An open mind on Denver’s clunky Broadway bike lane

Count us among those who are not fans of the temporary two-way bike lane installed for six blocks on Denver’s busy South Broadway.

The design feels clunky, plopped on a busy thoroughfare to intentionally discourage commuters from taking this efficient cut-through from downtown to Interstate 25.

However, we are willing to keep an open mind about the City and County of Denver’s experiment, and we’re glad it will stretch through the end of 2017. And, critically, we support the general direction the city is headed, emphasizing transportation, mobility and transit in the pending plan to ask voters to approve an estimated $800 million to $900 million in general obligation bonds funded with property taxes.

If the South Broadway bike lane is a microcosm of the big-picture debate occurring right now in subcommittees trying to set priorities for the bond money, we hope they can look past big flashy European-based transportation projects to see the need to fund deferred maintenance. We need to take care of the existing infrastructure before we build new.

Yet Denver must do something about the heavy traffic and parking problems that are only growing as this Front Range mecca booms. As The Denver Post’s Jon Murray reported, the city plans to make major thoroughfares transit- and sometimes bike-oriented.  South Broadway carries about 32,000 cars a day out of the city. The previous four lanes of traffic did so effectively even with a fifth lane dedicated only to buses in rush hours.

During a three-month study of the temporary bike lanes from Bayaud Avenue south to Virginia Avenue, the city noted a 5 percent reduction in traffic on the remaining three lanes — meaning about 1,600 cars found alternative routes. Crissy Fanganello, Denver’s director of transportation, says that’s not a statistically significant diversion. Travel times only increased by an average of 9 seconds during rush hour. The finding indicates that any bottleneck effect caused by removing a traffic lane was “offset by improved utilization of the remaining lanes.” Also, although the project may feel a little confusing and overwhelming at first, the study noted fewer crashes and a complete absence of pedestrian- or bicycle-involved crashes during the study.

Those are encouraging early results, but we urge the city to focus the remaining months of their study on potential traffic impacts before the $22 million project literally gets cemented in with curbs that will take away the ugly bollards installed now. The bike lane would eventually extend north from Bayaud to Speer Boulevard, connecting it to the Cherry Creek bike trail. The plan is to stretch the bike lane all the way to downtown Denver. It falls short by not including connectivity south of Interstate 25. That segment of Broadway was recently overhauled and didn’t include a bike lane, which is puzzling if this truly is going to displace commuters.

A 2016 poll conducted by Keating Research, Inc. of 621 people who live in Denver found that Denver Moves Bikes — a detailed plan to build protected bike lanes connecting the city — had broad support, with 48 percent of those polled strongly favoring the plan and 28 percent somewhat favoring the plan. Even when respondents were prompted that it could mean less on-street parking and reduced lanes of traffic, a majority of those polled still strongly or somewhat favored the plan.

Despite our misgivings, also count us among those somewhat in favor of this plan and hoping further study tips the scales.

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Article An open mind on Denver’s clunky Broadway bike lane compiled by www.denverpost.com

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