City Council Won’t Seek Funding Increase for Bike Lanes

But electeds will ask the mayor for more sidewalk money.

Photo: David Sachs
Photo: David Sachs

Yesterday, Denver City Council members decided against a request for more bike lane funds from Mayor Michael Hancock, even though his proposed 2018 budget calls for funding levels that won’t complete the city’s planned bike network until 2042.

City Councilman Jolon Clark asked his colleagues to push for $3.5 million for bike lane installation, up from the $2.5 million proposed by Hancock. But the motion, which was decided by a quick show of hands, failed by one vote. Councilwoman Mary Beth Susman would have cast the decisive vote in favor of the funding increase, but she was absent. Susman gave her proxy vote to Clark, she told Streetsblog, but their colleagues would not let her have a voice without being physically present. She was attending a funeral.

That means bike lane funding will remain flat at $2.5 million for the third straight year if nothing changes between now and the budget’s final adoption later this month. Failing to increase the city’s support undermines the Council’s stated commitment to prioritize the build-out of the city’s bike plan, Denver Moves Bicycles [PDF].

Completing Denver’s planned bike network would take until 2042 at current funding levels, even if voters approve an addition $18 million for the plan included in the November bond measure, Clark said.

“We cannot seriously ask people to shift their mode and look at switching to a bicycle when our level of commitment to building out infrastructure for that is that far down the road,” Clark said.

On a brighter note, the Council will ask Hancock for an additional $2.5 million to build new sidewalks, restoring a line item from last year’s budget. If the mayor agrees, that would bring total funding for new sidewalks in this year’s budget to $4.4 million, on top of about $4 million to help low-income Denverites repair sidewalks.

Even so, the need for sidewalk construction is much larger. “The funding levels that we’re at now are just a shade above drop-in-the-bucket,” said City Councilman Paul Kashmann, who proposed the funding bump. To put things in perspective, WalkDenver estimates that it will cost $600 million to fill in sidewalk gaps and bring existing sidewalks up to snuff.

Some other transportation items that council members will ask Hancock to include in his budget document:

  • $333,000 for a “traffic demand management” study of how different incentives can change transportation behavior.
  • $195,000 to redesign the highway cloverleaf at Colfax and Federal as a more human-scale intersection.
  • $93,000 for a Safe Routes to School coordinator.
  • $60,000 for 10 displays that show drivers how fast they’re going and record data.

Council members also considered but in the end voted against asking for funds for the following:

  • $250,000 to study walking, biking, and transit improvements to South Colorado Bouleveard.
  • $250,000 to study walking, biking, and transit improvements around the Southmoor RTD station.

Hancock will submit his final budget to the City Council later this month for approval. The public will have a chance to weigh in at public hearings, so the goose isn’t cooked yet.

This article was updated to include Susman’s comments.