What You Need to Know About the Upcoming Broadway Bike Lane Demo

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A scene from last year’s weekend “pop-up” bike lane on Broadway. A longer, more robust demo begins August 15. Photo: BikeDenver

If Mayor Michael Hancock decides to install a permanent, two-way protected bike lane on Broadway, it would be his most concrete step to follow through on promises to make Denver a great city for bicycling.

The Broadway project isn’t a done deal yet, however. First, Public Works will install a temporary, five-block demonstration between Bayaud and Virginia avenues. The two-way demo bike lane will be next to the curb, separated from moving traffic by a parking lane. After implementation in the first half of August, the temporary bike lane will stay in place at least three months.

Here’s a look at why this project matters, and how you can help make it permanent.

Redesigning Broadway is about creating a safer street and a better neighborhood, not moving car traffic

Too many city streets are designed to maintain “level of service” for automobiles — a measure of how well a street speeds drivers to their destinations. The Broadway redesign sets different priorities. It aims to make the street safer for pedestrians and cyclists (as well as drivers, who also benefit from non-lethal traffic speeds), improve bus service, and create a better environment for the people who live and work in the area.

Average speeds tend to be above the posted limit on the corridor. Image: DPW

A study of driving speeds on the Broadway/Lincoln corridor is clear: Speeding is the rule, not the exception, increasing the risk of injury or death. We know that narrower roads induce safer speeds. Without the redesign, dangerous conditions on Broadway will persist.

It will take political will to make the Broadway redesign permanent

As Boulder’s Folsom Street bike lane debacle taught us, city officials have to be prepared for an adjustment period after a significant street redesign and can’t cave at the first sign of disgruntled motorists like the Boulder City Council did last year. Otherwise, the project will never have a chance to succeed.

It’s a good sign that the Broadway redesign has been publicly endorsed by Hancock and City Councilman Jolon Clark, who reps the South Broadway commercial district. That’s a better situation than in Boulder, where the mayor was never on board with the Folsom project. But people who support the Broadway redesign can’t assume that everything will just take care of itself. If you want the bike lane to be permanent, contact Clark and Hancock and show your support at public meetings — there are two scheduled for Thursday. You can also email the project team.

The Broadway redesign has been a long time coming

Neighborhood residents and city planners have been talking about this project for years. It is consistent with six official city plans, including the first iteration of Blueprint Denver, which City Council passed in 2002. Last year Public Works held public meetings and met with business owners to get feedback on the redesign. The project team knocked on every single door in the Broadway/Lincoln corridor to get the word out about the redesign. And Public Works held a weekend “pop-up” bike lane last September to give locals a taste of what’s to come.

High-profile projects like this can’t avoid potshots from the local press and from drivers speeding to and from the suburbs. The best way to counter the inevitable crankiness is to stay positive, ride the bike lanes, tell your elected officials that you support the project, and be vocal at upcoming public meetings.

  • mckillio

    Is measuring the number of users planned for this? If so, do you have the details for it?

    • David Sachs

      Am looking into it, but demos typically do include users as a measurement. Will update when I have more information.

    • David Sachs

      I’m told that bicyclist volume will be measured (as well as car volume),
      but it is one of several metrics. I wouldn’t expect any transportation
      planner to take that one statistic and declare the project a success or
      failure, especially given the placement of the bike lane, which does not
      connect to any others. For comparison, Boulder’s Folsom Street had more
      than 300 additional riders in just a couple weeks after the redesign.
      That small success obviously did not dictate the project’s fate. This
      project is about adding safe travel options, so qualitative pieces, like
      how drivers and bicyclists interact with the lane, will have to play a
      role as well.

      All the performance measures will be available at the two public meetings Thursday (one is mid-day and one is int he evening). http://denvermovesbroadway.com/get-involved/

      I imagine they’ll be online after that.

  • Jason

    How will success be assessed? I’m concerned that the demonstration is designed to fail. Running it from just Virginia to Bayaud doesn’t connect to any other bikeways (like the cherry creek trail). If measuring usage is key that is a real problem that will hold down the number of bikers who will use the temporary route. I’m also concerned about how the travel lane will be cut. If that isn’t designed properly the sudden need to merge traffic will cause unnecessary delays and driver frustration that wouldn’t exist if the traffic lane was gone for the entire length. It seems to me that starting the lane at Speer would make a lot more sense.

    • AGREE!

    • David Sachs

      All the performance measures will be available at
      the two public meetings Thursday (one is mid-day and one is in the
      evening). I imagine they’ll be online after that. http://denvermovesbroadway.com/get-involved/

      Agreed that testing a longer, better-connected demo would be great, but it would be a much, much more expensive prospect that would include engineering around bulb-outs, for example. The point of a smaller test area is an inexpensive and nimbler project that can be adjusted relatively easily. If the design needs tweaks, it’s better to mess up small and on the cheap than it is to mess up big. Demos are to help planners deduce currently unknown patterns and project their findings in the context of the bigger redesign — just as in political polling, where professional pollsters use a sample size to predict results. This demo crosses Alameda, which is a major intersection. Understanding how the lane works there will give planners an idea of how it will work on other parts of the strip, for example.

    • David Sachs

      And yes, even if it were just five blocks long Speer would make more sense to me as a starting point. Maybe the worry is about that there aren’t as many commercial destinations along that route? I really encourage people to go to these public meetings!

    • Elayna McCall

      I agreed. It should connect to other multi-modal transportation routes, like the light rail stations or Cherry creek trail.

  • red123

    How many demonstration projects does Denver need? These facilities have been tried elsewhere. Denver is not so significantly different from any other place in the US that if a properly designed facility were installed it wouldn’t work. There is a time for trials but sometimes it is nice to actually see something get done. Installing a bike lane shouldn’t take the better part of a decade. Minneapolis has re-configured Hennepin Ave several times in the same span of time Denver has been “studying” this.

  • Robert Elia

    That survey is so biased .. it has to be cooked or said differently; the sample population had to be taken from mostly bikers because anyone who drives Broadway regularly hates that thing. GET RID OF IT !