Boulder man: New bike lanes threatening small businesses

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BOULDER, Colo. -- A small-business owner says experimental bike lanes in Boulder could put him out of business before a trial period is complete.

The city of Boulder is studying new, protected bike lanes along Folsom Street after a larger plan drew criticism from drivers and businesses concerned about the impact on traffic.

The city eliminated two lanes of traffic to make space for the lanes and after just two weeks, there are a number of complaints.

“I’ve spoken to a lot of my friends and they all really like it. I think it’s a bit much,” cyclist Chris D'Ambrosio said. “Its intent is there, but I think there could have been a lot more done with a lot less done.”

“To even pull in (my car) I have to do a whole circle to get into my neighborhood," said Jessie Barnes, who lives along Folsom Street.

“Very discouraged by the design and the concept,” said Andy Celani, owner of Smooth Motors on Folsom Street.

Celani, who has owned Smooth Motors for 30 years, said the lanes have put his business in jeopardy.

“Once these lanes of cars are completely filled, nobody can turn in from the north," Celani said. "It’s very discouraging and I’ve had clients who are unhappy and afraid to turn out.”

Numbers from the first two weeks show the lanes are leading to more bikes on the road. Before the protected lanes there were an average of 877 bikes a day, now there are more than 1,200.

It’s having an opposite effect on drivers. Before the protected lanes Folsom Street averaged almost 19,000 cars a day, now there are less than 16,000.

Despite fewer drivers, a study of traffic backups during the evening rush found it’s taking a minute longer than predicted.

“I feel a little sad that they decided to experiment with my livelihood and my existence,” Celani said.

Since the bike lanes were installed, Celani said he has seen a 55 percent drop in business. He said it's more than just discouraging because this is supposed to be his busiest time of year.

“I won’t be able to survive, at this decline, for many, many months," Celani said. "And this is an open-ended experiment.”

Boulder transportation spokeswoman Kathleen Bracke said the city will continue to study the lanes and their impact on the roads.

She said the city will also be visiting local businesses in the next week to see the impact of the lanes. She said engineers will be looking at whether small adjustments might ease some of the current concerns.