One Step Closer to Vision Zero: #BikesOnBroadway

by Jill Locantore on August 11, 2016

Bikes on Broadway

New two-way protected bikeway will open on South Broadway August 15!

Article by Kevin Rayes, WalkDenver Policy Committee 

Last February Mayor Hancock announced Denver’s commitment to Vision Zero with the goal of eliminating all traffic-related deaths and serious injuries on Denver’s roadways, particularly for pedestrians and bicyclists. Achieving Vision Zero in Denver is a lofty, but important, goal and presents particular challenges for Denver’s major arterials. Consider the picture below of Broadway, the main arterial connecting downtown with neighborhoods to the south:

Broadway Google Street ViewImage source: Google Street View

In the picture there are no bicycle lanes. There are no bicycle sharrows. There is not even signage letting cars know that bicyclists may be present. Unfortunately the environment portrayed in this photo is all too common in Denver. Bicyclists are in limbo, forced to choose from several unappealing options: ride in fast moving traffic along busy corridors that lack bicycle facilities; compete with buses in dedicated transit lanes; risk getting a fine and coming into conflict with pedestrians by riding on the sidewalk; or follow a potentially safer but much longer route to their final destination. With such a hostile environment, it is unsurprising that there is nobody bicycling in this photo. The unpredictable location of the brave bicyclists who do ride on Broadway compromises the safety of everyone traveling along the corridor.

These types of streets do not bode well for the “Denver Moves: Enhanced Bikeways” plan, which established the goal of a combined walk and bike mode share of 15 percent by 2020. Achieving both this mode share goal and the goal of zero traffic fatalities or serious injuries requires transforming corridors to foster safe walking and biking so that people feel comfortable getting out of their cars.

Thankfully, a new two-way protected bikeway on South Broadway opening on August 15 is a step in the right direction. The bikeway will extend six blocks from Bayaud Avenue to Virginia Avenue, and over the next three months the City will collect extensive data on various measurements including traffic speeds and the number of bicyclists using the bikeway.  The project is part of a larger effort to make Broadway and Lincoln a safer and more vibrant place for all travelers between Colfax and I-25.

Screen Shot 2016-08-10 at 10.31.36 AMThe configuration of Broadway currently and after the new bikeway is implemented.  Image source: City and County of Denver.

The new bikeway has the potential to change several things about the Broadway corridor that will help bring Denver closer to achieving Vision Zero. First, by designating a separated space for bicyclists, Broadway will become more predictable and safer for everyone. A recent study [PDF] of protected bikeways in New York City found that crashes with injuries have been reduced by 17%, and pedestrian injuries are down by 22%.

Second, because bicycling will become safer, it will be more enjoyable, resulting in more bicyclists using the corridor. According to another study, each additional mile of bike lane per square mile in a city is associated with an increase of approximately one percentage point in share of workers regularly commuting by bicycle. Additionally, people living within a half-mile of a bicycle lane are at least 20 percent more likely to bicycle at last once a week compared to those living between one-half and one mile away from the path.

Third, the increase in bicyclists along the corridor will foster safety in numbers, prompting drivers to become more aware of cyclists in the area. This awareness, combined with a reduction in the amount of street space dedicated to vehicles, will help calm traffic speeds, which in turn means that any crashes that do happen are less likely to result in serious injuries or fatalities.  An an analysis of existing conditions [PDF] found that traffic along this stretch of Broadway consistently exceeds the posted speed limit of 30 miles per hour, ranging from 35 to more than 40 miles per hour.  When a car strikes a pedestrian or bicyclists at this speed, it is highly likely the victim won’t survive.

The new protected bikeway may very well stir up controversy among daily drivers who rely on Broadway. Importantly, however, the existing conditions analysis found that Lincoln’s four lanes move about 1,000 more cars than Broadway’s five, suggesting that Broadway can continue to accommodate the same volume of cars despite giving up a vehicular lane for bike travel.

Broadway is one of several busy corridors in Denver desperately needing a makeover so that it can serve all modes of transportation, and not just cars. Between 2008 and 2012, there were 30 bicycle-involved crashes [PDF] along the corridor. For a city that is committed to Vision Zero, that is 30 crashes too many.  The Broadway bicycle lane will be a pivotal piece of the puzzle that will ultimately help Denver achieve Vision Zero.

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