GUEST COLUMN: Bicycle transportation system a key ingredient to our region's identity

By: Cory Sutela
October 28, 2016 Updated: October 28, 2016 at 9:27 am
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As you are no doubt aware, the city Streets Department has determined that the capacity of Research Parkway far exceeds current and anticipated traffic volumes, and therefore a portion of Research has been "right-sized;" changed from three to two lanes in each direction. Since the road is also slated for repaving in 2017, the Streets Department decided to trial a new concept; conversion of the now-surplus asphalt into a buffered bike lane. Bike Colorado Springs believes that this evaluation project on Research is a positive step for our community, for several reasons:

1. Primarily because of a lack of safe cycling infrastructure, Research Parkway has historically seen little bicycle commuter traffic. However, this road was identified in the PPACG Nonmotorized Transportation Plan (approved after a robust public process in 2015) as a key corridor for the improvement of our bike lane network. The new bike lanes provide safe connectivity to six neighborhood path systems, and to dozens of businesses in the region. We expect bicycle commuting to increase significantly in this corridor as a result of these new lanes.

2. A buffered bike lane provides more separation between bicycle travelers and vehicles than a traditional bike lane. Even if the posted speed limit of 45 mph is observed, cars will still pass bicycles at relative speeds of 30 mph or more, and so the extra space will improve safety for both modes of travel. 3. A trial project is an ideal way for Streets to collect feedback on new infrastructure. In fact, small adjustments to the layout have been made, and will continue as the trial proceeds through the winter. Significantly, this will allow evaluation of the infrastructure during the snow season. The trial presents a unique opportunity for Streets to use objective traffic data to evaluate a new concept before the final decision is made.

These are the reasons why BCS feels that this trial, of this type of infrastructure, on this road, is the right direction for our community. But what about the bigger question, of whether we should make room for bicycle traffic on our streets altogether? Our answer is a resounding "Yes," and it turns out that the mayor and other city leaders agree.

Please refer to The City of Colorado Springs 2016-2020 Strategic Plan:

Goal 1 - Promoting Job Creation: including part 1B Increase the City's recognition for our healthy lifestyle, including increasing the city's League of American Cyclists rating to gold.

Support community initiatives that improve livability and walkability of neighborhoods of

Goal 2 - Investing in Infrastructure: part 2C: Incorporating improvements to accessibility and connectivity, while addressing needed infrastructure repairs. The strategy listed is to work with stakeholders to support the PPACG's long-term multimodal transportation plan. Our city leaders understand that - in addition to the health, congestion, social equity and pollution benefits of increasing bicycle travel - a safe and connected bicycle transportation system is a key ingredient to our region's identity, and is a significant contributor to the economic development that fuels our city. Bike Colorado Springs urges your readers to give the trial time for evaluation, to ride the new infrastructure, and to share their feedback with the staff in the city Streets Department.

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Cory Sutela is Bike Colorado Springs advocacy chair.

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