DENVER -- A grand experiment to improve bike safety in Denver gets underway at 10 a.m. Monday. But some bicyclists already are getting a jump on the city's first two-way protected bike lane.
The pilot project unveils new ideas for safely moving more people along South Broadway. But not everyone is on board with what could be permanent changes.
Some businesses and drivers are reluctant about the experiment that turns one lane of South Broadway into a two-way bike lane. Some say it comes at their expense.
But the city said it's needed because of the booming population growth.
"I really appreciate it because its more safety for us," bicyclist Rene Lerma said.
It's part of a study of the first protected two-way bike lane that runs a half-mile on South Broadway between Bayaud to Virginia streets.
Lerma likes the safety and speed he now enjoys on the pilot path -- and doesn't miss the penalties for riding on the sidewalk.
"Two tickets, $60 each one. And I don't care. My life is more important than $60," Lerma said.
The project takes four lanes of traffic down to three -- the closest left-hand lane to the curb is now for bikes -- while parking shifts one lane over. There is also a fourth lane dedicated to buses during peak hours.
The change means drivers can only turn on a green arrow at intersections. Cyclists also have specialized signals. And painted green zones mean potential conflict for drivers and cyclists. Driver reactions are less enthusiastic about the change.
"Having bike lanes are great. But getting rid of a lane of traffic on a busy street is not the best solution," Alvin Cooper said.
He said he has been here before when construction on South Broadway took a lane away.
"It was bad. I avoided this area and now I'll avoid this area as much as I can during regular rush hour," Cooper said.
He thinks a better idea would have been to put the bike path in the bus lane.
"They keep making lives for everybody here on Broadway very difficult," said Usman Zia, owner of Urban Hardware Furniture.
He also balks at the bike path, saying the now-three traffic lanes become two when people try to parallel park.
"This whole road was blocked because one guy was insistent in getting his car in. Until he gets the car in, the rest of them can't go," Zia said.
He’s also upset that making way for the project in July cost him half his sales compared to last July. And he shakes his head at the abundance of "no parking" signs put out a week ago in front of his business.
“There’s no parking. So what little we have is what we survive on,” he said.
He believes customers would rather drive by the mess than fight the traffic and inconvenience. But the city said with an average of 40 people moving in every day from 2006 to 2014, it has to do something.
"We are going to see a lot more congestion in Denver as growth continues. We can do nothing or try to address it early on. And one of the ways to do that is provide other options for getting around town," said Nancy Kuhn with Denver Public Works.
Kuhn said similar bikes lanes successfully operate in New York, Washington and Vancouver, British Columbia.
It's an experiment that could make for a bumpy ride initially for drivers and cyclists. With time telling whether it's the end of the road for the bikeway or it's here to stay.
The trial runs until November 2017 as the city collects data on its safety, traffic volume and number of cyclists using it.
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