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The Competent Connector: A Review of the Bayaud Ave Shared Street

As the hottest days of the summer grind on, I have been trying to explore more of the options that the Denver metro has, food, drink, and otherwise. To me, Broadway is emblematic of these things, having everything from a men’s underwear store (NSFW) to a well known rooftop patio.

This past Sunday, I decided to take a ride on the Bayaud Ave Shared street after helping a nearby friend move, given that I needed to snag groceries from the Safeway on Alameda.

A Highlight of the E Bayaud Shared Street

The Approach

After helping a friend move some furniture on Clarkson, I double backed to Downing Street and took a left unto Bayaud. While in the past I have started slightly earlier in the afternoon for my reviews, time constraints made it so I was delayed until about 3 PM. Additionally, while I tried to document as much as I could, my phone overheated and shut off.

Downing to Pennsylvania

A Small Barricade and Shared Street Sign on the E Bayaud Shared Street

As I headed towards Broadway, the biggest things that I noticed were twofold.

  1. Compared to the 11th and 16th Ave Shared Streets, there were a lot more parked cars
  2. Compared to both streets, the traffic seemed significantly lower

While this may be a function of the fact that the section of Bayaud is harder to access by car due to the adjacent Marion Parkway being shared street as well, it was a welcome sign as I headed westbound.

The intersection of Washington and Bayaud

As I hit Washington, I noted that the curb extensions could potentially be something welcoming for pedestrians, but didn’t think much of it because it didn’t seem like traffic was heavy, which felt odd in a few ways. I passed through, noting that only a handful of cars had gone by me.

Barricades further down towards Pennsylvania on E Bayaud

As I was approaching Pennsylvania, the barricades that typified my last two experiences on shared streets appeared. Rather than being something that narrowed traffic, they acted as a monolith as little car traffic outside of the occasional vehicle passed by me.

As a sidenote, beyond myself there were few active people not in cars out and about, owing itself probably to the heat more than anything else.

Pennsylvania to Sherman

After passing the outdoor dining area on Pennsylvania, I kept heading east. The left picture above is an image that is the typical ingredients to a Shared Street: Sharrows, Signage, and Barricades.

To me, those in their entirety had less impact than the Traffic Circle up ahead. Even less so than another piece of infrastructure: bollards blocking off the entirety of the street to traffic from Lincoln Street.

While I was unable to get a good full photo of the bollards that Sunday, I have an earlier photo I took in the winter, along with the bollards from two angles.

Final Thoughts

To me, this was the closest it felt like to be in a high-comfort bicycle facility outside of being in a protected bike lane or a separated trail. Blocking off major intersections to only local traffic kept the area fairly tame, and the fact that it acted as a connection from the Washington Park area to Baker and South Broadway is incredibly appealing to a rider like myself. The one improvement I would suggest would be to get rid of the temporary barricades, as they seem to force everyone towards the center of the street in unsafe ways. This street embodied what I think helps build competent multimodal connections: restrict cars from using it.

*Featured Image is a section along the Bayaud Shared Street*

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The Unsexy Truth: A Review of the 11th Ave Shared Street

Back in early July, I was going to do a review of the Shared Street just north of Sloan’s Lake. However, recent events, most notably the closure of a Sexy Pizza location after a driver ran a dumpster into the side of the building, warranted a review. While Sexy Pizza is open again as of last Friday, many multi-mobility activists asked the relevant question: if a building distinctly off the Shared Street can be in danger of being damaged, how does that bode to the people that use the Shared Street on a daily basis? I set out to answer this question this past Sunday.

May be an image of text that says 'CAPITOL HILL SEXY PIZZA CLOSED UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE Sexy Pizza wwwsexy.pz 1018'
An image from Sexy Pizza, shortly after a dumpster was pushed into it by a truck

The Approach

Rather than do a West-East approach, I exited Cheesman Park from 12th, turning on Humboldt before riding along the street bound towards the Golden Triangle area.

The length of the Shared Street, highlighted in yellow

The one notable part about the east-most end of the shared street from a cyclist perspective is the fact that the turnoff into Cheesman Park on 11th is much more suited for pedestrians. Noting that, I started heading west

Sexybound

A roundabout on the 11th Ave Shared Street

Heading west, I immediately noticed that the roundabouts on 11th seemed significantly more established than the blockier, orange barricades on 16th. To an extent, it actually did feel like it slowed down car traffic. The westbound route is a slight downhill, with mostly residential buildings surrounding it along with a handful of businesses.

Compared to the 16th Shared street, it felt like there was a slightly larger amount of people in the streets. From runners looking to use the asphalt to their advantage, to rollerbladers using it as a major thoroughfare, the amount of life on 11th Avenue on that early Sunday afternoon seemed almost commendable. It was around the time that I passed Sexy Pizza that I started to notice a change.

Sexy to Emerson, or, the Danger Zone

A Google Streetview of 11th from Corona to Emerson

I intentionally set out to be on this street in early afternoon, mostly in the hope that car traffic would be heavy as people were heading to lunch and leaving brunch at the various businesses along the corridor. What I found at that point in my ride, particularly along Ogden, was increased car traffic in relation to the fact that there was abundant street parking near the various businesses along the corridor. Human traffic had basically vanished as well, with most people on the sidewalks rather than brave the streets. The higher amount of traffic that was known to signify that element of 11th ramped up around that time, making me feel a little unsafe and hesitant to stay and grab more photos.

Emerson to Logan: Or, the Disappearance

Shared street indicators on 11th Ave

As I started heading towards Downtown, much of the main infrastructure associated with the shared street seem to slowly disappear and shrink. The more robust roundabouts closer to Cheesman gave away to the smaller ones, with the street entirely disappearing by the time Logan is hit. To navigate to where I needed to go (the King Soopers on Speer), I had to go up 2 blocks to Sherman and 13th and take a protected bike lane until I hit Speer.

Analysis And Final Thoughts

While the 11th Ave Shared Street had a lot more great places for pedestrians to access, the design once you get to the heavily trafficked corridor from Corona to Emerson is incredibly concerning given it does little to separate riders from motorists. For that stretch, I could see a protected Bike lane being useful as a mechanism to improve the street design. The biggest flaw in design from a rider’s perspective is the lack of direct connective tissue to the 13th Avenue protected bike lane, a valuable resource that is a major west-east connection in Denver. To me, the closest equivalent is the 15th Street Protected Bike Lane, which ends at Larimer Square and offers little guidance beyond sharrows to get from Downtown to the Lower Highlands.

So, how could the street be saved to save Sexy Pizza from getting hit again? Reduction of car usage along it, from taking away parking immediately along it to putting in infrastructure that discourages driving would be two tangible first steps. While to many who see parking as a right, I choose to believe that I am telling an inconvenient, important, and unsexy truth.

*featured image is a photograph of Sexy Pizza when it was closed to repairs*

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DOTI’s Folly: A Review of the 16th Ave Shared Street

This is the first in a series of weekly reviews of shared Streets

In 1867, President Andrew Johnson’s William Seward purchased territory from the Russian Empire that would later become the State of Alaska. While some decried this purchase of unused land at first, likening it to being “Seward’s Folly”, the territory would find success and growth in the later 19th and 20th century, achieving statehood in 1959.

Today, as the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure (DOTI) tries to make good on their promise of building 125 miles of bike lanes, it seems as if they have stumbled upon their own folly in the creation of the 16th Avenue Bikeway, an east/west connection of Lower Downtown and the North Capitol Hill/Uptown area to City Park

The Approach

The 16th Ave Shared Street In Purple, with nearby destination and Neighborhoods for reference

Though I have ridden the bikeway several times because I live close to it, I wanted to get a feel how it would feel during peak traffic time. My solution? Ride during the City Park Jazz Festival that takes place every Sunday, which also happened to coincide with several Pride Events that happened last weekend. I left a little after 6:00 going west to east, and came back around 7:40, right as the Jazz festival was ending.

West/East

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The Entrance to the 16th Ave Shared Street

The west east approach, which starts roughly around Logan and 16th, is a slight climb, with a small downhill on the way to East High School and into City Park.

As I started my climb from the east, the claustrophobia of the design set in. The barriers and roundabouts were designed in such a way that, while it seemed like less cars were on the street, the cars that remained would speed up to narrowly leapfrog me as I headed towards the park. The barriers on both sides of the streets rendered the existing bike lane useless, as all traffic was pushed towards the narrow center. Outside of a couple other bicyclists, I was fairly alone with the cars, with a jogger being the only other person not on a bike in the street. While rainbow adorned revelers of Pride lined the sidewalks, I navigated the shared streets, noting that the bike lane heading towards West was completely filled with parking.

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An Intersection of the Shared Street at 16th and Williams

East-West

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The 16th and Esplanade Way Entrance to the 16th Ave from East High School

While much of the ride back was marked by the fact that I had gotten caught in a downpour that stopped at City Park, the westbound route towards downtown felt a slight bit more pleasant. At the the intersection of 16th and Park Ave, I caught up with a large group ride.

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A Group Ride at 16th and Park

After passing the group, car traffic felt like it was significantly lower than on my ascent eastward. Exiting the Shared Streets, I moved into the bike lane until my turn, and headed home.

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A westbound wayfinding sign

Analysis

Positives

The one benefit that I noticed from this shared street in particular having ridden it prior to it being converted was the fact that car volume overall seemed smaller than when it was a bike lane. Whereas in the past it was a major thoroughfare, it seems like a lot of the traffic has been pushed to other streets.

Negatives

The traffic that did remain on these streets, however, felt all squished together. The placement of the plastic barricades in a lot of circumstances did the reverse of what was needed to slow down traffic, encouraging motorists to speed up so they could “race” somebody on a bike to a stoplight or a roundabout barricade to get to their destination faster.

The question of whether it was truly a “shared street” with pedestrian buy in swirled through my head as well. If, during a busy Pride weekend, there weren’t people in the streets in droves, would it ever be seen as safe for pedestrians to use?

Final Thoughts

The value of having a truly shared street in this region of Denver would be great as a communication tool for multi-mobility and building out workable infrastructure. Unfortunately, it seems to have all of the negative aspects of a bad deal, similar to how outsiders viewed the purchase of Alaska in the 1800’s. If DOTI can fix the issues in regards to space on the street, doing things such as having protected bike lanes to and from the main stretch of of the shared streets, discouraging and limiting car usage along it, and possibly sponsoring events in the street to encourage usage by pedestrians, they may be able to get away from making this stretch of road DOTI’s Folly

*Featured Image is the entrance to the 16th Ave Shared Street from 16th and Pennsylvania

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Bike Lane Smell Test

How can you tell if something is actually a bike lane or not? You can point at a building and call it an apple, and be wrong. You can point at paint on the ground and call it a bike lane, and you’d again be wrong.

If a car can park in it, it isn’t a bike lane. Here are some examples that your City will refer to as a bike lane, but that in fact are not bike lanes:

Source: https://www.purecycles.com/blogs/bicycle-news/96206855-traffic-school-the-door-zone
Source: https://nacto.org/publication/urban-bikeway-design-guide/bike-lanes/buffered-bike-lanes/
Source: https://www.strongtowns.org/journal/2016/11/9/what-are-sharrows-worth

You can tell these aren’t bike lanes because cars can park or drive in them, or people accessing their cars will obstruct the flow of bike traffic. Note how these drivers are perfectly okay blocking the single lane of bicycle traffic instead of taking up one of the multiple car travel lanes. They completely cripple the throughput of the bicycle infrastructure instead of temporarily reducing the throughput of the car infrastructure. If given a choice, drivers will always do this, which means this isn’t a bike lane but instead an auxiliary parking lane:

Source: https://www.dnainfo.com/chicago/20160114/lincoln-park/tickets-for-parking-bike-paths-on-rise-map/
Source: https://medium.com/@dvillaveces/dude-wheres-my-car-d52ec4af6d91
Source: https://www.fastcompany.com/3065590/in-new-york-now-you-can-report-cars-blocking-the-bike-lane-to-the-city/

Sort of a bike lane

These bike lane meet the bare minimum requirements needed for something to be called a bike lane. The only requirement that they meet is that they are physically delineated from the road, but not by much. These plastic bollards get crushed easily, and the concrete separates can also be skirted if your car has a high enough suspension, or if the start of the bike lane is not narrowed, allowing cars to drive right into it. So a distracted driver will be able to run right through this bike lane and squish you.

Source: https://www.pexco.com/traffic/traffic-safety-solutions/posts-for-separated-bike-lanes/
Source: https://www.fastcompany.com/40459179/these-temporary-bike-lane-barriers-let-cities-experiment-with-better-biking-infrastructure
Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hCnYBn5aTF4&ab_channel=Streetfilms

This bike lane is much better than the previous ones, because it’ll protect you from careening vehicles, and makes it clearer that cars should not be in there. But it still leaves you close to traffic, with cars whizzing closely by, which is unnerving. Hard to relax and enjoy this ride:

Source: https://licpost.com/dot-to-add-protective-barriers-to-vernon-blvd-bike-lanes

Real bike lanes

Ultimately the below bike lanes are the best, and are really the only infrastructure worth being called bike lanes. They’re separated far from cars giving you protection, as well as letting you relax and feel safe. This relaxation thing is the key. A bike lane might be physically safe, but it needs to also be mentally safe. The mental safety makes the bike lane more accessible to vulnerable road users that may avoid biking because they’re already under enough stress in other parts of their lives.

The goal should be to build bike lanes that are so comfortable that you’d feel okay riding with your young babies, like this guy. If you’re not, then the street designers need to go back to the drawing board because there is still work to do.

Source: https://twitter.com/fietsprofessor/status/1385628712360611842

This is a picture of the Chicago’s bike trail along the lake. Notice how we call this a bike trail and not a bike lane. The best bike lanes will basically be bike trails that navigate the urban environment, instead of being set aside in a park. To find the space for something like this in an urban environment, we’ll need to start reclaiming some roads from cars. Right now, cars can go on every single road, but bikes can go on only a few, if any. This imbalance needs to shift, and when it does, that’s where we’ll find the space for good bike-trail-lanes.

Source: https://www.spinlister.com/blog/definitive-guide-cycling-chicago-lakefront-trail/

Bikes and cars can’t share the road. It doesn’t work. Drivers continue to bully, harass, and kill cyclists, no matter how many signs your Department of Transportation puts up, or how much paint they put down. Serious bike lane projects need to reclaim road space from cars and turn it into space for bikes, where cyclists are protected from this abuse by real infrastructure.

Safe Streets advocates, like myself, need to stop fighting over table scraps and start demanding real infrastructure. Mayor Hancock is touting his 125 miles of bike lanes build out, but the majority of that is paint. So he’s really building like 5 miles of bike lanes, but then is able to pull of this great feat of gaslighting, because advocates don’t control the definition and acceptance criteria of a bike lane. We’ve let the bureaucrats define it. They paint a bicycle on a sidewalk and call it a bike lane. They’ll put up a sign that says “bike lane” and do nothing to alter the roadway at all. These people even have the audacity to put some paint on the ground and say this lane is for biking and parking. I’m not talking about a bike lane that people park in illegally, but in Denver we legitimately have road space that counts as a bike lane, but where it is also legal to park. So when a car is there you have to merge with traffic to pass it.

Once people have a safe place to ride, they will ride. But if you lay down some paint and ask them to trust that drivers won’t run them over, we’re never going to make progress.

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Difference Makers in Denver Mobility: Luchia Brown

To begin our blog series, we would like to highlight heroes in the community that have been there for the cause of multi mobility. These difference makers are the people that make Denver a great place to ride and make our city better for all.

Our first difference maker is Luchia Brown. A volunteer on behalf of a multimodal vaccination clinic located in the Denver Design Center last weekend, Luchia sat down with me to discuss her experience.

Loren Hansen: Walk me through how you got involved volunteering at the Denver Design District vaccination site.

Luchia Brown: Maggie Thompson, from Jolon Clark’s office, reached out to me originally to help coordinate distribution of flyers to Baker residents announcing the clinic. I saw that they were still short-handed on volunteers as the day approached, so I signed up and conscripted my husband and my ward to help out that day. My job was helping at check-in.

LH: What was the overall mood at the site? If you have worked at others in the past, what was the mood in comparison to others? 

LB: The mood was generally happy; however, someone forgot to bring the box where all the used sharps went, so we were delayed about 45 minutes while someone had to go get them. That wasn’t too fun, but once we got going, things went quickly and we caught up by about 10:30am.

LH: How impacted was the site throughout the day? What was the general amount of bicycle riders to transit users to cars to pedestrians?

LB: Most of the sign-ups were for the early morning and toward the end of the day. It was pretty slow during the middle of the day. In he beginning, many people walked over from West Washington Park. (Many of the volunteers, including my group, rode their bikes to the site.) A few people showed up on their bikes to get their shots. A few showed up from the Alameda light rail station, which caused us to put a sandwich board sign over at the station. The site itself was fantastic in its ability to accommodate multi-modal arrivals. A lot of people wanted to park their car and go to the walk-up site to get their shot rather than idle in their cars.

LH: Are there any memorable moments that happened throughout the day? 

LB: A couple that are similar. The security guard who works the area didn’t have his shot, so we got him and then he called his wife and friends to come down. Another guy showed up from a nearby construction site, then he called all his co-workers to come over and get their shots. The Blue Bonnet restaurant sent their employees over to get their vaccine. We had about 400 appointments and roughly 200 walk-ups. A good chunk of the walk-ups were from the Spanish speaking community, which was heartening.

LH: How efficient was the site throughout the day? If you could change things to be better, what would it be and why?

LB: The site itself was incredibly efficient. The only issue I saw was with the data collectors. They showed up late and then tried to get people who had already registered online to provide more info on paper. When they held up the line, we just let people through because people getting their shots was more important than them getting their data. They also had their own technical issues and finally relented and just collected people’s names who had already registered to check them off later.

LH: If you could have future sites similar to the Denver Design District, where would you want them to be and why?

LB: It seems like we’re getting past the point of needing massive vaccine clinics. We had 1000 appointments but only filled 400, even after heavy promotion. Having smaller clinics at various light rail stations would be helpful. Also, I’ve been hearing that if you got one of the shots at one location, you will be able to get the second one somewhere else as long as the person has their CDC vaccine card that shows which vaccine they got.

To find a vaccine site near you, check out the COVID-19 website for the state of Colorado here. The Toyota Camry Lot at the Ball Center vaccination site is known to be bicycle friendly.

*Featured image is a sign leading to the vaccination clinic*