The Broadway Redesign Is About More Than Bike Lanes

Drivers on Broadway routinely travel at dangerous speeds for urban streets, even during rush hour. Image: DPW

When Denver Public Works implements a temporary redesign of a half-mile of Broadway next month, the most obvious change will be the addition of a two-way protected bike lane. But it would be a mistake to assume that the Broadway/Lincoln corridor project is only “for cyclists” — everyone who uses the street stands to benefit from the safer conditions.

Right now Broadway only works well for one purpose — letting people drive out of town as fast as they want. All that high-speed car traffic makes Broadway a terrible street for just about every other purpose, like walking or biking safely, or creating a pedestrian environment where retail businesses can thrive.

The protected bike lane will, of course, make bicycling much less stressful, and that’s a big reason why the redesign is so important. Less obvious — but just as important — are all the other ways the redesign will improve the street.

You can get a feel for these other aspects of the redesign by looking at the performance measures for the Broadway/Lincoln Corridor Study that Denver Public Works released last week [PDF].

The city will judge success by measuring things like crash rates, transit reliability, pedestrian volumes, and yes, bike counts. Planners have been collecting “before” data on these metrics for the past year.

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Here’s what Public Works will measure to assess the redesign of the Broadway/Lincoln corridor. Image: DPW
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Image: DPW

Redesigns need to be in effect for at least several months to accurately assess the impact on traffic, safety, and other metrics. Just a few weeks won’t do (ahem, Boulder). So Denver planners have laid out milestones of six months and 15 months, after which they’ll analyze the data and determine if design adjustments are warranted.

With this approach, Denver aims to avoid repeating Boulder’s mistakes. Last year, political leaders in Boulder abandoned the Folsom Street bike lane project after just a few weeks — not enough time to gauge its effect. The debate in Boulder also centered entirely on vehicle travel times (which were minimally longer, even early on) instead of safety for everyone, including drivers.

The message that Denver is sending with the Broadway project is that great streets do a lot more than move cars, and should be judged accordingly.