In the early months of 2013, Denver will reach a new milestone: 100 miles of bike lanes! The achievement is the result of a broader push to expand the City’s bicycle transportation network that began in 2008, and has seen the number of bike lanes more than double. At the same, just two years into the growth spurt, the U.S. Census American Commuter Survey reported a 2.2% bicycle mode share in Denver – more than four times the national .5% average.
Since 2008, Denver has added lanes in the downtown core and almost every quandrant of the City with an aim to safely accommodate increased ridership by improving and expanding Denver’s bicycle corridors. Two key City goals that will continue to drive the expansion are listed in the May 2011 Denver Moves Plan which aims to:
“Create a biking and walking network where every household is within a quarter mile (5-minute walk or 2-minute bicycle ride) of a high ease of use facility.”
Achieve a 15% bicycling and walking commute mode share by 2020.”
The push for more bikes lanes has come in part because of the City’s commitment to become more multi-modal, and the shift can be traced to 2008 when Mayor Hickenlooper got behind the greening of the Democratic National Convention and the subsequent launch of Denver Bike Sharing. Denver, like other bike-friendly cities, is also experiencing a renaissance brought about by economic and environmental forces that are driving home the reality that bicycling saves money, and is a convenient and sustainable way to get around town.
Many of the new bike lanes that were striped last year were identified as priorities during the Denver Moves planning effort. But sometimes, the need for a bike lane can emerge for different, or even multiple reasons. Bike lanes can be called for by communities as part of a grassroots effort, identified as a traffic calming option, or implemented because of a safety issue. The Denver Public Works Complete Streets policy that BikeDenver successfully advocated for in 2011 is yet another reason. The policy requires the department to look at the opportunity and need for pedestrian and bicycle features to be included every time a street comes up for maintenance or re-paving. The birth of the brand new bike lane on Exposition Avenue offers a great case study of how the Complete Streets policy, Denver Moves plan, and safety considerations all play a role in the build-out of our bicycle network.
The Exposition Avenue Example:
Cherry Creek’s Exposition Avenue bike lane runs from Washington Park (Franklin Street) to Colorado Boulevard; connecting to Denver’s major bike routes, servicing the Knight Academy Elementary School, and offering a key east-west connection to the Bonnie Brae neighborhood and Glendale. It is framed to the north and south by neighborhoods with no through access, and offers the only option for people on bikes traveling east-west, without going north to Cherry Creek Drive or south to Mississippi. Prior to 2012, Exposition Avenue was a designated bike route considered too narrow for bike markings, but when the street was slated to be repaved, that opened the opportunity for review. Because Exposition has historically been a popular throughway for bicyclists it was already identified as a priority project in the Denver Moves plan. When re-paving was scheduled in 2011, officials at Denver Public Works reviewed the project as called for by their departmental Complete Streets policy, determined a need and opportunity for a heightened facility, and directed a process that widened the space available for a bike lane. The new lane was striped in the spring of 2012. Alex Mehn, Communications Manager at Transportation Solutions, a non-profit focusing on managing transportation demands in Southeast Denver, commented on the addition of the bike lane:
“Exposition Avenue is the perfect example of a well-designed bike lane—separated from traffic, connecting multiple major routes, and serving both a school and Washington Park. We need more lanes like Exposition crisscrossing our city and providing the needed connections to support safe, accessible bicycling in Denver.”
The Mayor’s Bicycle Advisory Committee supported the improvements, noting that there were 12 documented accidents along the corridor from 2002-2011, and that the lane would improve connectivity for riders and increase safety for all road users. John Hayden, Chair of the Mayor’s Bicycle Advisory Committee, highlighted the benefits to local residents as well as commuters, saying:
“Exposition serves as a direct connection between schools, grocery stores, parks, and business districts. A safe facility is important for people with children, as well for the safety and health of local communities.”
Denver’s love affair with bike lanes will grow even more in 2013, as the City is set to roll out a number of new projects including the long-awaited bicycle facility on 15th street that will include new features like colored lane markings, colored bike boxes and textured surface treatments that seek to enhance both visibility and safety. BikeDenver and our partners are working with the City to expand facilities as well as to introduce new ones like the protected bike lanes that are popular in other cities like Washington D.C., Chicago, and San Francisco.
One thing is certain: ridership in Denver will continue to grow, creating increased demand for more safe and convenient bicycle access throughout Denver, and the next four years will be a pivotal period as the City works to evolve on pace with local and national trends in bicycling.
Where Denver Ranks
The top 20 bike-commuting cities according to the 2010 U.S. Census American Commuter Survey numbers for 70 largest U.S. cities:
- Portland* (6.0%)
- Seattle* (3.6%)
- San Francisco* (3.5%)
- Minneapolis* (3.5%)
- Washington, D.C.* (3.1%)
- Tucson (3%)
- Sacramento (2.5%)
- Denver (2.2%)
- Tampa (1.9%)
- Philadelphia* (1.8%)
*Cities with built or planned protected bike lanes