In the broad scheme of things, Denver is a great city for bike riding - especially recreational riding. We have a system of bike trails that run for hundreds of miles over the whole metropolitan area.
These paths are WONDERFUL because they are for bikes and pedestrians only, and the majority of them are constructed right along either waterways, highways, or rail lines - meaning that they bypass intersections almost entirely via a system of underpasses and bridges. It really is biking bliss.
|The Cherry Creek Bike Path|
So while there are literally hundreds of miles of paved paths that are fantastic for recreational riding, they're not terribly useful if your goal is transportation - unless, of course, you don't mind riding about 20 miles out of your way to get where you're going!
But Denver has really been encouraging people to bike for transportation and in recent years the city has even created a bicycle rental program.
They've also added a whole slew of bike lanes. The problem with the bike lanes is that the vast majority of them are in what's known as the "door zone" which just scares the pants off of me.
|Photo Credit: www.humantransport.org|
The other thing is that bike lanes do nothing to address the problem of intersections, where the vast majority of bike-car accidents take place. In fact, bike lanes can often worsen the problem because it puts cyclists right into the path of turning vehicles.
But, Denver has recently received a grant to build a few "protected bike lanes" and I'll be curious to see how it turns out. I think the money will mostly be used downtown, and from what I understand they're basically bike lanes with barriers between the bikes and cars. Something like this:
This would certainly be a vast improvement, moving the parked cars to the inside of the bikes and creating a physical buffer... but it still seems that there must be a better way.
Enter my pipe dream.
So - the background story: CatMan and I went for a long ride last week which took us through Red Rocks, and up over something known as Dinosaur Ridge, which, as you might guess, got its name because the area is full of dinosaur footprint fossils.
We had wanted to ride up the ridge for a while, but the road is very narrow with no shoulder, and we were a bit concerned about dodging cars.
However... I had heard that the road was recently closed to automobile traffic, and that they were basically converting the area into a park, so we decided to give it a try - and it was FABULOUS!
The road is still the same as it always has been, but they've re-designated it so that half of it is for bikes only, and the other half is shared by pedestrians and a little shuttle bus which takes the non-walking crowd up and over the ridge.
I fear I was too busy huffing and puffing my way up the hill to stop and take a photo, but the layout basically looks like this:
The experience reignited a little bike lane dream that I've had for some time now. It's always seemed to me that instead of trying to take relatively busy streets and add bike lanes to them, it would make much more sense to take relatively quiet streets and convert them into bike and parking only streets.
At the moment, Denver has a lot of residential streets that are laid out something like this:
They're not the greatest for bike riding because there's not a lot of room for cars to pass you and you pretty much have to take the lane in order to stay out of the door zone.
But these streets don't usually have a huge amount of traffic - they're mostly used by the people who live there, and by folks looking to circumvent busier streets.
So, what if we took a few of those streets and re-designated them for bike and parking use only using a model similar to the Dinosaur Ridge road - I'm envisioning something like this:
With the use of barriers and right turn only designations at the intersections, you could ensure that there would be no thru traffic, and also keep cyclists out of the path of most of the turning vehicles.
There would still be cross-traffic to deal with at intersections, but that could be mitigated through the use of stop signs and lights, and it would be a VAST improvement over the current situation.
I'm not suggesting that this should be done on all residential streets - just a handful laid out in a grid pattern, creating a system of "cycling arterials" if you will.
There would be little impact to the residents living on those streets, since by angling the parking you'd be able to keep pretty much the same number of total parking spaces per block. My bet is that property values would improve significantly on those streets because there would be much less traffic and congestion.
OK. I realize it's probably WAY too much to hope for - hence the pipe dream part. I mean, it would require a complete shift in mindset, which, experience tells me, is not easy to accomplish. But hey, a girl can dream, can't she?
So, what do you think? Is my idea totally crazy? Is there some reason (other than the obvious lack of political willpower) that it wouldn't work?
I'd love to hear what you think, and I'd also love to hear how your city or area deals with the whole bicycle vs. automobile traffic conundrum.