposed solution?

  • MefromDenver

    When was the last time he was ever on a bike? I live near the corridor and can’t wait. Most of the day, Broadway is empty.

    • nwestergaard


  • nwestergaard

    And wouldn’t you know it. I came out of work to head home on my bike and I’ve got a flat!

    • JoDeeWillis

      karma bro.

      • nwestergaard

        Yeah, I guess you’re right….sis.

  • EMB

    I’d be happy to see a well-designed Broadway bike lane, though I don’t commute on that road. I’m usually taking the side streets to get to destinations on Broadway itself, and at that point it becomes a pain to get from one business to another on the street (I’m on a bike–so I chain my errands together.) Or if I’ve entered Broadway at the wrong intersection for my destination, as it stands now, I usually have to U-turn and go a few blocks around to get where I’m going rather than just being able to go straight there on Broadway itself.

    There are parallel alternatives that could be set up to work acceptably just for north-south biking near Broadway, but the point of using Broadway itself would be that that’s where I want to go, to eat lunch or buy yarn or whatever. (And any bike lane solutions will need to have good ways for us to cross the street without stopping in the middle of the bike lane–this was a problem during the previous small test run.)

    There’s also not enough bicycle parking on Broadway to meet current demand, so I hope any extensive testing would involve adding some — can’t stop to spend money when there’s nowhere safe to leave my bike.

  • Dragan Jovanović

    Don’t fall into trap discussing why bikers break laws. Firstly it should be pointed out that all street users break law, and that bikers are no special exception. Motorists probably break it much more (although streets are designed just to fit them), and that fact should not be ignored.

    • John

      It is fact that motorists break the law more. Including a study out of CU Denver.

    • Tobias Blue

      It’s the classic red herring that motorists use to imply that bicyclists don’t deserve the right to use roads. Pathetic.

  • Ah, the old “cyclists elsewhere are better, so they deserve better infrastructure” canard.

    Timothy Egan of the NY Times said the same thing about cyclists in the Netherlands:


    “It’s better to learn from places with long biking traditions, and to change the way we think about the road when on the road. In the Netherlands, deaths per total number of miles cycled are much lower. This is attributed to educated bike riders, who stay in the lanes, signal properly and obey traffic signals. In turn, drivers learn to look for cyclists who may be just out of mirror range.”

    As this Streetsblog post points out, you and Egan have it completely backwards. There’s no magic to getting people to follow the rules. Give them proper infrastructure and the behavior follows.

  • Walter Crunch

    We are all infected with the disease of car culture. It’s time we start to kill the disease.

  • SilvioRodriquez

    Streetsblog Denver has been one of my favorite online discussion forums because it is typically constructive and free from unproductive ad hominem attacks. I encourage everyone to keep it that way. Mr. Westergaard, I don’t agree with most of what you have to say, but I appreciate your willingness to participate in this discussion.



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