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Bidirectional Bike Lanes

I just returned from a long holiday weekend in Montreal. It was my first time to that city and it was awesome. Montreal is nicely urban and dense with a great metro system, but it also felt very approachable and non-intimidating. Anyway, as is always the case, I come back from a trip like this with a ton of photos and examples to share of what other cities are doing that we could do here in Denver to improve our urban environment.

For our first example, let’s talk about bidirectional on-street bike lanes. In Denver, our major off-street bike trails, like along Cherry Creek or the Platte River, are bidirectional, but do we have anything in Denver like these examples below from Montreal?

Without curbs:

2010-09-08_montreal1 2010-09-08_montreal2

With curbs:

2010-09-08_montreal3 2010-09-08_montreal4

The street in Montreal without curbs was a local residential street with very little traffic. The street with curbs was a bit more of a major neighborhood street, something similar to, say, E. 11th Avenue in Capitol Hill.

I saw many examples of this in Montreal; in fact, I think I saw more bidirectional on-street bike lanes than unidirectional lanes. They appear to treat bicycles as a true transportation mode worthy of its own system within the public right-of-way rather than as something you accommodate if there’s enough room on the street to paint a few lines without inconveniencing the motor vehicle system too much.

The Downtown Denver Partnership has recently asked the city to study the possibility of a bidirectional bike lane system on 15th Street in Downtown to connect Civic Center with LoDo. Where else do you think Denver should or could implement bidirectional bike lanes? What routes would bike commuters suggest? Where do you think the right-of-way width/configuration would allow for bidirectional lanes? Discuss.

By the way, the city is currently updating its bicycle and pedestrian master plans through an effort called Denver Moves. If you are interested in this issue and want to provide feedback to the city on this important topic, please get involved in Denver Moves. For more info, visit: http://denvermoves.org/

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32 Comments

  1. Ben says:

    It seems like you could turn one lane on 17th or 18th into a bi-directional bike lane. That would be a great way to link Uptown with the CBD. You could do the same on 14th or 13th to link Capital Hill with the CBD. 15th linking Highlands and the CBD would be great also.

    • Nick says:

      Don’t think they’ll do it with 14th though due to the “Ambassador Street” project, but otherwise agreed.

  2. Kyle says:

    Might be able to fit a “narrow gauge” on the north side of 7th from Williams to Penn. Would extend the existing lanes on either side of the parkway east of Race to Colorado. Of course, lots of on-street parking would go away, so opposition would certainly exist.

  3. Chris from Downtown says:

    Montréal really is a great example of what a city can be.

    I walk on 15th Street every day. Only once have I seen evidence of law enforcement there: the famous video of cops beating an innocent bystander at 15th and Lawrence. With almost constant traffic violations by motorists, the chaotic environment on this street already is dangerous for pedestrians. A bidirectional bike lane system would have my enthusiastic support if — and only if — it were coupled with more responsible law enforcement.

    • Nick says:

      I lived on 15th/Wynkoop for quite awhile. Law enforcement was never an issue. Hell I never really felt terribly uncomfortable as a pedestrian at all.

      • Chris from Downtown says:

        Nick, try visiting the corner of 15th and Arapahoe for a few minutes in the middle of a weekday. You’ll see what I mean.

  4. Bill says:

    The perfect “test case” for this is the new Bannock Street design (in front of the City & County Building) the City is currently proposing……

  5. John says:

    Just painting out all the bike routes we already have would be useful. Denver has a large and well-connected bike route system that no one knows about because there are no indications it exists beyond a very well-hidden pdf map online.

    Maybe putting down some paint along streets that were formally streetcar routes (because there’d be width to share) would be cool.

    I think 17th & 18th are too busy/full during rush hour. And there’s already seperated bike lanes on 16th. Of course, I’ve seen a number of people riding Colfax or 17th, taking their lives in their own hands, without apparent knowdledge that there’s much safer bike lanes only a block away. This is why I think painting all the routes would be a good idea. Imagine if there was a connected system all over town that was easy to find and follow. If people knew it was available and could easily find their way along it they’d be more likely to use it. Also, having the paint down reminds cars to look for bikes and gives the bikes a little more leeway to not have to act like frightened rabbits on a road that’s marked.

  6. Jon says:

    I would LOVE a bi-directional lane on 15th. I sometimes go through Riverfront all the way to 20th to avoid the mess that is 15th

    • Matt Eric says:

      I’d love a bi-directional bike lane on 15th as well, and I’m in a car most of the time when I’m on 15th. Even if it meant losing an auto lane, it’d be so much safer than having cars (doing about 35) trying to dodge bikes that are slowly chugging their way up the hill. Not to mention that it would be a much better way to connect the lower highlands with DUS, given that to use the 16th st route requires going over the Millennium bridge and either using the elevators, or trying to haul one’s bike up that tiny ramp next to the stairs (why the heck didn’t anyone put a tunnel under the train tracks?!).

      • dave says:

        i third this suggestion. 15th is such an important connection between lodo and lohi and cars travel way too fast.

        • Nick says:

          Honestly they’d be better off putting a dedicated bike lane through riverfront park. The vast majority of cyclists come over the pedestrian bridges as it is.

  7. BeyondDC says:

    Montreal is awesome. It’s also worth noting that their bikesharing system absolutely blows all US systems out of the water.

  8. Sam says:

    I’ve always thought 16th Av between East and Civic Center would be a great place for a bike boulevard separated from cars, and I’ve even considered telling someone in city gov about it. It seems so obvious! Nobody ever drives down that street and its the primary bicycle link to park hill. Plus, the street could use repaving, so why not kill two birds with one stone?

  9. Mike Shoup says:

    Link 16th Ave somehow to the 15th street bidirectional bike lane. Have it cross Broadway over to cleveland, and down to 15th street. I could see it.

    Other great possible streets would be pretty much any of the one way couplets… Broadway/Lincoln, 6th/8th, etc.

  10. The Dirt says:

    20th from Highland through to Broadway and beyond would be great. Lincoln would be good as a n/s route.

  11. Nate Moore says:

    I would love to see bi-directional bike lanes everywhere. Since I live out in the Congress Park neighborhood, between City and Cheesman parks, the location I see most is 12th street. I’d like to see 12th become “no-car”, with removable barriers (the bolt-on posts) at every intersection so the cross streets keep going, to make it be a major thoroughfare into/out of downtown like 13th/14th are for cars. The alleys can stay open, so there can still be parking on 12th, even though there is no driving.

  12. Aaron says:

    I would be happy with just a one directional bike lane on 15th.

    With 14th slated to get a bike lane going towards civic center it would be nice to have one going away. The buses on 15 th make it a little hard to navigate so I usually divert to the creek since theirs no better options heading that direction through downtown.

    A bidirectional lane could be overkill but that’s not a horrible thing.

  13. Wil says:

    I am all for the bidirectional bike lanes and better marking for current bike lanes. However, a key part of this must be a program to educate drivers and bike riders about their rights and responsibilities. Having been hit twice by cars while biking (once by a police car), I can’t emphasize this point enough.

    • Matt says:

      Wil,

      While I cannot agree enough (I commute via bicycle every day) I think it is IMPERATIVE to get cyclists to start acting more responsibly as well. I regularly see hipsters on fixed gears, grandmas on hybrid bikes and the average joe running red lights and blowing stop signs.

      I educate people as I see it, generally by reminding them that the DPD is looking for that behavior and is writing tickets. Realistically, until we all start acting like cars will we never get the same rights/respect they have. Stinks we are generally treated guilty until proven innocent.

  14. BS says:

    1. 19th ave east of broadway could be made bi directional with nice bike lanes.
    2. There is no North-South passage on cap hill, it would be nice to see something between city park and cherry creek.
    3. I like the idea of having a big loop encircling downtown separate from cars that would be a destination for people to just bike for the sake of biking rather than commuting.

  15. Adam says:

    Interesting, I was in Montreal this past weekend as well with my wife. We took full advantage of the Bixi bikes and the bike lanes throughout the Plateau and Outremount neighborhoods. The overall system blew me away, as did the quantity of bikers in these urban neighborhoods. There was at least one bicyclist for each car that we saw… no exaggeration. Cycling, along with transit is an integral part of the culture there. Here in Denver, cycling is mostly seen as a way to exercise, and our (rail) transit system is completely inadequate/nonexistant within the more urban neighborhoods.

  16. dave says:

    check out this video from NYC to see how a bidirectional bike lane could work on a busy street like broadway.
    http://www.streetfilms.org/the-taming-and-reclaiming-of-prospect-park-west/

  17. MIcah says:

    20th street is definitely wide enough and would be a useful route to link the City Park area to Coors Field.

  18. Troy R says:

    Progress has been made downtown but its still not easy to traverse on a bike. 15th and 17th have my vote for much more structured bike lanes. Bidirectional would be fantastic. We really need bicycle boulevards/expressways radiating out from downtown, as well as in other N/S and E/W corridors. Its nice that we have a bike route system, but that’s largely not marked and tucked away on resi side streets. The reason the some of us take our lives into our own hands and ride on Colfax, 13th, 14th, 17th, etc is because we want to get somewhere as quickly as possible. We need dream big and drive a bold plan for significant change.

  19. Greg says:

    The problem (as a non-cyclist) that I see with bidirectional bike lanes is confusion on the part of motorists. It’s not something Denver drivers are used to; will they know that they have to look both ways before making a turn across the bike lanes? Especially on one way streets, they might not expect a bike approaching from either direction.

    As a pedestrian, I’m all for making things easier for cyclists to ride on the streets. The tendency of cyclists to ride fast on busy sidewalks in Denver is dangerous for everyone, especially older pedestrians and others with weak peripheral vision and/or less ability to dodge.

  20. Matt says:

    I think a change is DESPERATELY needed to connect City Park/Park Hill to Downtown. Sure, there is 16th (which is great, BTW) but ending at 15th/Colfax is suicide for people needing downtown access.

  21. Bill H says:

    That concrete curb makes all the difference, whether the lane is bidirectional or not. Wynkoop has good bike lanes on both sides, but cars just use them as right-turn lanes, or as a shoulder to pause in and idle.

  22. SC48 says:

    Looking at these pics again, what I find most striking about these bike lanes in Montreal is how simple and completely un-fancy they are. It would be simple and (relatively) cheap to create something similar in Denver where cars and bikes are completely segregated – INCLUDING parked cars. I personally, and I suspect others as well, would start biking around the city a lot more if we had something similar in Denver. Seems that the only thing lacking is the political will – the City doesn’t want to pick a fight with drivers and/or neighborhood residents who might loose on-street parking, because in the end, space for cars on the streets would be the big price of doing this – not the cost of a few concrete curbs or repainting a few lines.

    Maybe Maes struck a nerve with Hickenlooper with that comment about the Bike Share program steering our city towards UN control… I’m sure he and other conservatives around the state would have a field day with bidirectional bike lanes.

  23. Adam says:

    I would love to see those bike lanes in the photos. Cars are parked on the OUTSIDE of the bike lane, and some of them even have concrete medians. This is so much safer for riders than the current bike lanes we have in Denver. Our lanes parallel parked cars on the right side (which just begs to be hit by an open door), and they do not end at intersections (where a car can make a right turn)

    I never use them, because they are so dangerous. The one on Wynkoop is a perfect example–it is a death trap.

  24. diser says:

    Ken,
    Sorry for a liitle unrelated post, but do you have any information on what’s going to happen to the 19th Ave & Grant intersection, 033-B block? Previous building (built in 1868) have been demolished. Real Property Record on the denvergov.org haven’t been updated though :(