Eyes on the Street: Public Works Gives Southeast Denver a Buffered Bike Lane and a Road Diet

Photo: David Sachs
Photo: David Sachs

Until recently, Monaco Parkway (aka Ulster Street, Princeton Avenue, and Quebec Street, depending on the segment) in southeast Denver was one-dimensional. Drivers sped freely because of expansive lanes while people biking had no place to ride safely.

That reality has changed.

This week Denver Public Works delivered on its promise to reorganize the street with a bike lane buffered from traffic with lines of paint. To make room for the bikeway, the streets department repurposed one general travel lane — it put the roadway on a diet. Engineers say the slim-down will calm dangerous driving speeds.

Monaco remains two travel lanes on some portions. On others, the volume of cars simply doesn’t command that much space, according to DPW traffic counts.

“What we do when we consider a road diet is vehicle counts to actually get an adequate reading of how many people are actually going on a road at a time,” said David Pulsipher, the city’s head pedestrian and bicycle planner. “We know through engineering best practices that we can accommodate the traffic with one travel lane.”

Photo: David Sachs
Photo: David Sachs

This redesign is a win for people-friendly streets, especially in a suburban part of the city aching for more transportation options. The two-mile bikeway runs right to the Southmoor RTD station, past the Denver Tech Center where 35,000 people work, and weaves past residential neighborhoods, an elementary school, and a park. People on bikes can connect to and from the Belleview station, too, via the Union Avenue bike lane.

But, stop me if you’ve heard this before, not everyone’s happy.

City Councilwoman Kendra Black, who supports the redesign, said she received “hundreds of negative responses” from constituents, but also “hundreds” of positive ones. She’s experienced the new street herself on a bike and in a car during morning and afternoon rush hours.

“It’s great,” she said. But Black said she understands the complaints. She knew the bikeway was coming eventually — it’s been on the books for years — but the timing was a surprise to her. She would’ve liked to share traffic stats with concerned residents, who may not understand the thrilling science of street design, beforehand. She’ll host a public meeting in October instead.

Regardless of how certain people feel, this street design aligns with the stated goals of the Hancock administration and Denver City Council — to give people options beyond driving while making streets safer for all. Denver’s streets belong to everyone. It’s up to city leadership to back up its planners and engineers in making sure they’re organized that way.

Photo: David Sachs
Photo: David Sachs

As with every case of “bike-lash,” the Monaco bikeway will become the new normal, and the sky will remain intact above.

DPW should do itself a favor, however, and finish painting this thing. It’s missing those iconic bicyclist symbols as well as some hash marks on the buffer. And that’s not good: