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.

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