The Denver Department of Transportation and Infrastructure (DOTI) recently completed construction of a new protected bike lane on West 17th Avenue between Sheridan and Federal Boulevards in the Sloan’s Lake and West Colfax neighborhoods. They are to be applauded for their efficiency in building this bike lane within a short period of six months from the first community meeting on it.
As a neighborhood resident, I have seen that it often takes years for a bike lane project to go through numerous iterations and designs. So it was quite refreshing to see this done so quickly and efficiently.
First, DOTI coordinated the installation of the bike lane with the scheduled resurfacing of the street to save money. By constructing the bike lane at the same time the street resurfacing was scheduled, the department realized economies of scale compared to resurfacing and installing the bike lane as two separate projects.
Coordinated scheduling also reduced the impacts of detours and construction on the neighborhood by running two projects at once, providing improved quality of life while routine maintenance is performed.
Second, their community input process was quick but meaningful. It didn’t last for years. They listened to the community and quickly made decisions that incorporated resident feedback.
Communications on the bike lane design began in March 2022. They received input from the community and made decisions quickly. They informed the Registered Neighborhood Organizations, offices of the two local city councillors, and held both virtual and in-person open houses in the neighborhood to gather information.
Third, the project incorporated designs that make the street safer for all members of the community. The protected bike lane design used along much of the corridor has not only been shown to make the street safer and more comfortable for bicyclists, but also research from the University of Colorado Denver shows that it also makes the road safer for pedestrians and drivers by calming traffic.
With two elementary schools, a middle school and a private high school along the corridor, it will be a welcome amenity for families who want to bike to school.
In addition, DOTI included a pedestrian island to make the road safer for crossing into Sloan’s Lake Park, and added additional crosswalks and improved Americans with Disabilities Act compliant pedestrian ramps along the street for better access. accessibility. The bike lane has also made crossing West 17th Avenue easier for pedestrians by reducing space to cross the street.
The design is not perfect. For example, bike lane designs at intersections like Federal and Sheridan could use some improvements, as the design puts bicyclists between two car lanes just inches away from vehicles. A protected intersection design could allow for massive improvements in the safety and comfort of people biking and walking on two of the major streets in Denver’s high-injury network.
Another safety issue with the design is that the protected bike lane disappears for several blocks near the commercial area between Stuart and Osceola streets to preserve on-street parking. This means that people on bikes will ride close to parked cars, at risk of being “locked in” when someone gets out of their vehicle, a style of bike lane that is neither comfortable nor safe for most cyclists. This was done despite research that protected bike lanes replacing parking generally have a neutral, if not positive, impact on nearby retail stores.
That said, despite these two flaws, we must not let perfection be the enemy of good improvements to make Vision Zero safer and empower residents to make more sustainable transportation decisions.
Many of the DOTI planners I met at these community meetings are incredibly capable people who use bicycles to get around town and have a good intuition for what kinds of designs members of the community will like and use.
The change has been very well received by the neighborhood, and I have noticed many more people on scooters, bikes and wheelchairs moving from one side of the street to the other since it was installed.
A government organization like DOTI is to be applauded for building this lane so quickly and efficiently while incorporating community feedback. I’m glad they innovated and tried something new that worked.