Piep van Heuven

How GO Bond funding builds out Denver’s bike network

Piep van Heuven is Bicycle Colorado’s Denver director. She played an active role in advocating for–and ensuring the success of–Denver’s Measure 2A for transportation and mobility projects. Below is an insider’s look into what the measure’s success means for Denver streets, what it took to get it passed and what still needs to be done.

On November 7, Denver voters overwhelmingly approved Denver’s Measure 2A for transportation and mobility projects, saying yes to $431 in Denver spending that includes $115 million specifically dedicated to bike and pedestrian efforts.

The overall process to pass the measure took more than a year, beginning with public meetings in the fall of 2016. In April and May of 2017, the transportation and mobility bond committee I worked on looked at over 100 projects and debated the merits of street maintenance and re-paving needs vs. community-level and multi-modal projects.

Our committee put in late nights and had spirited discussions about community and government priorities and the value of public space like our streetscapes. Two themes that ran throughout the process were a recognized need to re-pave our streets and improve our bridges–and ask the city to do a better job budgeting for basic maintenance in the future–and the need to prioritize investments in projects that make it convenient and safe to walk, bike and use transit. Our committee recommendations included a strong emphasis on mobility projects that were vetted by the executive committee, mayor’s office and city council.

As a bike advocate, I learned a number of things from the process. The first is that Denver voters want the city to invest in people-oriented projects. Election returns showed 75% of people in Denver want the city to step up funding for transportation and mobility.

Second, there has been a significant culture change in the public debate about street investments. The dialogue has changed from 10 years ago, when there wasn’t a single bike-specific project in the Better Denver Bond. Now the debate is about balance versus priority–are we working to achieve a balance of options, or will we commit to prioritizing people who bike and walk?

Finally, local communities like those surrounding Federal, Santa Fe and Colfax have learned to effectively advocate for placemaking and streetscaping projects to support neighborhood economic vitality, safety and livability, and there’s often a bike-ped element to those requests. In my opinion, that’s good news for everybody!

What’s next? At the top of the list is a continued effort via the Denver Streets Partnership to encourage Denver to commit annual dollars and find new revenue sources to speed up funding to build our incomplete bike and sidewalk networks in a reasonable timeframe. Capital projects that weren’t selected in the Bond process go back into the hopper, with the advantage that projects that just missed the cut are likely to be funded first from other sources, including grants or the capital improvements budget. We’ll be tracking these projects and advocating for them as they move up the list.

For now, it’s time to celebrate some serious success from our efforts this year! Please enjoy this snapshot of what’s on tap to improve Denver’s bicycle network through the GO Bond improvements:

CITYWIDE BIKE LANES – $18 Million

Nearly 50 miles of bike facilities! This project is actually a series of citywide protected bike lane and neighborhood bikeway infrastructure projects that include most of the protected bike lanes in the Denver Moves Bicycles plan–17 miles worth, in addition to 32 miles of neighborhood bikeways in Phase Two of the plan. These 20 protected projects are likely to be included:

Protected Bike Lanes*

  • 13th Avenue

  • 14th Avenue

  • 18th Street

  • 19th Street

  • Central Park Blvd

  • Glenarm Gap (bikeway to 18th)

  • Green Valley Ranch Blvd

  • Marion Parkway

  • Water Street

  • S. Tamarac Drive

Protected Bike Lanes – 17 Miles
The combination of the 18th, 19th, Glenarm and Tremont projects will help downtown Denver’s protected lanes network come alive. Other projects create key mainline corridors to bolster crosstown connections included in the Denver Moves Bikes network. 

Neighborhood Bikeways*

  • 12th Avenue

  • 26th Avenue

  • Bates

  • Birch

  • Clay Street

  • Florida

  • Kearney/Krameria

  • Kentucky

  • Lipan

  • Perry Street

Neighborhood Bikeways – 32 Miles
The neighborhood bikeway projects are distributed throughout Denver neighborhoods and will help create the north-south routes that Denver’s been missing. For a quick look at a current bikeway project and to learn about design elements for these routes see the city’s write up on the Garfield Street project.

*The remainder of the Denver Moves Bicycles Phase Two infrastructure projects are likely to be delivered in the next five years via Public Works’ annual program.

Bike-focused projects

Broadway Multimodal – $12 Million
Even though the full project wasn’t funded, this one’s a game changer. It establishes the precedent that we can put dedicated bus and bike space on a major corridor without impacting traffic, and it seals the deal for the Broadway two-way protected bike lane.

Funding will deliver the first phase of transit and bike lane improvements and make the two-way bike lane pilot project permanent from I-25 to Speer Blvd. and the Cherry Creek Trail. It will also  add signal, transitway and bus stop enhancements.

Broadway Protected Bike Lane

Buchtel and Colorado – $8.4 Million
Another game changer. This project will begin to create the main street feel that the University of Denver is looking for on University Blvd. and it will accelerate efforts to populate the two transit stations with active transportation converts. You’ll see Buchtel Blvd. change to a complete street from University to Colorado with a two-way protected bike lane, safe bike and pedestrian intersection crossings, enhanced lighting and wayfinding.

Jewell Bike-Ped Bridge – $13 Million
The bridge was called for in five different city plans because it will link communities in east and west Denver to recreation and transportation options. It will span Santa Fe Drive and light rail/railway tracks to connect to Evans Station and the Cherry Creek Trail. This is a key regional connectivity project that’s long overdue, particularly from the point of view of west Denver residents.

Bridge Work

47th and York Bike-Ped Bridge – $9.4 Million
This one’s a tearjerker. Kids at Swansea Elementary have been scrambling through rail cars to get to school to avoid a 20 minute delay. The bridge will cross railroad tracks and two major roads just steps from the school to alleviate these dangerous and inconvenient conditions for people trying to walk or bike to or through the Elyria-Swansea neighborhoods.

Alameda Avenue Underpass – $7 Million
Though the underpass itself still needs a full reconstruction effort, the project will address significant safety issues that impact people who walk or bike the underpass.

High Line Canal Connections – $3.7 Million
A new bike-ped underpass at Yale and Holly will create a safe crossing at one of the trail’s busiest street crossings.

Yale Avenue Improvements – $1 Million
Pedestrian improvements from I-25 to Quebec are likely to also improve conditions for people who bike.

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!

West 13th Avenue Multimodal Reconstruction – $16.7 Million
Another phase one of a two-phased project. The project will rebuild 13th Avenue from Federal Blvd. in Sun Valley to the South Platte River and fix missing sidewalks and bike facilities.

Auraria Connections – $7 Million
This project will replace the Larimer bridge and improve bicycle and pedestrian connections between Auraria Campus and Downtown.

Washington Street – $23 Million
A junkyard of a street with heavy truck traffic in Globeville will get a full facelift including a tree lawn and 12 feet of shared space for bicyclists and pedestrians up off the street.

Washington Street

Hampden Corridor Multimodal Improvements – $5 Million
This one is TBD. Everyone agrees conditions for people who walk and bike on Hampden aren’t good, but ideas to address the conditions aren’t on the books yet.

Learn more about Denver’s GO Bond process and eight GO Bond Measures by clicking here.

Learn more about Bicycle Colorado’s efforts to support biking and walking projects in the Bond and beyond by clicking here.

Bond Projects
Piep van Heuven

About the Author: Piep van Heuven

Piep heads up the effort to make Denver a top city for safe bicycling and active transportation. She connects with partners and city leaders to develop leading policies, practices and infrastructure that can serve as a model for the state. Her interests include skiing, cyclocross, acapela and volunteering for Safe Harbor Lab Rescue.

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