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Bike updates

click to enlarge New protected bike lanes on Pikes Peak Avenue create a safe space for cyclists perusing downtown. - ALLEN BEAUCHAMP
  • Allen Beauchamp
  • New protected bike lanes on Pikes Peak Avenue create a safe space for cyclists perusing downtown.

Patience is a virtue, but it's one of the harder ones to master.

That's especially true when you're a cyclist waiting for your community to embrace the culture with updated infrastructure.

Building new infrastructure, like trails, can involve everything from tricky land acquisitions or easements to lengthy design considerations (that often must take stormwater flows and water quality laws into account) to expensive builds that may need grant funding to make budget. Even adding bike lanes isn't as easy as it sounds, as neighborhood concerns, safety and traffic flow all must be considered.

But here's the good news: Despite all the expense and complex details, our region is fast becoming a bike-friendly destination.

Here's a peek at what's new and what's coming.

The Lake Moraine Trail (aka Missing Link) is almost done:

Cory Sutela, president of Medicine Wheel Trail Advocates, says the trail should be open in July, after 20 years of advocacy and planning. The 4.5-mile trail connects the Ute Pass/Barr Trail system to the Jones Park/Bear Creek/North Cheyenne Cañon system.

The trail runs through Pikes Peak's South Slope, an area owned by Colorado Springs Utilities, and closed to the public for a century. The beautiful alpine land is home to forests, wetlands, and mossy highlands that nourish bighorn sheep, native birds, and fish — including the threatened greenback cutthroat trout.

Utilities agreed to allow construction of the Missing Link in 2010 — though the funding for the project was lacking — but pulled back on that commitment after the discovery of the greenback in 2012, necessitating study and the need to route trails away from key habitat.

Now, all the pieces are in place. A state grant helped fund the $125,000 trail, along with fundraising efforts.

Sutela says Medicine Wheel is also looking to build two downhill trails in Ute Valley Park as early as this fall. And work is starting this summer on a system of trails in Black Forest Regional Park. If all goes well, those could be open this season.

click to enlarge New protected bike lanes on Pikes Peak Avenue create a safe space for cyclists perusing downtown. - ALLEN BEAUCHAMP
  • Allen Beauchamp
  • New protected bike lanes on Pikes Peak Avenue create a safe space for cyclists perusing downtown.

The Uintah Street underpass nears completion:

Britt Haley, who manages the city's dedicated Trails, Open Space and Parks (TOPS) fund and oversees the Legacy Loop project, says the Uintah Street underpass on the west side of Monument Creek is almost complete.

The new underpass is part of the Legacy Loop project, a long-envisioned trail that circles downtown, encompassing parts of Shooks Run, the Pikes Peak Greenway and the Rock Island Trail. Part of the Loop runs along the west side of the Greenway, which long featured a small singletrack for much of its length. The underpass is Tier I trail: 10- to 12-foot-wide concrete, with a 4-foot gravel shoulder. It's also a place to hang out, featuring a sculpted concrete beach, made to look like natural rock.

The $1.2 million project, funded by state money and Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority dedicated sales tax funds, was designed in 2017, with construction starting this year. Now there are just some minor details left: fencing and planting.

The massive project used 1,028 cubic yards of rock. The beach used 6,740 square feet of sculpted concrete.

Haley says the city plans to build sections of trail to the north of the intersection next: connecting the Uintah section to the already-built Legacy Loop Plaza near Fontanero Street, and connecting the Plaza to the Popcycle Bridge to the north.

Haley says the city is chipping away at northern gaps in the Loop, because a southern gap, which includes a needed railroad crossing, has proven a tricky and expensive proposition thus far.

"We haven't had any breakthroughs yet," she says. But, she notes, with plenty of work to be done on the north end, the city is taking the position of "why not focus there and make some on-the-ground improvements?"

click to enlarge The historic Van Briggle Pottery building is next to the nearly complete Uintah Street underpass. - J. ADRIAN STANLEY
  • J. Adrian Stanley
  • The historic Van Briggle Pottery building is next to the nearly complete Uintah Street underpass.

Pikes Peak Avenue improvements and more urban connections are on the way:

Pikes Peak Avenue between Cascade Avenue and Corona Street has new bike lanes. As we recently reported: "The new markings ... reduce Pikes Peak Avenue between Nevada and Cascade avenues to one lane in each direction and designate buffered bike lanes to accommodate diagonal pull-in parking. On Pikes Peak Avenue between Corona Street and Nevada Avenue, the road [is] reduced to one lane in each direction and restriped with parking-protected bike lanes. Those lanes ... feature an 8-inch-tall guide rail between the bike lane and parked cars."

Also look for new bike lanes soon on Walnut Street from Colorado Avenue to Boulder Street, on Carmel Drive from Chelton Road to Monterey Road, and on Bijou Street from Spruce to Walnut streets.

For county projects, look for the long-awaited underpass of the Midland Trail at Columbia Road and Colorado Avenue in the Westside area known as No Man's Land, in December 2018. The underpass will connect on each side to bike lanes along Colorado Avenue and then to the Midland Trail, which connects on the west side at Columbia Street and on the east side at Ridge Road.

Bonus: A bus, bike and pedestrian plaza on Ridge Road and Colorado Avenue will include bike racks, along with perhaps bike tools and a vending machine of sorts to buy bike-related items.

Meanwhile, the Cottonwood Creek Trail is getting an underpass at Academy Boulevard as part of a bridge replacement and the 21st Street Midland Trail crossing will see safety improvements.

Wayfinding signs are showing up in and around downtown:

Kate Brady, senior bicycle planner for the city, says, "Wayfinding is something that people have been asking for for years and its a lot more complicated than throwing up a few signs."

Wayfinding signs are intended to take people along the safest routes and get them places they want to go. So, for instance, wayfinding signs will tell you that Pikes Peak Avenue is a safer route through downtown than Colorado Avenue. They also will tell you where to exit the Midland Trail to get to the center of the action in Old Colorado City. Brady says that, for now, wayfinding signs are being installed to support PikeRide, along a priority T-shaped route that stretches through the greater southern and northern downtown area. But eventually the city wants the signs to be in places where cyclists and tourists frequent, like The Broadmoor area, the Olympic Training Center, Memorial Park, Palmer Park, the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, Garden of the Gods, Ute Valley Park and Red Rocks Open Space.

click to enlarge Wayfinding on Pikes Peak Ave. - ALLEN BEAUCHAMP
  • Allen Beauchamp
  • Wayfinding on Pikes Peak Ave.

And there will be a women's race in September:

The Women's Mountain Biking Association of Colorado Springs has planned a women's bike race, WMBA's Purple Pursuit, on Sept. 8 at the Air Force Academy on the Falcon Trail. "It's intended to help women feel comfortable," WMBA president Sarah Walters says. "... I think mountain biking can be a very intimidating sport because it is very male-centric."

This is WMBA's first such race. The charge is $45 and it's limited to around 200 racers. There will be beginner, intermediate and advanced categories, which are further broken down into age ranges. Winners will receive prizes. For more information or to register: bit.ly/2MZE4CR.

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