Fifteenth Street in Denver is more than a heavily used roadway for cars and RTD busses. It is also the path depended on by bicyclists on their way to downtown, the Highlands and beyond. With no viable alternative, bicyclists must manage 15th street and its three lanes of traffic. Faced with this dilemma, many commuters elect to ride the sidewalk while many others decide not to ride at all.
Denver Public Works responded to this issue by designing a plan to improve 15th street to incorporate a strategy to protect bicyclists and ensure a safe passage for all commuters. This plan, made public in January and known as the 15th street bike facility, will use innovative tools to ensure better safety. These new methods include painted bike lanes and “boxes,” as well as signage and a “queue jump signal,”which will allow bicyclists a head start ahead of traffic at a critical intersection.
While excited with this progress, many citizens in the bicycle community were not satisfied with the proposal. The main concern was the absence of a “vertical separation,” a physical barrier between bikes and traffic. A petition was started, and more than 800 signatures were collected. It was clear that further dialogue was necessary, and I was happy to organize a meeting to facilitate this discussion.
With the help of Councilwomen Judy Montero and Susan Shepherd, a conversation was organized to feature concerned cyclists and members of Denver Public Works, including Manager José Cornejo. Through that discussion, a decision was made to add an additional phase to the existing plans. This year, public works will install a painted bike lane with accompanying signage as detailed above. In 2014, Denver will enjoy its first vertically separated bike lane.
Recent vehicular incidents impacting pedestrians and bicyclists highlight the need for Denver to continue to assess its infrastructure and educate its citizens on sharing the road and obeying the law. Dialogue between the City and the citizenry will help achieve an end result to keep all parties safe and satisfied.