Front Range Cities Grapple With Making Streets Safer for Cyclists

On Friday, cyclists gathered for a critical mass event in downtown Denver, with about 100 people on bikes cycling around the city to call for increased safety on the road for cyclists in the wake of two recent deaths of cyclists in the city. But Denver is not alone in seeing bike fatalities this year.

Data from the Colorado Department of Transportation Bicycle show that bike fatalities statewide spiked last year. That number was 22 and was the highest number since at least 2002.
Cities around the Front Range are grappling with how to make our streets safer for all users.

 

 

David Kemp, a senior transportation planner for the City of Boulder, says cyclists need to feel safe on the roads for them to get on the bike in the first place. “By creating facilities where you have more separation between cars and bikes, you begin to create this decreased level of traffic stress when it comes to cycling, which then encourages more people to go out on a bike.”

Kemp says traditionally bike lanes have been a simple line of paint on the road, which many cyclists feel unsafe using, but there has been significant improvement in recent years.

“Historically bike facilities were built out as just being a bike lane adjacent to a traffic lane and it’s been one stripe of paint that would make the demarcation between the traffic lane and the bike lane. And we realize that that one piece of white line was not enough to really inspire folks to go out and ride, particularly on streets that have higher vehicle speeds and higher average daily traffic. And so how do we create more separation?”

Additional space can be created through a buffered bike lane says Kemp, where two to three additional feet are provided between the bike lane and the car lane “it’s still paint but there’s a greater separation there.”

Protected bike lanes where there is a physical barrier dividing the bike lanes from the travel lane are becoming more common in cities. “That helps to appease a lot of the perceived level of safety and really, at least in the City of Boulder, we don’t see a lot of side swipes of people coming into the bike lane.”

Kemp says their recent Safe Streets report shows that most accidents happen at intersections.

“Over 60% of the crashes take place in the intersection and that’s primarily due to turning movements.”