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Pop-up protected bike lanes on Broadway receive praise, criticism

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DENVER -- Busy traffic on South Broadway in Denver often makes it a place cyclists avoid, but this weekend the city is dedicating an entire lane for bikes.

The Bikes on Broadway pop-up features northbound and southbound protected lanes that stretch from First Avenue to Bayaud Avenue. The three-day trial period is meant to answer a simple question.

“What could it look like if we had bikes on Broadway?” said Molly North, executive director of BikeDenver.

For some, the answer is clear.

“I think it’s awesome,” said Denver city councilman Jolon Clark, who represents District 7.

Clark said he supports the addition of protected lanes because it encourages people in the neighborhood to visit the businesses.

“One of the driving groups behind this from the beginning has been the merchants,” Clark said.

Chia Basinger, owner of Sweet Action Ice Cream, is part of the Broadway Merchants Association, which supports the project.

“To see it actually come to fruition, it makes us really proud and has been really enjoyable,” Basinger said.

But several other business owners said they are more than skeptical of the project. Several retailers and restaurants along the stretch said they’re seeing less traffic than normal and believe it is because the bike lanes eliminated parking on the east side of Broadway.

“I have never seen that many cars, swirling around, driving … looking for parking spaces,” said Sarah Lilly-Ray, owner of True Love Shoes and Accessories.

“We were lucky. We drove around about a four block radius to find this spot,” said David Kunsemiller, who drove to South Broadway to eat dinner with friends on Saturday evening.

Clark said the fight for parking is nothing new and said it’s even more reason to add bike lanes.

“We are not going to solve that parking problem or that congestion problem by adding more lanes of traffic to Broadway,” Clark said. “How we’re going to solve that is if we can take 10 percent of people out of their cars, put them on bike lanes. Improve their quality of life.”

“I think in magical, unicorn land that would be a really awesome concept,” Lilly-Ray said. “But there’s people that don’t live around the corner, there’s people that don’t live close enough to bike.”

Basinger said that’s what makes the pop-up project a good experiment.

“I think the parking is a concern and we would try to find a design that wouldn’t involve a loss of parking,” he said.

BikeDenver agrees.

“Understanding what the concerns are,” North said. “Is it parking? Is it travel time? All of it is valid and all of it is part of the planning process.”

The bike lanes will remain in place through the day Sunday and then return to normal. If the idea continues to move forward, the city will consider lanes for the longer stretch of Broadway from Colfax down to Interstate 25.