Boulder’s New Bike Lanes Work Well, But the City May Yank Them Anyway

Boulder, Colorado, is considered one of the best cities for biking in the U.S. But the car is still king on Boulder’s streets, and designs like road diets and protected on-street bike lanes are still new concepts for people to digest.

The Folsom bike lane via People for Bikes.
The Folsom bike lane when it was under construction, via People for Bikes.

This summer, the city embarked on a plan to “right-size” four major streets by adding bike lanes and four-lane-to-three lane road diets, which have been shown to minimally affect traffic congestion. The idea was to start with Folsom Street as a one-year pilot project, collect data on the effect of the new design, and go from there.

But after some initial blowback, city staff have recommended scaling back the Folsom redesign just a few months into the pilot phase, reports the Daily Camera. (In addition to citing “community input,” officials bizarrely said they expect a harsh, snowy winter thanks to El Niño, and are worried the bike lanes won’t be cleared well.)

The decision now goes to City Council, where members seem to be okay with backsliding on this major street safety project.

Eric M. Budd at Articulate Discontent says that if the city caves, it will be especially troubling because the initial data from the redesign has come in, and it’s working well:

The Folsom project, after eight weeks, is coming in-line toward the desired metrics—travel times have moved closely to the modeled projections, reducing speeds (but the 85th percentile speed is still 20% above the speed limit), and data so far showing reduced crashes. The staff recommendation discussed none of these improvements our community has gained through the street change.

Rather, the staff recommendation mentions no data at all. The opinion centers on fear, uncertainty, and doubt raised about the upcoming winter, which happens to be an el Niño year, even though the current NOAA forecast shows no precipitation anomaly projected for Colorado (link via Nathan Johnson, Boulder resident at@snowforecaster)

Both TAB and city council had a briefing on snow removal on the Folsom corridor, yet none of these concerns were raised as significant hurdles at the time.

Much of the criticism of the Folsom project has been on the city’s public process and evaluation of data. But the potential removal of the project will have no public process and ignores the data collected so far. I’m frankly surprised that the council will entertain this option, one that’s been discussed in a vacuum and sprung on council after the TAB meeting, only a few days before the council meeting.

If you’re reading this and you live in Boulder, People for Bikes has a campaign to tell the City Council to keep the bike lanes.

Elsewhere on the Network today: At Plan Philly a local couple details their “astounding” savings from getting rid of the family car. The Urbanist reports that a big boost to transit service goes into effect this week in Seattle. And The Naked City critiques Charlotte’s Park(ing) Day, saying the pop-up parks only happen in the one place where they’re not needed.

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