The following was written by our Advocacy Coordinator, Molly McKinley. We were excited to hear all about her experience with Bike Share in Denver, Colorado, and we hope you are too!
So, long story short – In August I went to Colorado for vacation and geeked out about the bike infrastructure in Denver almost as much as I did over the 14ers we went to. Below is a nerdy-in-depth-yet-lighthearted analysis of our Denver experience by bike and what we can strive for here in Raleigh.
First, you should know that my partner Ben and I both love multi-modal transit (and we wanted to save some money) so we decided to go without a rental car while we were in Denver. I knew we’d use the bus rapid transit for a day trip to Boulder and the light rail to get to and from the airport, and I figured we’d primarily use the bus system to get around town. Turns out, the local bus service never quite made sense for the trips we were making and our Airbnb was conveniently located two blocks from a Denver B-Cycle station, so we ended up taking most of our trips on two wheels.
I had only ever used a bikeshare system in Washington DC last winter when Ben and I went for a short visit. I’d say we had an overall positive experience, but we didn’t take too many rides so I can’t say I got a thorough feel for it. In Denver we used the bikeshare every day we were there and probably only took 3-4 Lyft rides (one before we started using the bikeshare and, well, Denver has good beer).
We spent three days in Denver, here’s the skinny on our biking adventures:
Saturday: We got in to town late on Friday night and our second order of business, after brunch, was to secure some eclipse glasses from the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. After picking up our snazzy eyewear we found the BCycle station on site, bought our 24 hour passes, and mapped out a route to Cheesman Park and the Denver Botanical Garden. We were pretty psyched about how easy it was to get around, how much open space there was, and the mountain views.
Sunday: Since our BCycle 24 hour passes were good until 11:00am or so, we took the Cherry Creek Trail from our AirBnB to Union Station to catch the bus to Boulder. I had heard a lot about the Cherry Creek Trail, but it exceeded expectations. As it is named, the trail runs beside the Cherry Creek and is 42 miles long and starts in Downtown Denver.
Monday: After our relatively short ride on the Cherry Creek Trail on Sunday we wanted to explore more. We took the trail out to the Cherry Creek Shopping Center and then rode to Washington Park. The trail was so easy to navigate and the BCycle stations were pretty easy to find on the app. Washington Park was bike/ped/duck heaven. Think big park with a lake and a loop around it with separate lanes for bikes and runners/walker.
After taking a short snooze at Washington Park, Ben and I rode to Great Divide Brewing Co. We said “woaaaahhhh” and “how cool is this?!” a lot while biking around Denver, but I think this ride had the highest count of exclamations. We started this trip right around 5:00pm from Washington Park. We took a few side streets to get to the Cherry Creek Trail. When we got on the trail, I’m not kidding, it was like a bike super highway! I’ve never seen so many people riding on a trail outside of an organized event. It was probably 80% commuters and 20% people riding for recreation. After about 10 minutes on the trail we exited downtown to take one of the main roads to the brewery. The on road infrastructure was out of this world. There were parking protected bike lanes, bike signals at intersections, and best of all, cars yielded at potential conflict points.
Anything I didn’t love
I have tried to think of something that I didn’t like or that I would improve about our experience, but I really can’t.
Why I think bikeshare in Denver worked so well for us
Convenient bikeshare stations: the Denver BCycle stations always seemed to be close to where we were going and conveniently located along our route. Denver has about 88 stations with about 700 bikes.
Wayfinding: I will say that we always looked up a route on our phones before hopping on our bikes, but the wayfinding signs around the city were tremendously helpful. We missed a few turns on our rides, but there were always signs for trail connections and points of interest – great for out of towners, like us.
Connected, protected on street infrastructure and trail systems: The connectivity of the trail system with lower traffic streets and streets with protected bike lanes brought us a lot of comfort, especially as people riding these bulky bikes with no idea where we were going. I’d love to see parking protected bike lanes in Raleigh.
Lots of other people on bikes: I know this sounds like an exaggeration, but there were several trips where we saw more people on bikes than we did cars. That obviously doesn’t hold true for the city as a whole, but still, the amount of people on bikes was so awesome. I get excited when I see one person riding a bike on my ride to work in Raleigh – I was losing my mind about how many people were riding in Denver.
24 hour BCycle membership: I don’t know how most other cities do their bikeshare passes, but I will say that the 24 hour pass was not only a great value for the amount of trips we took, but it kept us going back to the bikes! We knew we had already paid for the 24 hour period, so it would have been a waste of money to use any other form of transportation.
Other things to note
Customer service by Denver B cycle folks: Ben and I checked out our bikes with one credit card so our passes were linked. I got a text from BCycle saying that we had been charged a $30 fee for returning a bike late. We knew that most of our trips were right around 30 minutes (the free period) so we called the customer service number to see what was going on. It seems like one of the bikes didn’t get locked back in the dock completely, but since we checked out our bikes together, we were refunded the $30 fee because they could see when the other bike was returned. This was probably one of the easiest customer services experiences we’ve ever had.
We should have brought our helmets: In the frenzy of packing for the trip we didn’t think about bringing our helmets with us. Because of the amount of riding we did, in hindsight, I really wish we had brought our helmets. Next time we travel to a city with a bikeshare, I’ll definitely be bringing mine along.
What Raleigh can learn from Denver
My bicycling experience in Denver left me feeling optimistic for the future of bicycling in Raleigh. From what I can tell, Denver’s bikeshare system began operating in 2010, putting them pretty far ahead of us on that front. The city’s on and off road bike infrastructure is also more mature than what we have so far here in Raleigh, leaving us lots of room to grow, especially with the City’s new bike plan.
I’m not sure which came first in Denver – the sophisticated bike infrastructure or the significant ridership, but they both seem to be feeding off of each other now. Since moving to Raleigh in 2010, I’ve watched better bike infrastructure go in and I’ve noticed more riders on the road, and as far as I can tell, we’ll keep moving in that direction.
I hope when the City of Raleigh’s bikeshare system is implemented that it is convenient and accessible for those curious riders, that stations are thoughtfully planned on roads with already existing bike facilities, and that a more substantial wayfinding program is implemented, especially in the area around the first 30 stations. I’d also like to see more truly protected on road bike facilities throughout the city.
I plan on using bikeshare on as many of my adventures in new cities as possible – it was such a fun way to explore a new city. Have you explored a new city by bike? Tell us more in the comments below!
The heat is finally beginning to break, and we’re happy to welcome September and the start of Fall! There are a ton of ways you can get out and take advantage of the beautiful weather this month!
Get started on Friday, September 15th with SparkCon in downtown Raleigh! Our friends from Raleigh Bike Polo will be giving demonstrations on Fayetteville Street just North of Hargett St from 11am to 2pm. Can’t make it on Friday? They’ll be at it again Saturday, September 16th, same polo time, same polo place.
We’ll be starting off the weekend with the Southeast Raleigh Empowerment Fair on Saturday, September 16th from 10am to 2pm at John Chavis Memorial Park. This community event is sponsored by The Friends Committee to connect Raleigh citizens with the resources that can help to improve their quality of life. We’re looking for volunteers to help us with bike commuter and bike repair demos. Sign up here to help, and email email@example.com if you have questions.
Cross is here! Come out and cheer on your friends or race for glory at the 2017 Berger Hardware Bikes Cross Central NC race series. This weekend’s races will be at Stony Creek Park in Goldsboro.
The third annual Radio Ride is just around the corner! Join us on Sunday, September 17th for a fun alley cat fundraiser for the NC State student-run radio station, WKNC 88.1. Registration will open at 12 pm at Trophy Maywood and the ride begins at 1 pm. Riders will receive a set of clues for various checkpoints and should expect to bike between 15 and 20 miles. Stick around after the competition to enjoy local music (Debonzo Brothers, propersleep, Blue Cactus and Stray Local) and a beer festival at Trophy to kick off Raleigh Beer Week! Pre-register and find more information on the WKNC website.
Bike events aren’t the only way you can be involved in Raleigh’s growing cycling community!
The Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Commission (BPAC) will meet next on Monday, September 18th at 6pm at the Raleigh Municipal Building in the City Council Chamber (222 W. Hargett Street). If you want to get in the know of all things bike related in Raleigh, join some of our advocacy committee members at the meeting!
Have you heard about the potential I-440 Bikeway? Wake County Commissioner Sig Hutchinson was recently successful in adding this to a list of projects to be evaluated for funding. The Bikeway would enable bike and pedestrian connections from Cary, Raleigh, and Morrisville to RTP, as well as to many of the area’s major greenways. It would also serve as a vital connection to the RDU Forest trail system, RDU Airport, and Umstead State Park. You can help make this dream a reality by submitting your comments to Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO) by September 20th.
Every year in NC there are many crashes involving bicyclists and pedestrians resulting in injuries and fatalities. To encourage safe cycling and promote positive interactions between people on bikes and people in cars, various organizations have once again joined forces to host the Capital Area Ride for Safety (CARS) on Sunday, September 24th. The ride will start at Wakefield High School at 9am with a 14 mile one-way route to Halifax Mall or a 28-mile loop with assistance by RPD along the way, followed by refreshments and comments from local officials and safety experts in Halifax Mall. We hope to see you there!
Until next time, thank you for riding your bike!
Interested in learning about how communities across North Carolina are working to create complete streets for all? Attend the North Carolina Bike Summit in Wilmington on November 3rd and 4th and let Oaks & Spokes help you with the registration fee!
Apply here by next Monday, August 28th to be considered for a scholarship which will cover the cost of registration to the Bike Summit! After their return, award winners will be asked to write a short essay describing their experience at the Bike Summit and how they intend to utilize the knowledge they gained.
This year’s summit is presented by BikeWalk NC in Partnership with AARP and Cape Fear Cyclists. The partnership aligns perfectly with AARP’s Age Friendly Community Initiative and their transportation and walkability goals. By creating complete streets in as many areas as possible, there will be more individuals and families who will be able to walk, move, and travel in healthier and safer ways.
Keynote speakers Michael Olender, Coralette Hannon, and Mike Watson will focus on Complete Streets and Livability as we work together to “Complete our Streets…for All!”
The 2017 NC Bike/Walk Summit promises to be packed full of information useful to bicycle advocates, transportation planners, business owners, elected officials, tactical urbanists, public health practitioners, and livability and sustainability professionals. The mission of the summit is to:
- Foster collaboration
- Educate and inform
- Promote bicycling and walking as valid modes of transportation and as an economic driver
For more information on this year’s summit, including the presentation schedule, visit BikeWalkNC.
So there’s a $440 Million dollar road widening project that will affect drivers, bicyclists, and pedestrians in the entire Raleigh metropolitan area (i.e. 1.2 Million people). It’s on the books to break ground in 2018.
You already had your opportunity to go to the public hearing last week but fortunately there’s still time to comment until AUGUST 27. We really encourage you to visit the project website to take a deeper dive but there are some pretty significant impacts to bicycling and walking that we see coming down the pipeline. Take the interactive survey to give your input here:
We don’t expect a lot of great things to happen for bicycling and walking when lanes are added to an interstate, but there are opportunities out there. The public information given in 2014 showed that there would be an opportunity for bike/ped improvements at Western Blvd when the Diverging Diamond Interchange option was selected to move forward. I’m not really seeing these come to life in 2017 where we see one sad, poorly articulated, sidepath along the west side of Western Blvd near the K-Mart where a poorly maintained sidepath already exists.
DDI’s are actually known for their ability to do more with less so I’m disappointed to see that with all of this planning and laneage savings, we can’t see that people can walk or bike down Western Blvd on BOTH SIDES of the road. Basic, right? Perhaps there could be a low stress connection to Garland Dr. With the plan as is, if everyone is supposed to cross over at Blue Ridge Rd, what kind of improvements are being made so that people walking and biking across five lanes of traffic and then two double right turn lanes are safe? What about adding a crosswalk on the other side of the intersection? Also, The project doesn’t extend through the Blue Ridge Rd Intersection. That means the existing sidepath on the south (continuing to the intersection as a sidewalk) won’t be improved for people to get to the intersection to cross. It also means the curb ramps on the south side of the intersection likely won’t get upgraded to be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The Hillsborough Rd intersection shows us the sidepath to nowhere, although considering what is there now, I suppose this is an improvement. There’s not much to say about this except that if it continued to Blue Ridge Rd, we’d actually be able to get somewhere.
At Wade Ave, the Reedy Creek Greenway gets bumped deeper into Meredith Campus. The flyovers/rams and various alternate configuration gobble up the real estate. Since all of the alternatives in 2014 gave us this insight, there isn’t much to say about this. We are concerned about noise and pollution, however. The current feel of the greenway doesn’t lend itself to realizing you are paralleling this roadway. Options to abate noise pollution should be considered. Also with the popularity of this section to the Art Museum, it is surprising that NCDOT is going with a 10′ trail width instead of Raleigh’s new 12′ standard or even a 15′ wide trail. With the amount of pavement going into the overall project, this isn’t a lot to ask.
There’s also the question of how much pavement is too much pavement, really. The project videos give us good insight into what this will actually look like from the I-440 Multi-use Overpass. We’ve taken the liberty of cutting these screenshots for your viewing showing you the proposed increase in the amount of pavement here.
At Ligon Rd, the tunnel is generally used as a bicycling throughway is eliminated in alternatives that add a bridge structure for motor vehicles. This alternative does not show any bicycling facilities and grades would make this a steep climb. It does not appear that alternatives to create a through-road in this configuration would not be an improvement to non-motorized accessibility on Ligon Rd.
The project does improve some conditions for bicycling and walking. There are two bridge replacements that add 5′ bicycle lanes and sidewalk on one side at Athens Dr and Melbourne Rd. This is a considerable improvement over the existing conditions which lack pedestrian and bicycling facilities at present.
We’d love to see more detailed signal plans, pedestrian phasing, crosswalk locations, refuge islands at the crossings, and get a better sense of the Reedy Creek Trail realignment and how that will feel. We’d also like to know more about any ADA accessibility improvements. If anyone at NCDOT wants to send additional details on what is being proposed, we’ll take them at firstname.lastname@example.org
And there’s no doubt that this is a lot for a citizen to take in, but we do encourage you to not be discouraged and to send your Comments or fill out the Survey by August 22nd. And get ready for the ground to break in 2018, hopefully with good details in the bicycle and pedestrian design that are not shown in these public documents.