MLK Blvd and 31st Ave Are Getting New Bike Lanes. Will They Be Protected?

Protected bike lanes on this pair of east-west streets would clearly be the most effective option to improve safety and make more people comfortable getting around on bikes.

Image: DPW
Image: DPW

Denver Public Works will install new bike lanes on stretches of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and 31st Avenue, two parallel one-way streets that connect Curtis Park with neighborhoods to the east.

When finished, they’ll plug holes in the bike network, connecting residential areas with three schools, parks, the 30th and Downing RTD station, and bikeway links to downtown. The new bike lanes will run between Elizabeth and Downing streets.

Both MLK Boulevard and 31st Avenue currently have a mix of painted bike lanes and sharrows, which don’t provide protection from car traffic. With posted speed limits of 35 mph on MLK and 30 mph on 31st, people on bikes will need some physical protection from motor vehicles to feel safe.

DPW is considering protected bike lanes, said Rachael Bronson, a bike planner with DPW. Buffered but unprotected bike lanes — like on Champa Street — are another option.

If the city wants to get more people bicycling, protected lanes are clearly the way to go here. But as we’ve seen, most recently on Stout Street, complaints from a few residents can water down bike lane designs.

Denverites who support bike infrastructure that’s safe for everyone, including kids and seniors, can help put better designs over the top. DPW will hold two public meetings about the project, one on August 2 and one on September 26, where you can tell city officials you want safe bike infrastructure on these streets. The bike lanes should be implemented sometime in 2018.

  • internetpoints

    Drivers are MUCH faster than 35mph on MLK’s wide lanes. Terrible cycling experience in existing striped lanes to the east. Neighborhood streets a block or two north or south are much better options than those lanes as they are. Significant protection should be mandatory along with traffic slowing measures. Why doesn’t denver have more speeding/red light cameras before more expensive street redesigns can be completed?

    • Recorded speeds on both streets is listed below (with a definition of percentiles)
      The 85th Percentile Speed is the speed that 85 percent of vehicles do not exceed. Another way of looking at this is that only 15 percent of vehicles go faster than this speed, and 85 percent go at or below this speed. Both streets are posted at 30mph.

      31st Ave (Lafayette – Humboldt)
      50th Percentile : 30 MPH
      85th Percentile : 35 MPH

      31st Ave (York – Gaylord)
      50th Percentile : 24 MPH
      85th Percentile : 34 MPH

      MLK (York – Gaylord)
      50th Percentile : 30 MPH
      85th Percentile : 35 MPH

      MLK (Lafayette – Humboldt)
      50th Percentile : 24 MPH
      85th Percentile : 33 MPH

  • Washergrampa

    Oh man, it’s about time! internetpoints is right that drivers on MLK are crazy fast and this section always makes me twitch when I hear a car coming up behind me. Hopefully DPW will add a buffer since there’s so much pavement out there. It always amazes me when I get buzzed on 31st when the vehicle lanes have to be at least 13 feet wide.

  • John Riecke

    I used to bike these every day to commute and it’s not for the faint of heart. Protection is warranted, preferably past Elizabeth and all the way past Central Park in Stapleton. Problem in this section is that the space will have to be taken from somebody, drivers or parking. It’s gonna be a fight once the people who live along these streets find out.

    • The lanes are something crazy like 13′ wide currently. Seems that only a few parking spots per block will be lost with a protected bike lane while keeping all the lanes of traffic for some of the proposed plans.

    • Stevie

      I bike commuted this last year from Clayton. I couldn’t agree more with your perspective. I’ve never been so scared for my life with cars cut me off and then swerving in front of me slamming their brakes so I nearly hit their car. I was holding my space on the street and was trying to safely ride my bike (there are tons of potholes). The problems I had were right when the bike lane ended (ironically at the the bus stop) and merged with traffic and busses. Honestly I don’t know how I’m alive today after a few drivers were aggressive and pissed off I was on the road on my way to work. When bike lanes were present MLK turning into Champa I didn’t have any issues. But when bike lanes aren’t present cars purposely tried to run me over. It was terrifying no matter how experienced of a bike commuter you are. I stopped bike commuting that direction after a near death experience even though that’s the quickest route. I will be there at the public meetings in favor of it. There’s plenty of street parking on the side streets for people to park a block away — I agree they might fight this, but it was to be done if we want people to bike more. Safety has to be a priority.