Austin Bluffs bike lanes

Not all Colorado Springs cyclists are happy with the city’s new bike lanes. Photo courtesy of Trails and Open Space Coalition

Bicyclists in Colorado Springs have been questioning the safety of recently added bike lanes at the Union Boulevard/Austin Bluffs Parkway interchange, as Lance Benzel writes for The Gazette. The cyclists are saying the lanes are confusing and dangerous, Benzel writes.

One of the lanes, for example, is shaped like a question mark, Benzel writes. That “curve and stop” design, used in Oregon among other states, is meant to give bicyclists a better view of oncoming traffic, writes Matt Prichard for KOAA5. KOAA5 staff hopped on their bikes to try out the “risky” new bike lanes, as Prichard writes, and experienced “closed corners, speeding cars and a corridor that doesn’t necessarily inspire confidence.”

Benzel writes:

‘I’m like, “What? No. What is this?” ‘ said Allen Beauchamp, director of the fledgling Bike Colorado Springs, describing his first attempt to negotiate the lane, which instructs cyclists to come to a stop perpendicular to westbound traffic.

Cyclists complain that they feel vulnerable to being hit, especially if drivers forget to take the on-ramp and decide to take action at the last minute. The steepness of the road makes it difficult to get going from a dead stop, especially given the high speed of traffic on Austin Bluffs, they say.

Designers came up with the plan for the Colorado Springs bike lanes in 2013 as part of the widening of Austin Bluffs from four to six lanes, Benzel writes. Their intent for the new lanes was to let cyclists know it is their responsibility to stop and yield to drivers at the off-ramp, which is known for being a “high-conflict” zone, Benzel writes. However, the bicycle lanes are best traveled by experienced cyclists, said Kathleen Krager, as Benzel writes.

The nonprofit group Trails and Open Space Coalition emailed its members that the two lanes are a “blunder” and a “death trap,” Benzel writes. TOSC — a nonprofit committed to preserving open space and parks and creating a network of trails, bikeways, and greenways for the Pikes Peak region — writes that although Austin Bluffs should be safe and easy for commuters, it is the opposite, because the bike lanes are “confusing, frightening, and dangerous.”

Krager, who approved the plan, said there was still work to be done on the project, such as green paint and signs to help the lanes stand out. The city and cyclists agree that bicyclists should be encouraged to use a separate bike trail behind the sound barrier, Prichard writes. However, TOSC has criticized the design for not providing signage to let people know about the alternative path. “We continue to be concerned that cyclists cannot get around our city without being subject to considerable danger and inconvenience,” TOSC writes.

Beauchamp said that better striping and greater visibility from far back will help prevent bicycle accidents by allowing bicyclists and drivers to see one another ahead of time, Prichard writes. Krager said that once the project is completed, if the cyclists are still unhappy with it, “we’ll sit down and talk with you about it and see if there’s any tweaking that we can do,” as Prichard reports.

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