Building Bicycle Consensusby , LBC VP Advocacy
I just returned from an eight-day trip to Denver, visiting my new grandson, son and daughter-in-law. It evolved into much more than a visit, however. It became a bicycling advocacy awakening. I found that you can only spend so much time with an eight-month-old child, no matter how cute he might be. I decided to discover Denver via the bicycle.
Armed with a very good cycling map, a wonderful GPS and the Peugeot I “loaned” to my son when he went away to college in 1994, I set out on my “Mile High” adventure. I started out early one morning as a cycling commuter with my son who works as an attorney with a large law firm in the center of downtown Denver. He makes an effort to ride his bicycle to work at least three days a week. In Louisville, the concept of commuting downtown during “rush” hour is still a little imposing, but I discovered that Denver has made a solid commitment to cyclists, making the alternative mode of transportation safe and acceptable.
The marking on the roads and the signage are remarkable. I witnessed creative and extremely utilitarian combined uses of on-road bicycle lanes and sharrows. Sharrows are markings painted directly onto the road consisting of a stencil of a bicycle with two chevrons placed above it. They are designed to function as a guide to encourage safe riding and driving behavior from both bicyclists and motorists.
Many bicycle advocates are particularly attracted to sharrows because they do not need special engineering to be placed on our roadways — they are just much simpler to ‘get done’ without all of the red tape and additional costs associated with bike lane implementation. Unlike bike lanes, sharrows do not create separate bike lanes, rather they are supposed to promote the awareness that the right lane is a shared traffic lane to be used by both motorists and cyclists. Signage on the side of the road reinforces this to both cyclists and motorists.
In Denver both bike lanes and sharrows are used in harmony with one another. Neither is better than the other. Judgment was used to determine which was more appropriate for the specific road circumstances.
I came away with a strong belief that given the right community culture in-city, on-road harmony between autos and bicycles can actually exist. Now Denver is a long way ahead of Louisville in bicycle friendliness. Cycling has been a significant element in Denver lifestyle for decades. They have been rated a top ten “Best Cycling City” for over 10 years and they are the largest population city to receive the League of American Cyclists “Bicycle Friendly City” award. They discovered bicycle “religion” decades ago.
I dropped my son at the YMCA where they provide indoor bicycle parking and showers for the downtown commuters and he pointed me in the direction of his favorite multi-use trail the Cherry Creek Trail. Wow, I thought Washington, DC, had great trails, but Denver’s are even better. I rode over 250 miles on trails during the week without covering the same ground twice and covered less than half of the mileage available in the immediate metro area. The trails were wide and wonderful ... kind of like bicycle superhighways. There were so many of them that a significant number of commuters have the option to use paths for all or part of their routes to work or for play no matter where you want to go.
I saw the “Bike and Ride” lockers at the Light Rail stations on the outskirts of town, bus bike racks everywhere, undercarriage bins for bicycles on regional buses and heard about “loading licenses” for on-board transportation of cycles on light rail. I saw bicycle signage on the entire route of Pena Boulevard to the Denver International Airport. A “proposed” multi-use path is coming for the entire 20-mile route to DIA from Denver metro that will get cyclists off the high speed, limited access road. It seems that planners were required to ask the question not only of how to get cars from one place to another, but also were required to ask — now what’s the best, safest way to get cyclists there — as well.
I came away thinking, “Look where we can go — Louisville.” We have just begun our journey, but we have community leadership that absolutely has discovered that same bicycle “religion” that is present in Denver.
I bought several maps of the Denver bicycle infrastructure that I intend to share with Mayor Abramson and with his bicycle coordinators. Take a look at the maps here. The Louisville Bicycle Club stands strongly with metro leaders on their numerous initiatives designed to lead us in the Denver bicycle–friendly direction. Our latest club endorsement by a 51–2 vote of the Big Four Bridge project is an example of the type of advocacy that will make it happen.
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web posted: 3 Jul 2007
last updated: 4 Jul 2007