Commentary: The 18-Year Plan to Complete Denver’s Bike Network Is Unacceptable

On Aug. 2, about 140 people participated in a Critical Mass ride to protest the recent deaths of bicyclists. Photo: Andy Bosselman
On Aug. 2, about 140 people participated in a Critical Mass ride to protest the recent deaths of bicyclists. Photo: Andy Bosselman

Avi Stopper, whose Bike Streets project created a map of low-stress bike routes in Denver, wrote this open letter to Denver street safety advocates.

We learned the other day that the city’s plan to complete its bike network will take 18 years. In a word, that’s unacceptable. Traffic violence and congestion are on the rise. The EPA just downgraded our air quality. And the UN tells us that the climate change time bomb detonates in 10 years. 18 years is unacceptable.

For the last year, along with volunteers from across Denver, I’ve been exploring an alternative to the city’s inadequate plan. We call it the Bike Streets Project. The project has a simple credo: “Anyone, irrespective of age, background, or ability, should be able to ride a bike to any destination. Not in 2037. Now.” This ability to move around our community should align with the interests of neighbors who want less cut-through traffic, lower speeds, and more green space in their neighborhoods. The Bike Streets plan itself is simple:

  1. Create a new bike map of quiet, neighborhood streets.

  2. Get lots of people to ride bikes on those streets.

  3. Demand investments on those streets from the city.

Some of you have pointed out that the Bike Streets concept is imperfect. I share that view. There are cars on these streets, wayfinding is nonexistent, sometimes the routes aren’t the most direct, and there are sections where you have to get off your bike and walk. And yet, having ridden 5,000 miles on these streets to get pretty much everywhere in town — often with many of you, my children, and less confident riders — I’m optimistic that we might be onto something. It’s also quite possible that this isn’t the solution. But I have a simple request: join me on this exploration and let’s find out.

Specifically, I want to invite you to take the Bike Streets September Challenge to ride to 10 destinations on Bike Streets in September.

You don’t have to abandon your favorite route to work. Instead, I’m asking you to use Bike Streets to visit new places, explore the city, and take your bike-curious-but-scared friends out on rides. Then I’d like to hear what you think. How can we improve the routes? How do we get even more people to ride? How can we build a movement that gives city leaders no choice but to invest right now?

When the people lead, the leaders will follow.

If you’d like to discuss, please join me at Denver Beer Co. on Wednesday, 8/21 at 5:30. Beers are on me.

In solidarity,

Avi Stopper

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