The last year has seen a flurry of Letters to the Editor in the Daily Camera from cyclists and pedestrians alike, frustrated at each others behavior on the Boulder Creek Path, and other well used parts of our path network. The debate has recently been re-ignited by the city’s proposal to allow electric bikes on the multi-use paths for the next year as a trial.
Plenty of well meaning suggestions have been made to alleviate the conflicts — better signage, more enforcement of the existing 15 mph speed limit, education and outreach campaigns — along with the predictable complaints from each side about the bad behavior of the other: careless roadies zipping by at 20 miles an hours without any warning, careening around blind curves and underpasses on the wrong side of the path. Deaf iPod zombies walking dogs on 12 foot long leashes while they meander unpredictably. Etc.
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.
A major study in Vancouver, BC has looked at the relative safety of biking on various types of infrastructure, by looking at several hundred actual accidents resulting in hospital visits by cyclists over an 18 month period. Vancouver has a lot of different types of bike infrastructure, some of it extremely safe, so it’s a good test bed. Unsurprisingly, busy roads with parked cars and no on-street bike facilities were the most dangerous. Cycletracks (physically separated dedicated on-street bikeways) were an astonishing 90% safer. Interestingly, multi-use paths weren’t all that much safer, despite being preferred by many cyclists.
Yesterday the Boulder Greenways Advisory Committee killed the Fourmile Creek Path because of objections from the NIMBYs living near the right-of-way. Separated off-street infrastructure that’s available year round is vital to getting kids on bikes, and seeing them as a real mode of transportation. Political will is essential to build for the future even when the nearby and present interests are opposed. Without some backbone here, we’re never going to get a transportation system that isn’t wholly dependent on fossil fuels, or streets that are built for human beings.
I spent some time this afternoon sitting alongside the Boulder Creek Path out east of where it joins up with the Goose Creek Path, heading toward the ocean of office parks that employ a significant chunk of Boulder, a 7 minute ride from my house at 21st and Walnut. As the sun headed for the continental divide, I took a picture of (almost) every bike that went by. Over 48 minutes, I saw 75 bikes.
Looking at the photos after the fact, I did some counting and found some things out about cyclists in Boulder.
I’ve been biking along the Goose Creek bike path a lot over the last few months. Boulder Aikikai is out there, and so is Community Cycles, and I’ll go for a short triangular on the Boulder Creek path, 13th St. and Goose Creek when I just need to get out in the sun for a little while. Throughout the summer I was repeatedly reminded that there’s no good way to get from the path up to the east side of 30th St, and crossing 30th kind of sucks, especially when there’s any traffic. A couple of times I went so far as to go under it and the nearby railroad tracks, and then up into the parking lot, and back over the railroad tracks and through another parking lot. I’m sure this involved trespassing. And I wasn’t the only one doing it either, there was a trail worn in the grass and the gravel.
So I was stoked to hear that a ramp connecting Goose Creek to the east side of 30th was in the works, and this fall the heavy equipment came out and started making it a reality. I’ve been taking pictures as it progresses: