By Dom Nozzi
October 11, 2016
Speaking as an experienced, life-long bicycle commuter who wrote a masters thesis focused on bicycle transportation, and someone who has cycled in cities across the nation, Boulder does relatively well in providing an off-street system for cyclists (albeit, a system which only reaches a tiny fraction of important community destinations).
On-street cycling in Boulder is also pretty good in some neighborhoods.
However, in my opinion, Boulder’s major streets (called “collectors” and “arterials” by transportation professionals) are some of the most hostile, dangerous streets I’ve ever ridden.
I believe this is true because Boulder has spent decades trying to achieve free-flowing traffic as a prime (yet in my view, ruinous) method of protecting quality of life. Because cars consume so much space, and because Boulder has such a large number of in-commuters who cannot afford to live here, and because too much or our street design uses “forgiving” street design, and because transportation is a zero-sum game (when cars win, other forms of travel lose), Boulder has oversized most all of its major streets.
Oversized streets are inevitably dangerous for everyone.
Boulder has also made the mistake of thinking an off-street bicycle network is sufficient for cycling.
Because such a system will never reach more than a tiny fraction of destinations, cyclists (and pedestrians) will regularly be forced to at least occasionally use very dangerous streets that Boulder has apparently given up on (i.e., we have opted to make them car-only streets).
Examples: Broadway south of Iris, 28th Street, Arapahoe, Canyon.
Nearly all bicycle commuters want to travel on those corridors, but even someone as experienced and confident as me cannot tolerate cycling on those stroads. The wonderful term “stroad” – pioneered by Chuck Marohn – refers to a street that transportation planners have tried (and failed) to deliver the benefits of both a street and a road. A stroad is an awful example of a street and an awful example of a road. Each has their place, but no transportation corridor should be designed to be both.
If someone like me feels many on-street situations are dangerous for me on a bike in Boulder, we can be confident that the vast majority of Boulder residents feel the same way.