Infrastructure for Bicycles, can't happen fast enough.

narrow, winding streets naturally encourage walking and bicycling

narrow, winding streets naturally encourage walking and bicycling

My perception of how bicyclists can be integrated with traffic solidified after touring through Europe. My husband and I took our first European bicycle tour in Alsace. I distinctly remember our first day out when we conscientiously stopped at a 4-way stop located in a small but bustling village. A French motorist also came to a complete stop at the crossroad, impatiently puffing on her cigarette she promptly waved us through allowing us the right away. She was clearly irritated that we had stopped at all. This proved to be the expectation from French motorists throughout the region, cyclists are expected to not only ride with traffic but they are given the right away.

Push forward to another trip we completed in Italy. Peter and I were cycling through a busy, Tuscan city trying to find the route out of town. As Peter was quickly leading the way he took the wrong exit from a roundabout and hurled right into a busy boulevard at morning rush hour without properly yielding. Brakes squealed and traffic swerved to avoid the unexpected cyclist. I had fallen back, unable to keep up with Peter’s clip, and watched the whole scene unfold not quite believing that my husband survived unscathed. Again an example of motorists allowing cyclists the right away, even if the cyclist is not obeying the traffic laws.

a bicyclist’s dream; mountain passes, flowers in bloom, and no traffic.

a bicyclist’s dream; mountain passes, flowers in bloom, and no traffic.

How does a social shift happen in which motorists will heed to cyclists and pedestrians? I know there has been a push for more bicycle lanes and infrastructure in Denver with our Vision Zero plan. Hurrah! I enjoy bike lanes but clearly there will never be uninterrupted protected bicycle lanes from my doorstep leading to all of the places that I need to ride to throughout the metro area. 

In conjunction with bicycle infrastructure motorized traffic must calm down. If the speed of motorized traffic was consistently slower and drivers were more attentive to their environment suddenly all of our neighborhoods would be safer to traverse. 

Some would contend that our traffic does not move like Northern European traffic. I am arguing for a psychological change, an entirely new attitude regarding traffic patterns. Our current model has not encouraged enough people to consider alternative transportation from cars. Traffic congestion plagues our state at every turn and it’s time address sustainable transportation alternatives. Denver is poised to take the lead in this effort. 

A slow traffic movement is creeping across the U.S. Cities like New York, Philadelphia, Kansas City, and Portland have already begun taming traffic by reducing the number of cars in their city centers and slowing traffic down. Denver become a safer city for its citizens by;

  • Reducing speed limits in Denver residential neighborhoods and downtown to 20 mph.

  • Removing car parking and some of the conventional traffic lanes in order to reduce the number of motorists in our city center. 

  • Creating wide alternative transit lanes to accommodate electric scooters, bicycles, and other alternative transport.

traffic calming measures at 32nd and Julian streets

traffic calming measures at 32nd and Julian streets

The rallying call for more bicycle traffic infrastructure is not a new one but what has changed in 2019 is the proliferation of electric scooters and bicycles in the city. Given how quickly these electric alternative vehicles have been adopted indicates that this is not a trend but instead going to be the new normal. Cities will need to prove their dexterity in redirecting traffic flow so that their citizens will remain safe and healthy.

We, the bicycling community, have been unable to change driver’s aggressive responses to bicycles and pedestrians. The new micro mobility movement, of e-scooters, e-skateboards, and dockless bike shares, will finally force the hand of our city governments to engineer physical traffic restraints and rein in aggressive driving practices more quickly than we ever imagined.