Better Solution: Bike Infrastructure

We’re proud that both our state and our city are highly ranked nationwide for bicycle friendliness.  However, when it comes to bike infrastructure, there’s room for improvement.

Colorado Springs has over 100 miles of on-street bike lanes, but, as Krager has explained, these lanes are a “polka-dot system”: a non-continuous series of paths that often end abruptly.  Resident cyclists have long been frustrated with a system that discourage bicycle commuting.

According to City bike program coordinator Brian Shevock, simply adding bike lanes to major road projects led to lanes ending abruptly and, at times, dangerously. The City is now making a more concerted effort to add lanes along identified routes with logical and safe endings. “We’re trying to spend money to actually connect [the lanes] so that we can get from one end of the city to the other,” says Krager. Having recognized the folly of unplanned non-continuous bike lanes on congested roads, one would expect proponents of bike access to offer a better strategy. Unfortunately those pushing the ONEN plan are offering more of the same ineffective approach.

When pressed for specifics about bike lane strategy, one ONEN Board member stated the plan “leaves exact routes to the City Traffic Department.” In fact the plan calls for replacing driving lanes with bike lanes on Wahsatch, Weber, Cascade, and Nevada before even confirming whether the City considers these roads suitable for bike lane additions.

Anyone who has tried to bike along the ONEN roads covered by this plan knows they already aren’t suitable for bike lanes. How much less fitting will they be if the proposal is adopted?  The CC analysis includes schematics for adding a bike lane between street parking and the lone remaining through lane.  But City engineers and cyclists prefer dedicated trails to more bike lanes and isolated lanes to lanes open to traffic.  (Our cycling community already refers to one stretch of unbuffered bike lane as the “Killing Zone.”)

Instead the current dieting proposal offers the worst of both worlds: no dedicated trails and bike lanes between congested traffic and street parking.  Such an approach will expose cyclists to collisions from through traffic, parking vehicles and those moving in and out of the parking lane.  And all this for a bike lane that does exactly what Krager and others have highlighted as a mistake: stop and start abruptly without connecting to other lanes, much less to a dedicated trail or the city center.

Left: If cyclists can’t get dedicated bike trails, they’d prefer buffered bike lanes. Right: Instead, CC & ONEN Board propose putting cyclists between traffic and street parking.

Left: If cyclists can’t get dedicated bike trails, they’d prefer buffered bike lanes.
Right: Instead, CC & ONEN Board propose putting cyclists between traffic and street parking.

Furthermore, the City’s Nonmotorized Plan prioritizes bike infrastructure projects based on whether they will move people off of congested roads. But the ONEN Plan will likely increase congestion on the very roads where it intends to add bike lanes.  Traffic is already sufficiently heavy on many of the streets in the ONEN plan to ward off cyclists.  Indeed, local cycling enthusiast and advocate J.  Adrian Stanley specifically named Nevada as one of the roads she prefers not to bike on.

State transportation commissioner Les Gruen has stated bike infrastructure may be the most critical project of all unfunded road projects in Colorado Springs.  As a nationally ranked city of cycling enthusiasts, we should be able to create a strategic, thought out, effective plan that makes bike infrastructure a real priority.  Instead, the ONEN Plan treats bike infrastructure as an after-the-fact rationalization for lane reduction on inappropriate roads.