Friday, December 23, 2016

City kills bike lanes on Research Parkway

Posted By on Fri, Dec 23, 2016 at 3:25 PM

The map shows a city-organized "Ride on Research" meant to promote the new lanes. - CITY OF COLORADO SPRINGS
  • City of Colorado Springs
  • The map shows a city-organized "Ride on Research" meant to promote the new lanes.

The bike lane demonstration project on Research Parkway in northern Colorado Springs has proved a PR disaster and will be terminated.

It's too bad because the protected lanes were a new kind of infrastructure for Colorado Springs —  one cyclists have longed for. But, in my humble opinion, the project seems to have fallen victim to two fatal flaws.

First: Location. Research Parkway isn't exactly the heart of the bike commuter universe here in the Springs, so it's unreasonable to expect that the lanes would be heavily used by cyclists or embraced by the car-dependent neighborhoods nearby. Most of the city's bike infrastructure should be in places where people already ride bikes — design should follow function. And if drivers are already battling bike traffic on a particular road, there's a good chance that they will embrace bike infrastructure because it stands to make their drive easier.

Second: Misunderstanding. When the project was unveiled, city staff tried to explain that the lane being closed on Research that would then accommodate cyclists, wasn't closed to accommodate cyclists. The lane was being closed because traffic engineers felt the road was oversized and that the extra lane was making Research less safe. The bike lanes just seemed like a cool project to put in that extra space. That's a key distinction — and one that the public never seemed to fully grasp. In fact, the lanes on Research Parkway may have served only to fuel resentment from motorists toward cyclists, because they mistakenly believed they were being forced to give something up so that cyclists could take it over.

Anyway, let's hope that the lesson that the city takes away from Research Parkway isn't that protected bike lanes are a bad idea. As a cyclist myself, I think they're a great idea. However, in the future, picking a strategic location where the lanes are likely to be embraced and heavily used, as well as communicating with people who live in the area, will be key to gaining acceptance.


City of Colorado Springs Will Terminate Research
Bike Lane Demonstration Project
Public Input, Traffic Data Contribute to Decision


COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo – The City announced today that the bicycle lane demonstration project along Research Parkway will be terminated. The bicycle lane striping and vertical delineators will be removed as soon as weather permits.

For the safety of the travelling public, the outside travel lane will continue to be a designated bicycle lane until lane markings can be changed to reflect vehicle travel.

In an effort to manage traffic speeds on Research Parkway, the Traffic Engineering Division implemented a demonstration project to “right size” the corridor between Austin Bluffs and Chapel Hills drive from six to four travel lanes and repurposed the outside travel lane as a buffered bike lane. The project’s goals were two-fold: To manage excessive traffic speeds and to utilize the remaining pavement to create additional bicycle connections along the corridor.

“The purpose of a bicycle lane demonstration project is to assess public sentiment as well as vehicle and bicycle traffic impacts,” said Mayor John Suthers. “The Traffic Engineering Division has prepared a report on the Research Parkway demonstration project. The bottom line is that the vast majority of residents in the area of the demonstration project are opposed to the project and the vast majority of people who support it do not live in the affected area. The amount of local resident use, even in favorable fall weather, was not significant.”

The study completed by Traffic Engineering reported that changes in vehicle speeds resulting from the lane reduction did not meet expectations and was not consistent with typical results from such an effort. The city plans to address excessive vehicle speed on Research through traffic enforcement.

“Colorado Springs will continue to promote bicycle transportation because we have a large number of residents and visitors who ride bicycles for both recreational and transportation purposes. We believe the city’s attraction to cyclists will be a growing part of our tourism economy going forward and providing multi-modal transportation options will make our city more attractive to a vibrant workforce. For this reason, I continue to support the development of the 2017 Bike Master Plan. With that, the city will continue to conduct demonstration projects to assess viability of routes and locations, while assessing levels of community support or opposition.”

The City encourages the public to provide input on projects that affect traffic flow, and offers multiple opportunities for engagement, including neighborhood meetings, City Council presentations and SpeakUp!, the city’s online survey tool. Prior to implementing the demonstration project the City conducted three neighborhood meetings in Spring 2016 to notify the public of the plan and gather input.

“With projects such as this one, there are a number of factors that determine outcomes, but be assured, public input is a major element of our decision-making,” said Jay Anderson, Citizen Engagement Specialist for the City of Colorado Springs. “While community meetings have been a long-standing method for such engagement, we are pleased to continue offering new ways for citizens to engage directly with the city.”

The Ride on Research demonstration project generated over 1,300 responses, which were an impactful element of determining the path forward. Metrics are as follow.

SpeakUp! Survey on Demonstration project:
1,347 people participated
· 63 percent of respondents lived in neighborhoods surrounding the demonstration project
· 37 percent of respondents lived in other neighborhoods

Overall response to the demonstration project:
· 80.5 percent of respondents said they want the project reversed
· 14.3 percent of respondents said they really like it, and remaining respondents said they felt it required some changes to make the project more palatable.

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