The Unfinished Stout Street Protected Bike Lane Is a Failure of Leadership

Photo: David Sachs
Photo: David Sachs

The plan for Stout Street was to install a bike lane, separated from traffic by parked cars, from 19th to Downing. In a sign that Mayor Hancock is out to lunch when it comes to implementing the city’s bike plan, Curtis Park residents stopped Denver Public Works from doing that.

Instead, people on bikes can enjoy the safety of a protected bike lane heading northeast out of downtown for just a half-mile. That part works well. But beyond 26th Street, riders are not physically protected from traffic, even though that’s what was laid out in Denver Moves, the city’s bike plan. Bicyclists get a painted buffer to Downing instead.

The reason, of course, boils down to private car storage on public streets.

“This was the first protected bike lane we have implemented in a neighborhood, so many of the issues were related to residents’ concern about the change to the curb lane, i.e., parking impacts, ADA access,” Rachael Bronson, a bike planner with Public Works, wrote in an email. After four public meetings and several other meetings with the organization Curtis Park Neighbors, the city agreed that “a phased approach” to the bike lane was best, Bronson said.

But there’s no timeline for a second phase that will extend the protected design to Downing — and no guarantee that it will be completed at all. It could happen the next time Stout Street is paved, Bronson said, “as long as the phase 1 findings are favorable and the neighborhood is on board.”

Gotta make sure there’s enough room to store your SUV before allowing bicyclists physical protection from cars. Photo: David Sachs

It’s a tough assignment when DPW bike planners pursue projects that local neighbors aren’t sold on. Which is why Mayor Hancock needs to step in here.

Denver’s streets belong to everyone. At some point, city leadership has to back up its planners and engineers and do what’s best for the public interest, instead of preserving a handful of parking spaces for a vocal few.

If the Hancock administration doesn’t have the fortitude to stick to its own plan and install another half-mile of high-quality bike infrastructure, will Denver ever have a bike network that most people feel comfortable using?

A few other notes on the bike lane: I rode it out of Lower Downtown and took the 14th Street bike lane to get there. There is no connection (or signage) between 14th and 19th, so getting there isn’t comfortable or easy unless you’re confident and know exactly where you’re going.

The bike lane ends at Downing Street, near the 30th and Downing RTD station — which is one reason why the route so important — but not right at it. Public Works will install signs to direct people on bikes to the station.

Photo: David Sachs
Photo: David Sachs