Boulder Junction is supposed to be one of the most bike, pedestrian, and transit accessible places in our city: a place where owning a car is optional, and costly structured parking can be purchased a la carte, instead of bundled with every rental unit. It’s also supposed to be a major transit hub for the eastern core of Boulder, which is now building out. Transportation planners are often stymied by “the last mile” — it’s much cheaper and easier to do a few trunk lines than it is to put high frequency transit within a 5 minute walk of most of a city’s population. Planning for people to drive to get to transit means you still require people to own cars, and they still contribute to traffic congestion within the city. They also require exorbitantly expensive or land intensive park-and-ride facilities. For all these reasons, it’s in our best interests to make it as easy as possible for people to combine bikes with transit to solve the last mile problem. One of the best ways to do this is to provide plenty of convenient, secure, sheltered bike parking at major transit hubs — essentially creating a high quality bicycle park-and-ride, at a tiny fraction of the cost and space required for an automobile park-and-ride of the same capacity. This is the idea behind the “Bus-then-Bike” shelters that the City and County of Boulder have been collaborating to install — in Longmont, at the Table Mesa Park-and-Ride, and most recently, at the downtown Boulder transit center, as well as elsewhere. Three more of them are going in elsewhere along the US-36 corridor in the near future. Incredibly, it looks like we’re at risk of failing to do the same thing in Boulder Junction!
A great video introduction to protected multimodal intersection design, from Nick Falbo at Alta Planning, via People for Bikes and their Green Lane Project:
The design is based on long-standing Dutch standards, and actually embodies the prioritization of modes that Boulder’s TMP lays out (but which our physical infrastructure often fails to implement). These are intersections that just about anyone can walk or ride or drive through safely and with minimal stress. They’re not standard in the US. Yet. Let’s change that!
I have some urban envy: a development under construction in the Lloyd neighborhood of Portland called Hassalo on 8th (almost like you’d buy it at Ikea…) has 657 apartments, 1,200 bike parking spaces, and 328 (underground) car parking spaces on 4 city blocks with car-free streets between them. They hope to land a grocer for one of the ground floors. Special attention to parking for families (cargo bikes and trailers). Bike Portland has more details.
One of the new buildings is 20 stories tall, but if everything on the superblock were built to 7 stories, I think overall it would have a similar FAR or probably close enough anyway.
And why is it we can’t we build something like this in Boulder?
Streetfilms shows us what a real cycling city looks like, in the Dutch university town of Groningen:
I can’t help but laugh and sigh whenever someone touts Boulder as a “world class cycling city”. We are so, so far from that. But hey, it’s good to have aspirational goals… like 50% of all trips done by bike. Maybe we just need to elect some young leftists to city council, like Groningen did in the 70s!
On street bike parking (bike corrals) have become very popular with local street-level businesses in Portland, Oregon. I think it’s time for Boulder to regularize our bike corral program. We need to get some decent non-diagonal racks in there with higher capacity, like the Portland racks, and also create a process through which businesses can request the racks, and get them. Portland has nearly 100, by population, Boulder ought to have something like 16.
Boulder’s newly minted chapter of the Urban Land Institute (ULI) hosted its second salon on December 6th, entitled Biketopia: Dramatically Increasing Boulder’s Bike Mode Share. Martha Roskowski — the former head of GO Boulder, who now works on protected on-street bike facilities nationwide with Bikes Belong — outlined a plan for pushing Boulder beyond it’s status as a leading bike community in North America, and toward taking a place amongst the world’s best cities for cycling.
Why should we choose to do this? Getting more people on bikes benefits both individuals and the community. Bikes provide inexpensive mobility for short trips, help address health issues, and reduce congestion. New studies are showing that getting more people on bikes increases the economic vitality of cities in many ways, including attracting “choice” employers and supporting local businesses. Boulder’s status as a leader in climate change can also be reinforced by a visionary approach.
While Boulder’s bike mode share is one of the best in the nation, it trails well behind leading European cities. And Boulder’s growth in bicycling has been stagnant over the past several years, by a number of measures. Boulder is no longer a national leader in its commitment and vision to increase the number of people on bikes. Chicago, San Francisco, Austin, Boston, Washington DC, Philadelphia and others are taking far more bold steps to intentionally and systematically make their communities better for bicycling.
Boulder has a choice: we can continue the current pace of slow but steady improvements in infrastructure and rely on external forces like the price of gas and personal concerns about climate change to increase bike mode share. Or, Boulder could become a new national model for a bicycle-friendly community. Boulder has the potential to dramatically increase its bike mode share, perhaps more so than any other community in the country. It has “good bones” in its off-street pathway system, its compact size, growth boundaries, culture of cycling and already large bicycling population.
Martha gave eleven suggestions for taking cycling in Boulder beyond being an “alternative” mode and toward normalizing it to the point where it’s a vital, indispensable part of our transportation system. It can be made accessible to just about anyone as it is already in much of the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark, where many cities have between a quarter and half of their daily trips being made by bike. Here’s a short summary of what she had to say, hopelessly intermingled with my own musings, since my notes are now a month old.
You don’t have to dress like a bank-robbing arctic ninja to stay warm walking and biking around town in the winter. Not even in Boston. Common sense stay-warm fashion tips from Bikeyface. In cartoon form of course.
In central Portland, landlords championed a plan to remove two lanes of car traffic in order to create separated bikeways serving a residential commercial district. If only we could have gotten something more like this out on Pearl Parkway in Boulder Junction.
Even CNN is waking up to the fact that riding a bike requires no special athletic ability or superhero outfits. You don’t have to be a “cyclist” to ride a bike.
The Dutch know how to build bike infrastructure like nobody else. Their network of bikeways is made up of 3 main street typologies. One is quiet, low-speed (<20mph) residential streets that offer through access to bikes and pedestrians, but not to cars (known as bike boulevards or neighborhood greenways in the US). The second is physically separated bike lanes that parallel higher speed motorized thoroughfares, and have priority at intersections. The third is fully separated bike paths, which are not shared with pedestrians or strollers or pogostick riders, and which are wide enough for two riders side-by-side in each direction. Getting this stuff built in the US is a political issue, not a technical one.