Neil Westergaard Is Terrified That Denver Might Actually Improve Transit and Biking

The Speer-Leetsdale corridor will be able to handle as many as 2,600 more people per day once the city makes bike, pedestrian, and transit improvements. Image: Denver Public Works
The Speer-Leetsdale corridor will be able to handle as many as 2,600 more people per day once the city makes bike, pedestrian, and transit improvements. Image: Denver Public Works

Watch out, Denver. Big Brother is scheming to pry your car keys out of your hands with a malicious plot to — gasp! — speed up transit and make streets safer.

At least that’s what Neil Westergaard, editor of the Denver Business Journal, claims in his latest rant against building a 21st century city.

He begins with this warning: “They want you to give up your car.” And then, bolstering his case with absolutely no data, case studies, or empirical evidence, embarks on his mission to undermine Denver’s nascent effort to prioritize people on city streets.

The piece is behind a paywall, but here’s a taste:

They want you to take the bus, walk or ride a bike to get where you want to go in the city, no matter the weather and no matter how inconvenient it is for you, no matter how cheap gas is and no matter if it makes the city unproductive and uncompetitive. Your physical condition is of no consequence, either.

They believe it’s the only way that Denver can continue its break neck growth and soaring housing inflation before congestion chokes off every route around and through the city, the roads crumble into dust and gravel (because they aren’t maintained) and no one but the rich can afford to live here.

And you know what? They are partly right. We probably don’t have the money, nor the political will, to spend enough to dramatically increase lane miles in the city so that all the future residents of Denver can use a car to the extent residents have in the past.

But the city’s alternative is going about it all wrong, in my opinion. It will backfire. And when the current effort to get people out of their cars fails, it will put the effort to create more transit and bike lanes and transportation alternatives back decades.

You see, Westergaard really wants “the effort to create more transit and bike lanes” to succeed. So much so, in fact, that he thinks the city should jettison all its plans to make transit and biking better.

Or he’s just afraid of change, devoid of ideas, and desperate to maintain a dysfunctional status quo.

Yes, we’ve been through this before, but it’s worth revisiting the hollowness of Westergaard’s argument.

On the subject of redesigning Broadway and Lincoln, he writes:

Every study I’ve read — and there are lots of them — recommends not putting new bike lanes on existing thoroughfares that are nearly at capacity.

Nevertheless, that’s what the city wants to do on Broadway. And now there’s a developing plan to do something similarly stupid on the Speer Boulevard/1st Avenue/Alameda Avenue and Leetsdale Drive corridor from Broadway all the way east to Mississippi Avenue.

Trust him — he’s read lots of studies.

But not, apparently, the city’s study of Broadway and Lincoln. It clearly shows that the streets have room to spare. Broadway will carry motor vehicle traffic just fine with one less car lane. And between the bike lanes and better bus lanes on Broadway and Lincoln, more people, not fewer, will be able to travel on these streets.

Will a reversible bus-only lane on Leetsdale Drive and Speer Boulevard add a little time to driving commutes? Probably, according to the city. But the streets will carry more people, which is what Denver needs in order to avoid the really paralyzing, city-killing manifestations of gridlock that Westergaard purports to abhor.

Westergaard has no factual basis to claim that the same strategies that have worked for Seattle, San Francisco, and other cities around the globe will fall flat here, so his only recourse is to appeal to the lizard brain. His fearmongering may be terrible for Denver, but it’s probably great for clicks.

  • John Riecke

    Wow, dude is like 180 degrees from reality on a few things there…

    • TakeFive

      Sounds like you each have a very different reality where each assumes his reality is the real reality. Chances are the only true reality is somewhere in between. 🙂

      • John Riecke

        No, objective truth still exists.

  • Walter Crunch

    Most streets in Denver are like race tracks. Time to deduct lanes for bus, biking and walking so they feel like streets.

    • Race tracks??? The urban area I grew-up in had a dozen major 8-lane divided boulevards with speed limits between 55 and 65 mph in the 1960s, plus had hundreds of other major arteries of up to 7 lanes wide with the speed limit at 40-45 mph too. How many surface roads are there in Denver with a speed limit of over 35 mph? Hardly any. I have ridden a bicycle downhill faster than 35 mph in my life and have skied downhill plenty faster than 35 mph plenty of times too. How in your opinion does a speed limit of 30-35 mph constitute a race trace?

      • Walter Crunch

        Go downtown. How many roads are one way? Look at Broadway. How many lanes one way? What is the real speed? Parker road?

        Try doing to the speed limit on a regular basis in Denver without someone tailgating.

        Denver has too much road capacity for cars. It really needs less so people slow down.

  • nwestergaard

    Like, dude, I mean David, no doubt that bus lanes on Speer “WILL BE ABLE TO HANDLE” more people, but that’s only if people CHOOSE to ride the bus, which they aren’t doing now. You think there’s going to be a massive increase in ridership because of the presence of a dedicated bus lane? You’re dreaming. And let’s wait and see, after the city puts in the Broadway bike lanes from downtown to I-25 , if the public thinks that Broadway is handling the traffic “just fine.”

    • MT

      The test section of the Broadway bike lane has already narrowed the number of lanes, and traffic is just fine. It will be no different if the bike lane is extended.
      The city has also done a lot of studying of this corridor. Lincoln St. northbound has one less lane than Broadway and handles more traffic in its peak hour. Broadway has plenty of extra vehicle capacity.
      Broadway and Lincoln are also a great example of how well a bus lane works. The 0 is the second busiest route in the city.

    • Anthony

      I would like to first thank you, Mr. Westergaard, for the thoughtful engagement you bring to this site when your articles are mentioned. I, for one, do not doubt you have the city’s best interests in mind when you pen your editorials and the responses posted here. I have a rebuttal to not only your editorial published in this week’s DBJ, but also to your body of work I’m familiar with from the past year or so.

      – What is your suggestion for an alternative to a Broadway separated bicycle facility? Broadway is the only existing, continuous, north/south facility that crosses both Cherry Creek and I-25 that connects to Downtown. Acoma only exists between Ellsworth and 6th Avenue, then appears again between 8th and 12th Avenues; Bannock requires wider tires to cut through Sunken Gardens Park, a new signal (a hindrance to auto traffic) at 8th Avenue and Delaware, signage at nine locations and still requires some sort of facility on Broadway between Center and I-25 Station; and if someone is coming from, say, Capitol Hill, the travel distance is 1/2 mile longer than by taking Broadway no matter how far your ultimate trip length. I tend to agree against the bi-directional cycle track style and would prefer a separated facility with the SB on the west side of Broadway and a contra-flow lane NB on the east side of Broadway. It appears as though part of why they’re proposing the bi-directional facility is to keep as many travel and parking lanes as possible; protected lanes each direction would eat up another general purpose travel lane either at the expense of transit or automobiles, and this is true whether both lanes are placed on Broadway or one is placed on Lincoln.
      – As an addendum to the previous paragraph, travel time matters. Just like drivers don’t like to cut through neighborhood streets covered with stop signs and crossing high volume streets, neither do people on bikes. As an example, I travel the two miles between Quebec and Colorado on my commute home on 6th Avenue in a little over 7:00. The less stop sign infested segment of 7th Avenue between Colorado and Lincoln is 1.3 miles and takes me 6:25, whereas the segment west of Franklin is 1.2 miles and takes me 8:27. When recommending to place bicycle facilities in an alternate location, please consider travel time. If I can travel two miles on Broadway in 9 minutes, but it takes me 17 minutes to take a parallel route, and if that parallel route requires me to detour a half mile out of the way (1/4 mile each way) adding an extra two minute, ask yourself if that would be an acceptable trade off for someone driving in a car. An example of what this would look like is instead of taking I-25 from Park Meadows Mall to I-25 and Broadway Station (21 minutes), you were forced to detour over to University and take University all the way up from C-470 to I-25 and Broadway (37 minutes). And then have people tell you you should be happy because a safe and suitable alternative to I-25 was provided for you. Or likewise, say Broadway was closed to automobile traffic crossing over I-25 and the “designated automobile route” is Downing, but you’re traveling from Grandma’s House (Mexico and Broadway) to Atomic Cowboy (Maple and Broadway). Would that be acceptable (and if it is, then can we put forth a motion to make it so 😉

      – You mention removing parking on one side of the street instead of repurposing a general purpose travel lane; to what extent do you think that helps the businesses on South Broadway and what do you think their reaction would be to that [this is rhetorical; DPW asked this question and evaluated the option during the planning for the bike lane]. What protection do you recommend for people on bikes in that design (parked cars are the cheapest and some of the most effective barriers available), and what are the additional monetary costs for that protection?

      – Our streets have undergone significant social engineering over the past century to get to where we are today. Even the transportation bill that was approved by the House yesterday, 70% of proposed spending is on automobile-dedicated infrastructure and that’s a pretty stark departure from the status quo. If we weren’t engaged in social engineering, now and in the past, each mode would’ve received equal budgets, and we would have a much different transportation landscape wherein since the spending was equal, there couldn’t be any allegation of social engineering. That’s not what happened, as you know. In the early 20th Century, the most common forms of urban transportation were walking, streetcars, and bicycling. Significant social engineering occurred to prioritize people in automobiles despite the rebellion of the people where the government pushed behaviors on its citizens in a direction a big majority didn’t want to go. (I recommend reading Peter Norton, a professor at the University of Virginia, in particular “Fighting Traffic: The Dawn of the Motor Age in the American City” and “Street Rivals: Jaywalking and the Invention of the Motor Age Street.”)

      – How many businesses would a bicycle facility provide access to on a parallel route, compared to the Broadway corridor? Does an alternate provide similar accessibility for people on bike to local businesses they work at or patronize? Just because a bike facility exists doesn’t mean it’s improving mobility or accessibility.
      – Traffic engineering is not a linear function. Each lane of travel has a maximum capacity that varies depending on things like the number of access points, stop lights, etc. To illustrate this, I’d estimate the capacity of each lane on Broadway can be between 1300 and 1600 vehicles per hour if the signals are timed appropriately (which they’re not; as a driver, I’d expect to drive basically non-stop at the speed limit from Colfax to Evans, but that doesn’t happen). So let’s say 1300. As the volume approaches the capacity, the road starts to be impacted. But for all intents and purposes, you really don’t notice the difference in performance between about 100 and 1100 vehicles per hour. Maybe at 900 you’re not able to speed anymore, and around 1200 maybe you’re struggling to keep the speed limit but you’re going 27-30 mph. After 1300, congestion begins, you go from 30 to 20 mph, 1350 drops another 5 mph, and at 1400 or 1500 you’re in basically stop and go traffic and the road cannot accommodate any more volume due to geometric factors. You do not need to replace ALL the trips with bike, walking, or transit trips to see an appreciable difference in travel performance. If you’ve got five lanes running 1000 cars per hour at a peak and change one from General Purpose to separated bike facility, each lane now carries 1250, approaching congestion. If the bicycle facility replaces 200 automobile trips during peak hour (not every hour all day, just the most congested hour), the road essentially functions exactly as designed. Once you actually do reach congestion levels, whether it’s with five or four general purpose lanes, each lane only has a maximum number of vehicles it can push through [if that’s your primary metric]. Broadway, first of all, is not at the point of congestion. But let’s say it is, hypothetically. We could leave the road as is and it can carry 7500 vehicles per hour. If we replace one lane with protected cycling facilities, then we can only fit 6000 vehicles per hour; that means either the congested condition lasts longer, the drivers find alternate routes, or some users begin to determine other modes of travel are more worthwhile. A protected bicycle facility can accommodate 6000 users per hour, a dedicated bus lane can move 12,000 people per hour. So remember, we don’t need to utilize all that capacity to see the benefits. If a total of 1500 people switch from driving to bike/transit, that still allows 6000 people to drive and doesn’t affect the existing street condition at all. If 2700 people shift modes to transit and biking, we’re only using 15% of that available capacity but the 4800 people who still want/need to drive now have effectively free flow condition on the street.
      – People in cars travel Broadway/Lincoln for a reason. Maybe because it’s the most direct route to or from their destination, because they’re patronizing businesses on the way to or from their destination, or because the lights are timed and it’s the fastest route. Why wouldn’t we be able to determine that those things are also important to people who just happen to be on a bike instead of in a car?
      – The same principles apply to Speer/Leetsdale regarding capacity. I will tell you that when I take the 83L from Aurora, I get off the bus at Steele and Ellsworth so I can jump on a B-Cycle for the last three miles home because it’s faster than sitting on the bus through Cherry Creek and 1st Avenue during rush hour. One of the tools I use as a transportation planner is identifying the likelihood of transit use is based on the travel time ratio. If a bus trip takes longer than twice as long as driving, the probability of someone using that transit service decreases substantially. Again, going with a personal anecdote, my preferred mode of travel in order is walk, bike, transit, drive. I absolutely will drive if it will take me more than twice as long to take transit as it does to drive [if I’m not in the mood to bike, either due to weather, distance, or laziness]. The closer to one you get, the more likely people are to take transit. It takes 51 minutes (not counting wait time) to take the bus from Nine Mile to Civic Center Station, or 31 minutes to drive on Parker/Leetsdale/1st Avenue/Speer without traffic. If both modes have a 5 minute rush hour penalty, you won’t gain any transit riders. If driving takes a 5 minute penalty, but transit doesn’t take any longer because it has a dedicated lane, then yes, you will attract more people to transit. Especially if combined with increased frequency (which is one of the tenets of the Colfax BRT, and should be similarly implemented along this corridor).
      – If it seems like I have a bias against motor vehicles, that’s partially true. They are useful tools, but they’ve been elevated to God-like status. My wife and I lease a car and drive about 4,000 miles per year not counting the trip to my grandfather’s funeral in South Dakota and the drive to Montana for a friend’s birthday. People in this city act as though fast, unabated travel and free parking in front of your destination are God-given rights. Unless there are changes coming that I simply cannot comprehend in the way we’re able to move around our cities and towns during my lifetime, I can’t imagine arguing to eliminate automobiles. What I do adamantly encourage, however, is putting the automobile in its place. It is a tool that is useful in many instances. But, it becomes a question on if it’s the right tool. Let’s say you’re carving a sculpture out of a log. You’ve got a chainsaw, which is great for a while. You’re able to build the appropriate form from which your sculpture can take place. But you don’t get any new tools along the way and keep trying to carve a face out of the wood, or get details like a hand or the details of hair, but you still just have the chainsaw. You can probably get pretty close, but you’ll never be able to carve in the eyes or the ears of the bear you’re carving [I don’t know why a bear, but it seems like that’s something I’ve seen somewhat often carved out of wood]. But if along the way you add new tools, those tools allow you to get those details, sand and finish the statue so it’s actually something recognizable that someone else can appreciate and you can be proud of. We’ve used the chainsaw as best as we can, and we can use some of our other tools [bike lanes, transit facilities] to correct some of the deep cuts we made with the chainsaw [roads for cars]. If we keep trying to use the chainsaw, we’re going to run out of wood. If we don’t fix some of the deep gashes we made during our first pass through with the chainsaw, the snout of the bear will be disfigured or we’ll have to finish the bear with only one paw. I don’t know, this metaphor is losing steam. The point is, yes, you made that original gash intentionally and thought it was going to look great! But as the rest of the statue came into focus it became clear that maybe you cut a little too far, so you need to go back and re-create that section of the statute with finer tools. That’s Broadway, that’s Speer, that’s 1st Avenue. These are gashes that were cut too deep with a chainsaw, and now we can fix with better tools. It’s going to lose some of the familiarity it had when we thought it looked okay, but by the time it’s sanded and polished, we’ll appreciate the extra time and effort we took in finishing the statue/road.
      – Over the past seven years, 297 people have died in Denver. If we expand that to include Arvada, Aurora, Broomfield, Centennial, Commerce City, Englewood, Lakewood, Thornton, and Westminster, that number jumps to 708. The number one factor in vehicular fatalities is speed. The second is distraction/inebriation. The number of people killed by being run over by bikes in the same time span? Zero. The number of people killed by pedestrians walking into them? Zero also. The reason I’m so passionate about the work I do and the social positions I take on this subject is because I don’t want to wait until one of my family members dies at the hands of traffic violence before I raise my voice or make a difference. The odds of dying in a car crash is 1 in 114. For the life of me I can’t find the source right now, but someone has crunched the numbers (it’s a probability equation off the 1 in 114 odds) and something like 25% of all US residents knows someone who has died in a car crash [I’m a part of that statistic, I’ve lost one friend in a car crash so far]. So this isn’t just about bikes or walking or busses, my position is the entirety of my education and professional experience understanding what makes streets *safe* for *everyone* and that’s the most important thing for me. Secondary is how they function, which I hope I’ve laid out a reasonable argument that contends that a transportation system predicated on the private automobile fails for everyone, whereas a network that prioritizes walking, biking, and transit serves everyone, including those who want or need to drive.
      – Final point. If you’ve actually read this far, thank you for taking my comments seriously. If you hadn’t, then I apologize for rambling on, but I understand. My wife tells me to work on being more succinct, but I have a hard time taking that to heart.

      • nwestergaard

        Anthony, you’ve obviously given this a lot of thought, so I’ll try to respond in a sincere way.

        Moving the bike route to Acoma and/or Bannock is not a perfect solution. There’d be some construction involved, it might have to jog here and there, but I don’t think it’s any more involved than what’ll have to be done to Broadway to accommodate parking, bi-directional bike lanes, and bus lanes all along the corridor. There’s going to be a ton of work involved to remove bulb-outs at the corners north of the test lanes and they have to figure out a way to make the lanes cross over Broadway to get over to the west side where the transit station is located. It’s going to be complicated, too.

        One of the biggest challenges with inner city parks like the Sunken Gardens and Civic Center is getting enough people to use them so they aren’t havens for drug dealing and other crime. Why couldn’t a bike path go through or around the Sunken Gardens, and maybe even through Civic Center Park to connect with the 15th Street bike route, which by the way was accomplished by taking out a lane of parking without much ill effect. It would bring more people to those parks.

        Taking away parking on Broadway would be a problem for merchants, but it’s not like there aren’t any alternatives to parking on Broadway. There’d still be parking on the cross streets. In any case, I doubt it would be any more of a hassle to the merchants’ parking customers than it’s going to be with people trying to parallel park in heavy traffic, which is what you’ll have when you take out a lane and restrict another one to buses only.

        Finally, a half-mile extra length on a bike traveling 15 mph takes about 2.5 minutes. Not a big deal, in my opinion.

        Here’s a wild idea: Create a bus/bike lane, cordon it off with intermittent barriers and leave the through lanes as is. Unsafe for cyclists? Maybe, but consider: You’d have professional drivers, sitting up high with greater visibility, driving at generally slower speeds so bicyclists could keep up with the flow of traffic more easily and they’d be separated from phone-distracted nitwit drivers. The frequency of buses, even along Broadway, isn’t that high, so cyclists would have the lane to themselves most of the time.

        Anthony, as a long-time resident of inner city Denver, who actually does ride a bike, I would love it if all the streets were quiet, pedestrian and bike friendly leisurely gathering places for people to enjoy. But it’s not realistic. And I think there are ways to improve the environment for those who choose to ride bikes and walk and take transit without disrupting everyone else who chooses otherwise. It doesn’t have to be a zero-sum game.

        Thanks for weighing in on this with your thoughtful response.

        • MT

          2.5 minute detour on a bike, not a big deal.
          2.5 minute delay in a car, nightmare.

      • John Riecke

        Woooooooooooooooo! Woooooo! Yeah!!!

      • Is it my imagination or does the average bicycle rider have a far
        more-limited worldview than the average car driver? Is Metro-Denver a major urban area or is it a collection of little feuding neighborhoods
        whose residents can’t for whatever reason see the bigger picture?

        Today 80% or more of Metro-Denver residents drive and even if we spent another $10 billion on mass transit and bike lanes 75% of residents would still drive as their primary method of transportation too.

        The way that I see it living in a city that is so high cost that you can’t
        afford to drive is a choice that you have made, as there is plenty of
        housing available in Denver’s suburbs that is so much less-expensive
        than housing near downtown that there is plenty of income left over to
        buy and afford to drive a car too.

        Now if you want suburban residents to quit coming down to the city to work or spend their money my suggestion is to adopt policies that gridlock the roads we must all use and pretty soon we will find somewhere else more-responsible to locate businesses as well as to take our business to also.

        I grew-up in Metro-Detroit in the 1960s and 1970s. At that time the city had a limited mass transit system and no bike lanes except in parks. The average artery in Metro-Detroit was a 5-lane road with a speed limit of 40-45 mph, while a couple dozen major boulevards were 6-8 lanes divided with speed limits of 55-65 mph too. Did that stop us from riding our bicycles? No.

        How much does the average bicycle rider in the city, who lives there by choice, pay for separate infrastructure, as us car drivers have been paying a national-average figure of 60 cents per-gallon plus the cost of vehicle registration for the privilege of driving on our roads?

        How about we put up an elevated bicycle bridge above Broadway so that traffic doesn’t get delayed? All we have to do is figure-out how to pay for it. How much are you willing to kick-in Anthony?

        PS: Just since September of 2014 I have seen 5 different pedestrians that had the legal right of way get mowed-down by bicyclists running the red light at 14th and Larimer, and I am only downtown 2-3 days per week. In most cities it is illegal for bicyclists to run red lights. Why do you think that running red lights when large numbers of pedestrians are present should be legal?

        • Anthony

          Mr. Richardson,

          Thank you for your articulate, thoughtful comment. I feel as
          though any time a civil comment is made on the internet, it’s a small victory for humanity. I would like, however, to push back on your comments.

          I’d like to begin with a little bit of my background and where I’m coming from. I’m not sure if you were speaking about me specifically or people who don’t behave like you in general, but I read some of your comments as targeted toward me and the choices I’ve made, thus making my background relevant. I got my driver’s license and first car when I turned 16 in 1999 and lived in a suburban style, mid-sized community in Eastern Washington. I drove everywhere and laughed at people who were “stuck” biking or riding the bus (I was 16, immature, and a little mean spirited). In 2002 I joined the Navy and was stationed in San Diego for three years. I have no idea if San Diego is transit or bike friendly because I drove my Point Loma to Coronado commute and anytime I went anywhere, but I did have a friend who was going to SDSU and he commuted to his internship Downtown from Mission Valley by bike and I thought he was nuts. In 2007 my car broke down on the side of the freeway less than a week before I moved to Arizona for college. I had bought a house in Mesa, about 18 miles from school. I had planned on selling my car anyhow, so I just didn’t replace it. That lasted about two months before I bought a car, despite my three person household (girlfriend, brother, and me) sharing two cars (and my brother and I went to school together). My undergrad program was Urban Planning. I started reading studies and literature about walkable communities, transportation planning history and principles, environmental issues, but continued driving.

          In late 2009 I bought my first “adult” bike because I got this crazy idea in my head to ride from Seattle to Portland the next summer as part of an organized group ride. It was a recreation tool to use on the weekends for training. But I did get an internship and a free bus pass in Downtown Phoenix, so I started driving to the Park and Ride and taking the express bus Downtown since it didn’t take any more time, and saved me some money. In 2011 I got a full time job in Uptown, Phoenix and started riding my bike to the park and ride and ultimately to my office about 4 miles from where the bus dropped me off. By this time I had started to buy into my education and all the things I’d learned. As importantly, I’d become used to not driving and in fact started to despise it. My depression and anxiety would be difficult to manage on the days I drove to work, so it was a mental health thing more than an ideological calling. In November 2012 I got in a pretty rough bike crash. The road I was riding on had been overlaid so often, the asphalt was a good couple inches above the gutter pan, which I had fallen into on the short segment of this arterial street where the bike lane disappeared under the freeway and I was being squeezed off the road by motorists. My tire hit that lip and I fell over my handlebars at about 26 mph into traffic, nearly getting run over. I ended up with some road rash, a few broken ribs, a broken collarbone, and a broken shoulder blade, but thankful to be alive. After I healed, in February 2013 I sold my Mustang, so my wife and I became a one car family (despite my 28 mile commute). In the Summer of 2014, we moved to Denver to live in a walkable city. In 2016 we looked at buying a house out in Aurora, closer to my job, but ultimately bought a condo in Cheeseman Park for about $5,000 less than the house we were looking at. Since moving to Denver, I have been commuting to and working in Aurora. Despite living near Downtown Denver, we still have a car for my wife’s job since she travels regularly to Castle Rock, Lone Tree, Colorado Springs, and Parker.

          Daily I work with traffic engineers and transportation planners
          who have been trained that the automobile is the only real form of transportation. In my previously limited worldview where I drove everywhere, I would’ve been likely to agree with them, and with you. However, over the years of my travels and experience walking, biking, bussing, and yes, driving, I have learned just how much our current transportation system punishes people who elect not to or cannot drive a car, whether it’s for physical, mental, or age, or economic reasons. I have seen too many people who have died as a result of traffic violence to not try to save lives through an improved transportation system. I have seen too many economic studies about how automobile dependency cripples local economies (for example: 2/3 of all money spent on automobile purchase, gas, and maintenance leaves the local economy). I have seen the geometric limitations that autocentricism stretches. I have read too much literature on the subsidization of automobile travel (today, user fees cover approximately 48% of road construction and maintenance costs; the other 52% is covered by general funds). The national annual general fund subsidy of automobiles today is nearly $70 million annually, compared to less than $1 billion for walking and biking, and less than $42 million for transit. The transit subsidy also has a benefit of congestion reduction, saving drivers approximately $21 billion in congestion costs.

          Now I’ll address your points one at a time.

          You claim 80% of trips are made by car. In Phoenix I
          co-authored a research paper on the National Household Transportation Survey. We found that 96.1% of all work trips there were either SOV or carpool. What was a little more surprising, no other trip type had more than 50% SOV (shopping, eating, visiting, discretionary). In fact, of discretionary trips, 35.37% were non-motor vehicle trips (either walking or biking); commute rates do not equate to trip rates, but I unfortunately haven’t been able to find trip rate statistics for the Metro Denver area as of yet. If you haven’t been to Phoenix before, it’s an absolutely terrible place to walk or bike. Moreover, according to the US Census Bureau, in Metro Phoenix 90.4% of people commute by either SOV or carpool. Detroit, where fast 5-lane roads didn’t stop you from riding your bikes has 94.3% of commuters doing so by SOV or carpool. Some other cities numbers, just for the sake of comparison: Denver, 85.0%; Portland, 78.7%; Seattle, 79.6%; San Francisco, 76.4%; New York, 46.6%. I’d like to refer you back to my original comment to Mr. Westergaard regarding the impact of vehicle capacity to remind you that modest decreases in people driving when a roadway is nearing capacity make a significant difference in the level of congestion. So dropping from 80% to 75% of trips on a congested network does, in fact, significantly increase the reliability and efficiency of the network. If we spent ‘another’ $10
          million on transit and bike facilities, we’d be a fraction closer to the investment we’ve spent on our road network over the past 60 years. As we’ve seen in other cities, what we spend our transportation dollars on significantly influences mode split. Amsterdam in the 1970’s used to be as auto-centric as any
          major US city, and they prioritized bicycle and walking since then (without significantly impacting auto mobility, just motor vehicle traveling speeds), and nearly 2/3 of all trips in the city are now taken by bike. Portland has invested over $60 million in bike infrastructure since 1990 and they saw their commute mode split increase from 1.5% to 7.6%; their bridge traffic increased by 33% while their automobile traffic counts across said bridges decreased during that timeframe. New York City repurposed part of Times Square, effectively closing Broadway, and yet not only did injury collisions decrease by 63%, but travel speeds for automobiles increased by 7% and rent rates nearly doubled.

          I alluded earlier that the condo I bought in Cheeseman Park
          was $5,000 less than the home I was looking at buying in Aurora. My wife and I do share a car, and I do drive from time to time. My annual vehicle registration is something like $560. It’s not about whether or not making the choice to live in or near Downtown *allows* me to afford a car. My budget is the same whether I live Downtown or in Highlands Ranch. What I elect to spend my money on is different, and despite my 12-mile commute from my cheaper home in the city, I elect to not spend my money on a second car to commute to and from work with. If someone were to live and work Downtown, there is even less incentive to own a car from a practicality standpoint. If you want to go to the mountains on occasion, you can rent one for far cheaper than it costs to own, and you don’t have the hassle of maintenance. If you own a car Downtown, you’re still not likely to drive very often simply because it’s nice (and faster) to walk the three blocks to the grocery store, or you may head out for a beer after work with your co-workers and you don’t want to get behind the wheel of a car to put someone’s life in danger.

          Regarding suburban residents coming Downtown for
          entertainment or work, that’s not something that I’m terribly concerned about. New York, San Francisco, Seattle… these are all locations that have a significantly higher amount of traffic congestion and that cost an arm and a leg to park throughout the city (and/or it’s difficult/impossible to find parking). Yet, those cities are all thriving. Cities are the lifeblood of commerce and culture, and have been since early Mesopotamia. I’m not terribly concerned that our automobile-centric experiment of the past 60 years is going to undo the last 10,000 years of humanity.

          I mentioned above that commuters in Metro Detroit drive at a
          rate ten points higher than commuters in Metro Denver, despite your assertion that people didn’t stop using their bicycles because of poor infrastructure. Poor infrastructure will not keep people like you and me off our bikes. But it does keep people like my wife off her bike. She has become more confident on her
          bike since we moved to Denver, but will still only ride with me and she’ll only ride on the calmest, safest streets. If I’m in a hurry I’ll commute home on 6th and 8th Avenues through Congress Park and Capitol Hill; if you think there’s any way my wife will do the same, you’re sorely mistaken. If you think any parent is going to let their 12-year old ride a bike on one of those streets, you’re sorely mistaken.

          I spoke about the subsidization of automobiles above. That
          only covers the cost of the roads. So to refresh, 52% of all road funding comes from things like sales tax and property tax. All bike funding comes from those same sources. The majority of transit funding also comes from those sources, though some dedicated funding from automobile user fees is diverted to transit
          (which, thereby ‘saves’ motorists $21 billion per year in congestion costs). Considering, for example, that in relatively non-auto-centric San Francisco, only 2.4% of the roadway is dedicated to moving transit and bikes, the sales and property tax we pay toward the construction and maintenance of roads more than covers itself. What I didn’t cover before is parking. For example, in Denver, a single parking space in a structured garage will increase a person’s rent by approximately $100 per month whether they park a car there or not. A below-grade structure increases rents by $150 per month (based on construction and maintenance costs). According to a 1999 study (yes, things have changed, no I haven’t researched more recent data) parking covered 33% of Denver’s CBD and contributed 0.73 parking spaces per downtown job. For reference, other cities include: Portland 46% land, 0.40 spaces/job; San Francisco, 31% land, 0.14 spaces/job; Phoenix, 25%, 0.91 spaces per job. Don Shoup, the country’s preeminent
          parking economist, estimates the annual, national off-street parking subsidy between $127 billion and $374 billion per year. Put another way, 1.2 to 3.6% of the nation’s GDP. For another comparison, the nation’s budget in 2002 (the year in which these figures were applied) for National Defense was $349 billion. Everybody does pay for that subsidy through higher rents, higher food and retail prices, higher [health and automobile] insurance premiums, and on and on.

          I’m not willing to pay anything for a raised bike crossing
          of Broadway, personally. That’s less because I’m unwilling to chip in than because I believe people, be they on bike or on foot, shouldn’t be separated from the street. The storefronts, the offices, the homes, are all accessed from the street. Grade separation is never the answer for a facility meant to access
          our neighborhoods (it’s great on longer, regional trail corridors though!). I gladly contributed part of the $36,085 raised from individual donations to construct the Arapahoe Street Separated Bike Lane. I’ll gladly redistribute some of the property and sales taxes I disproportionately pay toward automobile infrastructure to improve bicycle, transit, and pedestrian infrastructure. I’ll gladly pay lower prices at the grocery store by removing the off-street parking (or by having motorists pay for their use of the space). I know I’m in the minority here, but I’ll gladly pay an additional sales tax on bikes and bike accessories if it were dedicated to paying for new bike facilities (Aurora tried a licensing program in the 60’s and 70’s and went bankrupt; Ottawa had a similar program in the 2000’s I believe, and they too went bankrupt because administration costs were higher than revenue. Sales tax is easier and cheaper to collect).

          I’m not committed to bike infrastructure or anything else in
          particular. I’m persuaded by facts, and I’ve softened or hardened my stance on things related to transportation based on actual results. For example, I am extremely unlikely to support a streetcar without dedicated right of way because otherwise it’s just an expensive bus, no matter how “cool” Portland’s
          streetcar is. That’s a different position than I had in 2010, for sure. Because results and new facts changed my perspective. If something were to happen, say through technological advances, that increases the quality of life and accessibility for all people that focuses on spending money on automobile travel, I will support that.

          I do take offense to the perception that my worldview is limited. I have traveled to hundreds of cities across four continents, I have lived in small and mid-sized towns in Eastern Washington, suburban cities of Gig Harbor, WA, Gresham, OR and Mesa, AZ. I have lived in an urban neighborhood in San Diego, CA, San Francisco, CA, and Denver. I currently work in a suburban city, and have appraised commercial real estate in every submarket across Phoenix. I have worked on development projects in Omaha, suburban Kansas City, Appleton, WI, and Uptown Dallas. I’m a relatively young person at 33 years old, but I don’t knock anyone else’s decision on how to live their lives. My goal is not to make your life, or the lives of your suburban neighbors worse. My professional and personal goals are to:

          1) save lives;
          2) improve mobility for those who don’t or
          can’t use a personal automobile to go everywhere;
          3) increase the economic prosperity for the community in which I live and for the one in which I work;
          4) improve interpersonal relationships people have with each other; behind the wheel of a car, people become more isolated from one another. On foot, transit, or on a bike, you come in casual contact with more people allowing a greater degree of empathy and humanitarianism;
          5) personal health. Obesity rates have skyrocketed over the past twenty years, along with upper respiratory illness and heart disease which are all improved through physical activity and
          deteriorated by sedentary lifestyles typically found in people who drive;
          6) Environmental concerns for air quality and water quality primarily which come back around to health, but also impacts our ability to grow food, to provide thriving ecosystems that keep our air clean but also the animals we hunt and eat healthy and flourishing so our children can continue to have safe water to
          drink, clean air to breath, and safe, plentiful, and nourishing food to eat.

          My goals have nothing to do with bicycling, transit, or walking. However, those are tools that I’ve identified in my professional and personal life that improve those six tenets in which I feel called to help others. If automobile dependency can somehow improve the lives of people in all six of those items with the same level of impact walking, cycling, and riding transit [in that order] have, then I will gladly modify my position(s).

          • I didn’t say that your worldview was limited though I did say that was the case for many bike riders in Denver, who often only think about their neighborhood and not about the much-bigger picture across the entire metropolitan area or even figure-in national freight, defense, and motorists needs from outside our city either.

            I have been to Phoenix, LA, Portland, in-fact just about every city in the Continental US dozens to hundreds of times. Despite the fact that I was once fearless on a bicycle I quit riding bikes in 1975 at the age of 18 after a motorcycle accident caused by a woman who never looked back the other way before pulling out luckily only left me with a bad case of road rash after I slid off my bike onto the fresh asphalt doing 45 mph.

            I used to live in the city when I was in my 20s and early 30s, the city of Cleveland, OH. I used to be one of those people who would get really drunk, sit in the Dawg Pound for $15, and throw dog bones at the football players.

            I married my first wife and owned my first house in Cleveland, a cute little 2-BR/1-BA 840 square foot bungalow 300 feet from an RTA bus stop, which we bought just after we got married in 1987 for $33K, though I was forced to drive to work while my wife commuted by bus to her job downtown.

            I was an undergrad urban planning student at Cleveland State from 1986 through 1990, the same program that Boulder’s Dale Case got his urban planning Master’s degree from, attending part time while I drove a semi locally full time. I started driving semis in 1979 after working as a metal machinist and as a service station manager earlier in my life, I also dropped-out of Western Michigan University after two years in 1977.

            Alas, in 1990 my alcoholic first wife divorced me to run off with someone else and later the 1990-91 recession wiped me out after the truckline I was working for folded-up like a house of cards as the jobless rate rose to 20%. Even though I was able to sell our 1st house at a $14K profit in 1991 that divorce and the recession cost me the chance to finish my degree at CSU, as I was forced to move here to find work.

            I was forced out of a 30-year career driving 18-wheel trucks due to declining eyesight in the fall of 2009, However, my 30 years of experience serving mainly the wholesale food industry have provided my a unique perspective on national-scale logistics and on urban freight needs.

            Today 7 & 1/2 years after I was forced into early retirement at the age of 52 I am 3 graduate hours away from a Master’s
            degree myself and am researching for my thesis now. I am a MURP regional sustainability student at UCD who will be 60 when I get my Master’s degree next fall.

            We really have quite a problem going here in Metro-Denver from multiple perspectives. Between 75-80% of all the single family housing across the metropolitan area is not within a mile of transit service even though our public transit level of service is far better than most urban areas our size.

            Between 2000 and 2015 83% of all new housing built in Metro-Denver was on the suburban fringe, and in 2015 at the time of the study there were more than 60,000 permits for new suburban housing already approved. Moreover, 70% of all commuting in Metro-Denver is not to or from downtown, though some of that must use I-25, I-70, or several major surface commuting routes through or near our downtown too.

            Here near Hwy 7 where my 3rd wife and I own our 5th house new homes are sprouting like mushrooms right near where the planned northern terminus of RTD’s North Line was supposed to be. Too bad the train won’t get there for a couple decades if we are lucky after we paid our fair share but only have broken promises to show for what we paid.

            Moreover, according to DRCOG RTD is nearly 80% short on projected needs funding through 2040 after wildly overspending on the portion of FasTracks that has so far been finished, leaving at-least 40 miles of the system unfinished with funding maxed-out for the next 25-30 years. RTD is so broke that they are laying off staff and deferring maintenance on their aging fleet of buses too, kind of like the New York Central did in the years before it went under.

            CDOT is almost as underfunded as RTD is, Colorado’s public schools are also grossly underfunded, and for a rapidly-growing urban area our projected water supply needs are increasingly deficient on a daily basis too Bike route funding is also forecast to be 58% short on projected needs through 2040.

            Home and business values in our metropolitan area are subject to suffer if transportation system deficiencies become a problem, just as they will if we get into a scarcity problem with our water supply too.

            The fact is that we don’t have $10 billion to throw into supplying the needs of transit and bike riders unless we have $80 billion to throw into keeping urban roadway efficiency high-enough to keep property values up among the 75-80% of Metro-Denver homeowners without walkable access to public transit, as well as serve the needs of urban wholesale shipping and supply, and the needs of other roadway users too.

            Regardless of whether 2% or 4% of commuting is done by bicycle and 7% of 10% is done by transit thanks to the 90-year history of Euclidian zoning 80-90% of commuting can’t be done by either bicycling or commuting, nor do we at this point have the remaining carbon budget to greatly redesign our society either.

            We are basically stuck with our current supply chain, warehouse and distribution model which works best in an non-congested environment, so much so that the FHWA has gone way out of its way to force national design standards compliance on primary arteries and designated truck routes through the MAP-21 plan and the Fast Act. I am afraid that Broadway is one such route subject to the MAP-21 primary artery standards, forcing us to maintain lane widths and alleviate freight congestion.

            Here is some information on MAP-21 if you are not familiar with the program and its design parameters. MAP-21 also seeks to retain corridors for commercial traffic against the road diet crowd, recognizing that freight corridors serve national and regional interests just as they serve neighborhoods through which they pass.


            Prioritization of Projects to Improve Freight Movement Guidance


            This executive summary of the MAP-21 plan is also good reading if you have some extra time:


            My suggestion for the future is if you want to live on a potential bike route would be that you study the FHWA map of primary arteries and designated truck routes before moving.

            We might attempt to redesign in the Howard Garden Cities model but right now RTD does not have the funds necessary to connect our garden cities together, keeping in-mind that 70% of all Metro-Denver commuting does not involve origination or termination in or near downtown Denver.

            In the northwest metro area there are already TOD projects built just waiting for their promised FasTracks train. At this point it would be quicker for the Northwest metro area to pull out of FasTracks and seek to build their own system unencumbered by RTD’s grand overspending and shot bonding capability.

            If we want better sidewalks we should do what most other cities do and force property owners to maintain sidewalks to a certain design standard. Cleveland’s sidewalk program forces urban property owners to maintain their sidewalks. If your sidewalk becomes deficient rather than fining you a city crew will show up and fix your sidewalk, and then the city will put a lien on your property. Cleveland has pretty decent sidewalks as a result.

            One of our biggest problems that I see is that wage growth has not kept pace with actual retail price inflation. I did a retail price cost-comparison study nearly 4 years ago involving 50 common readily-comparable consumer items with a 1968 baseline that then found an average 1293.7% appreciation in average retail price but only a 453% upward adjustment in minimum wage to cover the increase in retail prices, giving the 2013 minimum wage only 35% of the effective purchasing power against the average cost of those 50 common items as the 1968 minimum wage had against them

            I updated my study in January and found that the average increase of the 50 study items was then up to 1403.5%. Now on a national basis median household income is $3000 less today than the same demographic was in 2000, despite close to 250% average retail price inflation here in Metro-Denver since 2000. Because the top 1% of the demographic is so heavily skewed the median household income of the bottom 99% has been calculated too.

            The median household income is about $56,000 today, while the median household income of the top 1% was $1.37 million a year ago, having grown by 40% since 2010. The bottom 99% median household income is only $41,000, with an effective average retail purchasing power of $16,400 in 2000-value Dollars and only $2921 in 1968-value dollars, $279 less than working 2000 hours annually at minimum wage paid in 1968.

            Our greatest problem has been the wholesale abandonment of the US by our manufacturing sector and the resultant collapse of our standard of living as a result, which has left younger adult Americans and displaced industrial workers as well as retail that serves both holding the bag.

            We no longer have the money to greatly benefit small individual sectors of transportation demand to the exclusion of the great majority need because the vast majority of Americans are only earning a small fraction of what the same demographic earned almost a half-century ago.

            Basically we are already in the early stages of collapse as our local economy is very strong but our government is increasingly unable to maintain existing infrastructure let alone enact enough change to keep-up with the pace of growth and development.

            Our situation here is far better than that of many urban areas to our south as far as Central America too, and I have no doubt that we will eventually be forced to play host to as many as millions of refugees from urban areas to our south as those cities begin to exhaust their groundwater supplies, as they continue to grow and our average temperature continues to rise, as well as the surface water evaporation rate also continues to rise. .

            We also must adjust to our current political reality, as our new President has already cut urban mass transit funding, and is seeking to cut back President Obama’s Federal auto and truck fuel-efficiency standards.

            What is the chance that under Trump that Chinese carmaker BYD’s battery hybrids that average 5 times our average fuel mileage will be sold here? Zero. While BYD’s EV buses and trucks are being made here in Lancaster, CA now RTD is so broke that they can’t afford to buy them, as right now RTD only makes 22.75% of operating cost at the farebox.

            I understand that you have worked-up every possible rationale in your head to justify spending more of our increasingly scarce funds on a niche market, which of course would spend less on the needs of the vast majority of us.

            Are you aware that the MAP-21 program has an enforcement mechanism for those urban areas that don’t responsibly work to alleviate increasing freight congestion on primary arteries and designated truck routes? The Feds will just steal our Federal highway funds and use them to force MAP-21 compliance which will leave us a lot less funding for non-MAP-21 projects.

            So you are willing to pay an upfront tax on the purchase of a bicycle, which will discriminate against the low-income crowd, but not willing to buy a license plate which could also be used for the enforcement of common traffic laws, thereby generating additional revenue?

            I figure what works for car and truck drivers (the vast majority) ought to work for bike riders too in order to increase safety and accountability. If every other vehicle on the highway must have working brake lights I feel strongly that bicycles should also, as brake lights decrease following driver reaction time by at-least 1-2 seconds. It would only add 1 lb to bicycle weight to install working brake lights.

            That 1-2 second difference is critical when it takes the driver of a loaded 18-wheel truck or city bus 2.5 times as long to stop as a car from the same speed and 4-5 times the distance to stop as a bicycle can stop within. Of course, experienced urban bike riders should never put themselves in a situation where a bus or heavy truck can have the opportunity to run right over you in a panic stop situation anyway. How does one get to be an experienced urban bike rider though? Only by surviving enough negligent and/or reckless chances.

            I was 34 when I sold my 1st house in the city and moved back to the suburbs. I got tired of having my car stolen and my house broken into just to cut my distance in-half to get to the bars downtown. By the age of 40 I wasn’t hanging out at the bars downtown nearly as much as I had been in my early 30s either, and 40 is coming right up for you too. Time to settle down, get a house in the burbs, raise children, and become everything that we hated about our parents lives.

            In 4 months I’ll be age 60 and have no desire to live in the city, but thanks to my 30-year career in freight transportation combined with my knowledge of urban & regional planning I know quite well the physical requirements of freight and food delivery in urban areas as large as NYC or Los Angeles.

            I like to show this short video to show how unsustainable moving 12 tons of cement to the city from a cement plant is. Check out all the other vehicles, the interaction with pedestrians, and the utter lack of bicyclists.

            Here is a 17-minute video taken from the windshield of a heavy truck driving on 2nd Ave in Manhattan. There are only 3 bike riders in this video. How can we justify investing in bicycle infrastructure when demand is this light, bike riders don’t pay to build or maintain bike infrastructure, and don’t want to be held accountable for safety or for compliance with common traffic laws? (Warning: Occasional crude commentary).

            We simply do not have the money to shift funding away from infrastructure benefiting the vast majority of us in order to help a niche market grow, in an environment where almost everyone is facing a slow erosion of our standard of living and continuing ability to maintain our infrastructure, as otherwise many trillions of dollars of property value and business value will be lost.

            Would you enjoy living on 2nd Avenue in Manhattan as at my age I sure wouldn’t?

            Here is map of the FHWA National Highway System for the Denver/Boulder area. Broadway is indicated as a designated truck route between downtown and I-25, a Federal truck route design standard established under the Surface Transportation Act of 1982 and its 1986 upgrade. South of I-25 Broadway is a primary artery under the MAP-21 law. What you don’t know about Federal and State freight transportation policy is part of your problem here.

            CDOT Freight Planning policy:


            DRCOG Metro Vision 2035 RTP Freight and Goods Movement Policy:


            FHWA National Highway System info page:


            I feel for you younger people as your world is likely to be more-difficult than mine was. About the only way I can see to markedly reduce the need for urban freight routes would be to grow as much of urban food supply locally in huge hydroponic greenhouses surrounded by high-density mixed-use, though as the two videos show, even that kind of design is not sustainable.

            Establishing a local recycling capability for metals and common household goods might also help reduce congestion and work toward finding sustainability, but I do not feel that our planet is sustainable at a population greater than 3-4 billion people especially not after we run out of phosphate for fertilizer later this century, which will cut crop yield in half, assuming that we live that long as temperature rise and irresponsible urban growth continue at an unsustainable rate.

            Cutting way down on consumer spending will only damage our economy and further reduce our standard of living as well as the value of our properties and businesses. I said 4 years ago that the only way that Denver could possibly be sustainable would be if we put a giant wall around the city and around our water supply, but I don’t even believe that any more if our temperature continues to rise and we continue to keep growing.

            I suggest looking at waterfront property in a riparian State as close to the Canadian border as possible at the rate that continuing planetary livability is failing these days. I suggest Minnesota if you want to live somewhere fairly liberal as it is likely to eventually be a lot less-crowded there than Vermont.

            Just my opinion based on my nearly 60 years on this planet.

          • PS: Dr Bruce Janson at UC Denver would be a good source for Denver trip generation statistics.

  • Chris

    We are at a cross roads. Maybe there is desires to year down all the buildings on one side of Colfax to add 2 more lanes of traffic. We can tear out one side of Broadway to add another lane for cars. We could teary down all the new skyscrapers along 15th street to add another lane of traffic. Those seem reasonable if people choose to drive. We can help them out by making more room for their cars or we can move more people around the city with other modes. If people choose to drive that is their choice. The goal is to clean our air, make our streets safer, and move more people around in a more dense city.

    In 2008 we were under 600,000 in 2018 we are expected to breach 700,000 people in the city. What is the most efficient way to move 100,000 people around a city? The biggest hurdle for transit is that we sacrifice good transit that would work for people and our daily lives to the car. But that is our society. Unless we care an awful lot about our city we won’t ever be able to build enough car lanes. I wish it were to be true. That we could plow Colfax with 10 lanes for cars, but I don’t see it happening.

    • nwestergaard

      Chris, I don’t disagree with you that the city has to do something. I just think there are better, smarter ways to go about it than deliberately trying to engineer behavior by taking out established through traffic lanes, that’s all. I don’t think it will work. Just putting in dedicated bus lanes isn’t going to compel people to ride the bus. People aren’t taking the 83 LTD because there isn’t a bus lane on Speer Blvd; they are not riding it in sufficient numbers because it’s not convenient enough for them. More frequency would help. Better routing would, too.

      As for the Broadway bike lanes, I’ve advocated taking out a lane of parking on one side to accommodate the bike lanes, similar to the way the city engineered the 15th St. bike lane. The way Broadway is now in the test phase is a nightmare, unsafe and confusing for everyone. On the other hand, what the city is doing on Brighton Boulevard has it exactly right…the corridor is being engineered from the ground up to accommodate traffic better AND more cyclists and pedestrians.But It was not already a high capacity thoroughfare like Broadway is.

      Chris, I appreciate your intelligent response and the contribution to the dialogue, which is much more persuasive than the sneering ridicule of people the “editor” of this blog, David Sachs, disagrees with.

      • Chris

        I agree with you on convenience and your point on frequency. I believe David and a number of other outlets have shown that frequency is key to success. But frequency alone is not the solution. As you mention the route design is key as well. I take the 9 bus in the morning because of convenience, but I take the W line home because of uncertainty about the 9 bus due to it sharing the road with cars. It gets bogged down often by evening rush hour. Whereas the light rail is on time about 99% of the time and the bus just isn’t. I also don’t have to worry about cars slowing down the train.

        One thing I note is that we all agree that traffic is an issue. We need to move people around the city efficiently, use our tax dollars to benefit the our citizens the best we can, and contribute to a growing a vibrant 21st century city. Cars will coexist with us. But I truly believe that we can build a vibrant city that starts creating a city built for people. We continue to do it. I don’t see that momentum stopping.

        It might be great for you and David to have an event where you both can speak to folks about these issues facing metro Denver and how we build a community built for people.

      • MT

        How about we put Broadway back to being a two-way street with streetcars? If things should never change from how they are established the conversion to one-way and removal of transit should never have been done.

        • nwestergaard

          MT, I’m not saying things should never change. But that doesn’t mean every change is positive. That said, if Broadway only served as an arterial for intra-city travel, you could probably do what you suggest with street cars and two way street configuration. But Broadway is one of only a few outbound routes from downtown. Where do those cars go if you choke off a lane? They back up, sometimes for blocks and blocks. Look at what’s happened on 6th Avenue and Broadway from the takeover of the northernmost lane by construction equipment working on the new Denver Health building. It’s a mess. Do you think Denver can just stick it to motorists who use Broadway without any consequence and justify it simply because they’re from the suburbs? I think it’s naive to think that way.

          • MT

            6th Ave is not a mess. The Broadway bike lane is not a nightmare.
            You continually declare disaster where there is none.

            You have no justification for keeping Broadway in its current condition. Both 6th and Broadway have way more capacity than they need. It’s already been shown that the amount of traffic currently on Broadway easily fits with one less lane. You have no legitimate reason to oppose it.

            One lane is already taken away from car traffic on Broadway in the test section. Traffic does not back up. All the disaster you predicted did not happen.

            If we were to take away more lanes, traffic still would not back up for blocks. People would start to make different choices. People use Broadway currently because it’s a five lane speedway out of town. If it hadn’t been converted into that, people would not be trying to use it that way. If it were changed, people would alter their travel. Maybe use a different route, maybe take the bus or train. maybe choose not to live 40 miles away from where they work.

            Do you think Denver can just stick it to its own residents who live near Broadway without any consequence simply because of the whining of people who chose to live in the suburbs? Apparently you do. We don’t need safe streets or clean air or options for how we get around. Driving through our neighborhood as fast as possible is all that matters.

  • TakeFive

    I was an early skeptic of the So Broadway bike experiment. Afiak though it seems to be functioning just fine. That said bike lanes are a modest piece of the fix. They seem more about pleasing the Epicurean Appetite of the growing residential numbers in the core city and I’m OK with that generally.

    The more important issue though is better transit and necessary funding.

  • Nanci Kerr

    Missing in this discussion is a realistic assessment of the benefits. More people riding bikes rather than driving cars intuitively seems like a good idea. Is there geographically specific data showing the number of vehicle trips shifted to bike trips with a protected bike lane? Reasonably accounting for Denver weather – snow, ice, rain, cold, daylight and heat, how many days a year are available to comfortably travel by bike in both the AM and PM? What about the physical condition of Denver drivers? Really, what percent of drivers are capable of riding a bike to replace a trip typically taken in a car? How are conditions like disability, age, weight, limited riding skills, or fear considered? Of the vehicle trips per day on Broadway, what percent are commercial and unlikely to be converted to bike trips? How many are delivery trucks, work trucks, buses, taxis, Uber and Lyft drivers, etc.? Lastly, what are the purposes of trips made in cars? For example, my work requires me to dress professionally. No matter how committed I am to the cause, I’m not riding a bike in a skirt and heels. I’m just not going to bring a personal prep bag to freshen up before business meetings. That’s a bridge too far. What data is available to support a significant number of Denver drivers will become bike riders with a protected bike lane? I really want to know. Thank you.

    • MT

      I find it funny how often people complain that not everyone is able to ride a bike but never acknowledge how many people are not able to drive a car.

      • Nanci Kerr

        I don’t know the answer to either question. What percent of the population isn’t able drive a car? Or, what percent of the population isn’t able to ride a bike? Moreover, what percent of the population can do one, but not the other, or neither. Answers to these questions are important and relevant when determining how to allocate tax payer dollars to transportation.

    • Anthony

      Great comment, Nanci.

      Approximately 10% of riders on a separated bike lane shift from other modes ( A similar evaluation in Toronto found 24 percent of new riders switching from driving (

      Protected bike lanes are more likely to promote bicycle transportation for women (

      The Hawthorne Bridge in Portland sees approximately 55% fewer riders in its lowest month compared to its highest count month. Portland has more rainy/gloomy days in the winter than Denver and has fewer hours of daylight in the winter than Denver. (

      I’m not exactly sure the best way to measure physical condition… Typically, Coloradans are considered more active and healthy than others throughout the country. But, according to the American Community Survey, 11.2% of people over 18 years old in Metro Denver have a disability of some kind compared to 10.1% of people in Metro Portland and 13.0% in Seattle. That doesn’t distinguish between ambulatory difficulty or anything else, but it’s potentially a starting point?

      Denver Public Works has a fact sheet that identifies existing conditions and the things they measured. They did not distinguish between types of vehicles. Part of that rationale may be simply because the street is nowhere near capacity, but that’s just speculation on my part. For example, they measured during peak hour lanes with 400, 600, 650, 530, and 200 vehicles; distributing 400 vehicles across the three non-transit lanes leaves Broadway well below capacity (approximately 1,300 vehicles per lane). It’s wise to not forget to provide space for passenger and delivery pickup and dropoff, of course. That may be a good comment to make on their Denver Moves Broadway website so they can collect that data.

      24% of people riding bikes were women in 2009. The League of American Cyclists found that 47% of “interested but concerned” cyclists were women, yet more than half of those surveyed (53%) indicated they would ride more frequently with bike lanes and bike paths. The top concerns listed were distracted driving (73%) and speed of cars (65%), and 94% indicated separated bike lanes made them safer. Unfortunately, just 1/3 of women have had success finding clothing and gear that fits their style. That last little bit is something I know many women are trying to overcome, but right now 89% of bike shops are owned by men.

      One of the things that profoundly shaped how and why I view biking as an important tool was brought to my attention during a Bike to Work Wednesday when I lived in Phoenix. A women I started riding next to started telling me her story. She is epileptic. She tried riding the bus for a time to get to and from work (she was a paralegal or attorney, I believe; whatever she did for work I remember being inspired and it definitely had something to do with helping children, but ultimately I just remembered her and her personal story rather than her vocation) but it was inconvenient and it took forever. She’s unable to drive because of her condition, so she jumped on a bike. While we were riding she had a seizure, which affected her upper body. She lifted her hands off the handlebars and rode through the seizure before resuming as if nothing had happened. This is the woman I think about when I get responses about how hard or inconvenient or whatever the case is to ride a bike. For this woman, biking was her only real viable form of transportation, despite her salary, education, and any other advantage she may have had going for her. People like her are often left out of the discussion, and I think it’s important to remember people like her who don’t have the convenience of deciding not to ride a bike in a skirt. But one cool thing about biking is there are thousands of women who already have life hacks that may be able to help you get out and ride more frequently! One of which my wife has found especially useful I’ve linked here:

      I hope I answered some of your questions, but understand that I may not have especially since none of the studies I cited specifically reference Denver and you were looking for geographically relevant data. But I will close with this: Denver has over 300 days of sunshine. Compare Denver’s climate to Portland, Amsterdam, and Copenhagen:
      Denver, 14.3 inches of rain, 33 snowy days, 3106 annual hours of sunlight
      Amsterdam, 33 inches of rain, 26 snowy days, 1662 hours of sunlight
      Copenhagen, 20.5 inches of rain, 21.4 snowy days, 1780 hours of sunlight
      Portland, 36 inches of rain, 4.4 snowy days, 2340 hours of sunlight

      • Nanci Kerr

        Thank you, Anthony, for the thoughtful reply. It is very much appreciated.

        If this public policy issue garnered the attention of the DBJ editor, it’s probably time to collect accurate and geographically relevant data to inform the decision making process. That may be a more effective approach to persuading the middle or ambivalent, like me.

    • MT

      I’d add that providing safe routes for biking is not just about replacing car trips with bike trips, but giving mobility to people who wouldn’t be driving.

  • Dave Nellis

    I just want to know what the planned endgame is. Broadway probably initially built without much eye to the future. But then it was widened, and then widened, and now we’re widening it again. Denver is going to grow for generations. Broadway can’t. So pick your damn number of cars it should handle at peak, and then everything else has to be compromises. Buses, biking, walking, etc. We have the same dumb argument with I70. The planners can actually tell you approximately what year the planned improvements will no longer be adequate. Eventually we have to say “the road can’t get wider” and then deal with it. Why not deal with it now? Isn’t it wide enough? Do you have ownership in a road construction firm or cement factory or something? Really, what’s your motive?

    On south Federal they are literally tearing down buildings to make space for the road to get wider. How meta is that? Giving people fewer places to go is certainly a way to control traffic. Maybe we should raze all the buildings between Lincoln and Broadway to make room for a REALLY BIG ROAD. I bet that idea gets the developers out there EXCITED. Let’s just turn Denver into traffic because that’s what a great city is. A bunch of commuting.

  • Have you read the DRCOG 2040 Fiscally-Constrained Regional Transportation Plan, which was new just two years ago?

    Among its highlights are a population increase to 4.3 to 4.4 million people in the Metro-Denver area by 2040, as well as a more than doubling in severe E & F road congestion, due to the fact that RTD is 79% short on projected needs funding through 2040, mainly due to grandiosity in building the unfinished FasTracks system. Right now RTD has laid-off staff and is deferring maintenance on its aging buses because they are so broke.

    Do remember that if and when RTD gets any more money there are two promised light rail lines that remain unfinished, both in the north metro area, now two years after their original scheduled completion date, which need to be completed first before considering any more transit improvements.

    How would you feel if you had been scammed by RTD? The north metro area has several TOD projects finished just waiting for our promised trains which should have been finished two years ago.. We paid our fair share and we have nothing to show for what we have paid except broken promises, and may not see our FasTracks rail lines completed for another 25 years or more now.

    CDOT is also 68% short on projected needs funding through 2040 and even bike route funding is 58% short also. Now the militant bicycle crowd downtown wants to divert critical highway funding to their pet bike lane projects even though total bike ridership in Metro-Denver only amounts to 3% of commuting traffic. They also want to steal our north metro rail transit funds to fund other transit improvements in the city first, even though bike riders don’t pay a dime in use taxes.

    I have a brilliant idea that I think makes perfect sense. If the inner-city bicycle Nazis doesn’t want us north metro car drivers coming downtown I personally feel that working from home makes a lot more sense than fighting our way downtown and back 5 days per-week at up to 90 minutes each way on our woefully-congested highways. Not only would this greatly reduce local air pollution and carbon emissions but suburban bars and restaurants are far less-expensive than bars and restaurants downtown too.

    Have you ever heard of the Federal Highway Administration’s MAP-21 plan and/or their Fast Act? You know what happens to cities that can’t seem to keep local Interstate freeways from becoming gridlocked all day long? The FHWA will use our own Federal highway funds to force a reduction in congestion to benefit the freight industry both locally, Statewide and nationally, leaving whatever other projects we have planned in the lurch.

    I grew-up in an urban area that was 4.5 million people in 1970 and already have more than 30 years of experience in the trucking and wholesale food distribution industry. It sounds to me like stealing highway and transit funds to pay for bike lanes will result in even more congestion, which will result in further driving supply costs up in the city.

    Is that what you car-haters want so badly, to be forced to pay double or triple for groceries than you do now, as well as discourage auto commuters from coming down to the city, and negatively impact the competitiveness of Denver businesses that are dependent on time-sensitive freight delivery too? How much freight can you haul on a bicycle or on a city bus anyway?

    Why should buses have dedicated lanes on city streets? Perhaps delivery trucks ought to have dedicated lanes instead if you want to keep costs down, and perhaps north metro commuters should also have dedicated lanes so that they don’t decide against coming downtown to spend their money too?

    Is it my imagination or does the average bicycle rider have a far more-limited worldview than the average car driver? Is Metro-Denver a major urban area or is it a collection of little feuding neighborhoods whose residents can’t for whatever reason see the bigger picture? Today 80% or more of Metro-Denver residents drive and even if we spent another $10 billion on mass transit and bike lanes 75% of residents would still drive as their primary method of transportation too.

    The way that I see it living in a city that is so high cost that you can’t afford to drive is a choice that you have made, as there plenty of housing available in Denver’s suburbs that is so much less=expensive than housing near downtown that there is plenty of income left over to buy and drive a car too.

    Now if you want suburban residents to quit coming down to the city to work or spend their money my suggestion is to adopt policies that gridlock the roads we must all use and pretty soon we will find somewhere else more-responsible to locate businesses as well as to take our business to also.



Thursday’s Headlines

Cars don’t have to press a button to cross the street, so why should pedestrians? CDOT prioritizes cars over bikes on the collapsed segment of U.S. 36. The Colorado Rockies ban scooter riding near Coors Field during games. More headlines ...